GREELEY, Colo. -- When people think of Greeley in Weld County, they often think of it as a major beef producer.
But it’s also home to the University of Northern Colorado and now it can add to its accolades a high national ranking for population growth.
So what does Greeley have that other Colorado towns and cities don’t?
The U.S. Census Bureau ranked the Greeley metro area the fourth-fastest growing population in the United States.
The northern Colorado town of just less than 100,000 people beat out Front Range favorites Denver, Colorado Springs and Boulder. Small towns have stereotypes.
“I don’t know everybody in town by name. But I strive to do that,” Greeley resident Suzanne Sereff said.
She owns a retail boutique, Warm Hugs, in Greeley and knows some people also see it as a cow town.
“We are proud of it too. That’s what built our town,” she said.
But this town is growing larger, along with Sereff’s boutique.
“We started very small, 400 square feet and we are now at 2,500 square feet in seven years,” Sereff said.
Nearly 10,000 new people moved to Greeley between July 2015 and June 2016.
“Construction is just booming in Greeley and Weld County,” Greeley Chamber of Commerce president Sarah MacQuiddy said.
She said employers are investing in this community like Leprino Foods, the nation’s largest mozzarella maker.
“Now, they’ve started their third addition,” MacQuiddy said about the growth of the factory.
There’s also a new hotel conference center coming to downtown, a Double Tree by Hilton.
A new University of Colorado Health hospital on the west side of town will soon rise. And a new University of Northern Colorado campus commons is slated for south of the university.
All of this means thousands of new jobs.
“Those jobs drive rooftops,” MacQuiddy said.
And those workers need places to live. Housing is much more affordable than in the metro Denver area. The median home price is $245,000 compared to $359,000 in the Denver area.
“That price point buys you more in Greeley,” MacQuiddy said.
And the Chamber president said a more affordable higher education from a university and a community college is another driver.
“You can do more with less right here,” she said.
Sereff couldn’t agree more.
“It’s just a good town to be in," Sereff said.
Colorado Springs saw the second-fastest growth in Colorado but ranked 29th on the census list. Metro Denver came in 66th and Boulder 109th.
MacQuiddy said Greeley is expected to see its population grow 111 percent in the next 20 years and eventually will be bigger than Fort Collins.