There’s a lot of buzz surrounding a new grant through the State Office of Economic Development and International Trade that will allow Pueblo to increase attractions for tourists in the upcoming years. The grant, worth $14.6 million, has Pueblo looking to make expansions to the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk among other plans to better the greater downtown Pueblo area. Some sources suggest plans might even include an aquatics park.
However, with most Google searches only displaying articles containing facts surrounding the implementation of the grant, it doesn’t go unnoticed that there are some people’s voices who we have yet to hear, namely the business owners.
After running errands for the day, I decided it was time for a lunch break and, subsequently, an interview with local business owner Richard Warner of Bingo Burger. Located on the corner of 1st Street and Court, Bingo Burger has quickly become a local favorite with the establishment’s delectable lamb, chicken, pueblo chile and many other burgers. After I devoured my special burger of the day – a seared salmon burger with avocado, bacon, lettuce, and basil-pesto mayo – Richard offered a few minutes of his time in the midst of a packed house.
Warner shows his love for the local economy by adorning the doors of his establishment with stickers like “Shop Local,” “CSU-Pueblo Student Discount Offered Here” and “Support Local Farmers,” and in turn definitely wants to voice his opinion on where the money for the grant should be spent.
“Time will only tell [how the grant will work out]. It’s important to have local business owners’ input on how the money [from the grant] is spent.” Warner says that most of his business is from locals, but he also sees surges from tourism during the summer and special events like the State Fair and Frijoles Festival.
One side note he offers regarding the grant refers to the training arena for the Professional Bull Riders. According to Warner, the corporate headquarters office for PBR downtown detracts from the feel of the “local” economy and he doesn’t believe that it will generate as much tourism for the town as other projects might. “What are kids going to do? ‘Oh look, mommy and daddy, look at those big corporate headquarters!’” Warner understands the attraction, but still feels the focus of the grant should be centered on improving the local businesses and storefronts in the Union district.
Pam Swift, owner of Repeat Boutique on the Union Avenue strip, shares some of Warner’s concerns. “The Riverwalk attracts people from everywhere, and the tourism – when we get it – helps, too.” Swift feels that the grant will help make what is already a wonderful attraction even more appealing to those who are traveling through.
One of the difficulties Swift deals with as a business owner here in Pueblo is the plight of the bargain shopper. Swift says she can tell a tourist from a local because the tourists buy garments in her retail store at tag price, whereas local shoppers are her bargain hunters. She does what she can for her customers and enjoys establishing a relationship with them through the already greatly discounted prices she brings to Pueblo for her shoppers.
Swift knows that with the addition of some of the rumored expansion projects coming from the grant, Pueblo is sure to continue to flourish. When asked what might come negatively out of the grant, her one response was: “The construction. I sure hope they allow access to us here downtown. We only have one road to get to us!”
By Shelby Kindell
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