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Trader Joe's should be in Colorado Springs

By: The Gazette editorial
August 8, 2013 Updated: August 8, 2013 at 8:30 am
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As reporter Rich Laden eloquently phrased it in Wednesday's Gazette, "Colorado Springs has once again come up as dry as an empty bottle of Two-Buck Chuck."

The story told of Trader Joe's building a third store in Colorado without plans for El Paso County or Colorado Springs, the state's most populous county and second-most populous city. The gourmet grocer, known for its popular $2.49 "Two-Buck Chuck" wine, will open three stores in 2014 - in Boulder, Greenwood Village and Denver.

Gazette editorials have suggested downtown Colorado Springs as a perfect location for Trader Joe's. Briargate, Manitou Springs and Powers corridor also seem ideal for the high-end store.

A mass sense of low self-esteem taints this community's reputation. By default, outsiders view Denver as the wealthier and more respectable market.

"Trader Joe's probably is targeting trade areas with higher household incomes," stated the story, paraphrasing real estate broker Jay Carlson of Front Range Commercial in the Springs.

If that's true, Colorado Springs should be next on the list. The company's Denver store will serve a median household income of $45,501. The number falls considerably short of the $53,747 median family income in Colorado Springs. In an apples to apples comparison of the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, Springs households enjoy $8,246 more income than Denver households.

The comparison looks even better for the Springs after adjusting for Denver's higher tax base, pricier housing and overall higher cost of living. Based on Sperling's Best Places cost of living calculator, Denver households would need $59,348 to match the median income in Colorado Springs. That means, in dollars adjusted for taxes and combined expenses, the median household income in Colorado Springs exceeds Denver's by $13,847 - enough for each household to buy 5,561 more bottles of Two-Buck Chuck. When city leaders pitch the merits of Colorado Springs to desirable retailers, they should emphasize that our median household income is considerably higher than Denver's - with or without adjusting for expenses.

If we compare metropolitan Denver with metropolitan Colorado Springs, our community still fares well. Denver's MSA includes Boulder and Greenwood Village, which have extraordinarily high incomes that boost the metro's median household income to $59,230. That's slightly higher than the $56,268 earned in metro Colorado Springs, but the Springs metro comes out ahead when adjusting for living expenses and taxes.

Furthermore, the Denver store cannot count on substantial business from wealthy suburbs within easier reach of Greenwood Village and Boulder. Any way we look at it, the Denver Trader Joe's will serve a market with less income and substantially less disposable income than is found in Colorado Springs. They should do business here.

A Gazette story Tuesday told of another "we're not cool" episode, involving an investment firm that moved its headquarters to Denver to attract young, hip finance professionals who purportedly lack interest in the Springs. Never mind that El Paso County's median age is 34.1, which is only 0.4 years older than Denver County's. Colorado Springs is uncool for young people, even though the city was ranked second fittest city in America this year by that old fogey outfit called Facebook. We're not cool, even though fuseSPORT - a software company for major athletic organizations - chose this year to relocate its international headquarters to the Springs from Sydney.

We're uncool, even as home to the University of Colorado's fastest-growing campus, the Air Force Academy and Colorado College - an elite school with some of the country's highest admission standards. We're not cool, even though city leaders have won battles with counterparts in New York and Chicago who are desperate to lure the United States Olympic Committee headquarters away from our city.

So uncool is the Springs that in the past decade we've been named best city in America by Outside (2009), Money (2006) and other publications respected by upwardly mobile professionals.

Unlike Denver's population, Springs residents live moments from mountain hikes and natural attractions. If we need a big-city fix, we drive a short distance and then get to leave.

By almost any metric, Colorado Spring ranks as a wealthier and healthier market than Denver. If the rest of the world thinks we not cool, it's because we don't extol our merits. Given a factual picture, the likes of Trader Joe's would knock down our doors.

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