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Colorado’s Chile Economy

Pueblo’s pepper is being shipped out, bringing people in and creating larger conversations across the state

Three years ago Pueblo launched a major goal: Make Pueblo chile a brand. Much of that effort has been selling the crop in other Colorado communities like Colorado Springs or Denver, but some of it has been in attracting visitors to Pueblo where the pepper is king.Leaders say that aspiration has come a long ways since November 2015, and while it’s difficult to track whether the crop is bringing in visitors, the chatter around chile, at least, seems to be escalating.Local economic and political leaders wanted chile connoisseurs to question whether the the pepper they were eating was regular ol’ hatch chile or something much more — Pueblo’s mirasol chile — when the branding campaign launched. For many, that has meant seeking the chile out where it grows. For Pueblo, that means economic development in the form of agritourism.“As you know, economic development fundamentally focuses on bringing new, outside money into the local economy (primary dollars),” Pueblo County Economic Development Director Chris Markuson said. “Companies that generate the majority of their revenues from outside the local economy are primary businesses, and serve as the economic engines for a community.”The same principle is applied to other major industries in Pueblo, such as the steel produced at Evarez and the tortillas made at the Mission Foods plant. But more recently the idea that Pueblo as a destination is economic development has been catching on. City tax dollars typically reserved for job creation are helping fund an expansio…

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