Pueblo and Southern Colorado is changing. As the rest of the landscape and state begin to alter, so too do the growing areas of Southern Colorado. This year La Voz was able to focus on the counties that make up Southern Colorado, the economy of Pueblo and speak with some of the people that make up the wonderful – if underappreciated – anchor of the Centennial State. In our 2017 recap, we pay our respects to Southern Colorado and look ahead at what to expect in the region for 2018.
The reimagining of Pueblo continues. During the summer, we focused on the growing Pueblo economy and the sectors that are contributing to that growth. In our research we spoke with Joan Peters who relocated to the area from Denver three years ago thanks to a job opportunity at one of Pueblo’s corporate hubs: CBD Biosciences.
“I wouldn’t be here without them,” said Peters of the largest hemp-oil processing facility in the nation.
To think that Pueblo and Southern Colorado have strictly benefited from recreational marijuana access is to overlook the other corporations that have moved or expanded in Southern Colorado recently. United Launch Alliance, United Technologies and Boeing are national corporations with majority employment in their Pueblo hubs. Evraz Steel Mills continue to employ thousands in the steel industry and the health and education industries continue to thrive in the area with Parkview Medical Center, St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center and Colorado State University-Pueblo serving as primary employers and economic drivers, respectively.
Festivals happen in Southern Colorado
While Denver may draw some large events, the largest in Colorado, still happen in Southern Colorado. The Colorado State Fair is the major draw, but Pueblo’s Chile and Frijoles Festival continues to expand its footprint on the region while drawing interest from around the country.
“We’ll end up with 180 vendors in the festival and about 40-45 food vendors,” said the President of the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce Rod Slyhoff of the September festival. “We fill all of our hotels for the weekend. Usually they start to fill up on Thursday and by Friday you can’t get a hotel room. It’s estimated that the economic impact to Pueblo for the three-day festival is somewhere over $3 million dollars.”
Food glorious food
We had ample opportunity to discuss Southern Colorado cuisine in 2017 as well, focusing on several key restaurants in the region as well as a new one to open in New Mexico.
From the Slopper at Gray’s Coors Tavern at 515 W 4th Street in downtown Pueblo to the Italian sausage at Pass Key Restaurant at 1901 Highway 50 West, we discovered that “traditional” Southern Colorado cuisine isn’t traditional at all. An example of that can be found at Frank’s Meat Market on 2000 Santa Fe Drive. Started by the sons of Slovenian immigrants, Frank’s Meat Market continues to thrive today in a multi-cultural setting.
Just down I-25 and across the state line we were able to catch up with chef and baker Frank Rael who has decided to take his confectionary talents to a new level by opening Eats and Sweets off of highway 522 in Questa, N.M.
“Though it’s not a life-long dream, I’ve been talking about it for quite a while,” said Rael, who at 51, decided to give in to public demand. “Everybody’s always telling me, ‘you should open up a shop or a bakery or a restaurant. And I said, ‘well I just do a combination of both and a little bit of each.’”
As for what to look for in 2018, the Sangre de Cristo Heritage Center and Museum enjoyed a successful soft opening in 2017 and may look to expand its hours in 2018.