WalletHub released a study this week that ranked the fastest-growing cities in America, subdividing that list into applicable factors — and according to that metric, Greeley came in at number one for job growth and overall economy.
Surprised? You may be, given Greeley’s reputation in Colorado as, “Oh, that city up north that smells bad?” But there’s probably a lot about Greeley that you don’t know. Here’s your chance to correct that oversight, and maybe come closer to understanding just what’s so awesome — or at least remarkable — about our neighbor to the north.
10. Ooooh, That Smell
Okay, let’s start with the big one: The meatpacking industry that’s come to define Greeley for most folks — especially here in Colorado — has been a subject of a lot of local efforts, mostly to minimize the notable effect on the olfactory. While it historically has been an issue — perhaps most notable when Greeley hosted Broncos spring training in the 1980s — new zoning and the like have largely eliminated the issue for locals. But the reputation, if not the constant smell, still lingers.
9. Just in Case: The Odor Hotline
As one of its responses to the accusations of pervasive stink, Greeley government has initiated a hotline for locals to call in and complain about any and all nose-holding experiences. It still happens, the smell — just not as often, and it’s addressed when it does. Just this past August, the JBS packing plant reported “an issue with its equipment,” flavoring the city air with something that citizens feared might be a natural gas leak. (To be fair, it was gas. Just not the kind that you want baking your cookies.)
8. It Once Supplied One-Quarter of America’s Sugar
As the agricultural center of the sugar beet industry, Greeley has historically been a place of which Dwight Schrute would be sincerely fond. In the 1920s, at the height of production, Greeley manufactured one-fourth of all the sugar sold and consumed in the United States. That’s some serious sweetening of America.
7. Houses: Not Cheap, but More Reasonable
With Denver metro homes now averaging more than half a million dollars, there are a lot of reasons that a young family might choose to live in a sweet little college town (that only occasionally smells) like Greeley. That same single-family home in Fort Collins will run you over $400K, while a similar home in Boulder will cost you approximately one billion dollars (or might as well). But Greeley’s average home price is still under the $300K mark — not inexpensive by any stretch, but for a real estate market as consistently hot as Colorado’s? A heck of a lot more doable.
6. It Was Named for Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune
Horace Greeley is at this point primarily remembered as the guy who’s quoted as saying “Go west, young man, go west,” despite that attribution being apocryphal and problematically connected to the concept of Manifest Destiny, largely considered racist by today’s standards. Greeley — the town, not the newspaperman — had been started as an experimental “Utopian society” in 1869, based on temperance, religion, family values and irrigation. Seriously: irrigation. (That’s why it sits between the South Platte and the Cache la Poudre.) It was first called “The Union Colony,” but was renamed in honor of Horace Greeley on the occasion of his visit in 1870. Greeley never returned to the city that bore his name, but as the city founders probably put it: “Eh, whatever. Signs are already painted.”
5. The Stampede Is a Big Deal
Speaking of the late 1800s...that was when the Greeley Stampede started, and it’s been attracting national attention ever since. It was reportedly the largest festival or fair in the world in the 1920s, and it’s still the biggest Fourth of July celebration in the U.S. Aside from hosting some of the biggest names in country and classic rock music, it also boasts a parade, several rodeos, a carnival midway, and enough food and fun to fill two summer weekends. It’s the kind of thing around which the rest of the country plans its summer vacations.
4. Novelist James Michener Was Educated There
No kidding: Ol’ Pulitzer Prize-winning Jimmy both studied and taught at the University of Northern Colorado (an institution that doesn't usually get its due, much like the city in which it educates and serves the public good) back in the 1930s, when it was still called the Colorado State College of Education. This, of course, was long before Centennial or any of his other forty-plus opuses were anything but a twinkle in his literary eye, but that didn’t stop UNC from naming its main library for the man and his epic body of work.
3. It May Send a LatinX Lesbian Millennial to the State House
Rochelle Galindo is currently the Democratic candidate for District 50, which includes her home town of Greeley. With the boost provided by a win in the primaries and an endorsement from Barack Obama, Galindo hopes to parlay her working-class roots and public-service experience (she served on Greeley’s City Council from 2015 until this past April, when she stepped down to run) into a seat in the Colorado House.
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2. It’s No Small Player in the State
Greeley is the twelfth-largest city in Colorado, and population estimates suggest that this number could easily double or even come close to tripling in the not-so-far-off future. Greeley is also the largest city not located on an interstate highway, which means that it’s a little more protected from the challenges of increased traffic, etc. And still it’s only an hour away from Denver. The 2013 Colorado secession measure was born there, by Weld County commissioners. That might have died, but the yearning for independence that the movement suggests is still evident in state politics.
1. It Was Also Named One of the "Absolutely Worst Places to Live in America" in 2006
This by New York City author Dave Gilmartin, who admits he's never been there.