From Cow Town to Innovative Agribusiness Epicenter: Here Comes the National Western Stock Show Project

By: Sean Hanlon

Denver’s first Stock Show took place in 1906. As an emerging city, Denver was often referred to as a “Cow Town.” A lot has changed since 1906. The National Western Stock Show continues to thrive, buts its National Western Complex is showing its age.

Enter the National Western Stock Show Project. The Stock Show Project is focused on creating a global agribusiness epicenter that will attract private companies and public organizations to collaborate on solving long developing problems associated with food, animal health, and water. A global think tank of sorts. The expanding complex will also have a new livestock center, a new equestrian center (with 1,000 permanent stalls), a new expo hall, and a new arena. The Stock Show Project—expected to cost more than $1 billion—will result in a 250-acre campus containing a unique cross-pollination of industries. Expected to span a decade, the Stock Show Project will be completed in phases, and will not interrupt the annual Stock Show event which will continue during the renovations.

Denver is already in the process of creating agribusiness job training programs, an innovation fund, and a special district to attract international companies. With Colorado State University (CSU) and Denver International Airport partnering with Denver on the Stock Show Project, it is conceivable that the special district could expand to thousands of acres. Additional efforts will focus on creating partnerships with community schools, nonprofits and businesses, to further engage the Denver community.

The Stock Show Project is generating other projects and initiatives. Plans are underway for the first major transit-oriented housing development just blocks of the Stock Show complex. This mixed-income development could break ground in 2018, but will not likely be fully built out for several years. Its close proximity to the Stock Show complex signals a wave of permanent change surrounding the Stock Show complex and future National Western Center transit station.

The Stock Show Project has also spawned an initiative supporting construction worker training in Denver. The growth of construction projects generally has resulted in a shortage of skilled construction workers across the country. Despite this shortage, and over the last four years, only five percent of hours on Denver projects have gone to apprentices. A “target hiring” proposal is currently under evaluation that hopes to use the Stock Show Project as a pilot program. If successful, contractors on Denver projects would be required to devote a certain number of hours to apprentices in Denver.

When it is completed, the Stock Show Project promises to be a vibrant, life-long experiential, global epicenter located in the heart of Denver positively impacting not only the City of Denver, but agribusiness worldwide. We look forward to watching this Project’s development.

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