Rancher shifts from fracking to ecological restoration; now helps revitalize downtown

In the Weld County, Colorado, Josh Wells is a fourth-generation rancher and farmer. His family started farming in 1888 with 110 acres They now have a 32,000 acre ranch and farming operation.

In 2008 Josh and his father, Steve, partnered with Noble Energy to extract natural gas from the property using hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”.)

They say that the partnership created 600 local jobs, but Josh loves the land, and was unhappy with the toxic aftereffects of hydraulic fracturing. Much of his beautiful eastern Colorado plains had been turned into a lifeless eyesore.

Photo courtesy of Wells Trucking.

As a result, Josh founded Wells Trucking to help restore his land and the land of his fellow farmers and neighbors. Its stated mission is “…helping our Colorado neighbors responsibly restore the natural landscape after oil and gas drilling.”

Wells Trucking has actually grown far beyond that original goal. In addition to drilling pad reclamation work, they provide excavation, hauling, grading, farmland restoration, installation of underground utilities, and many more services in Weld County and throughout Colorado.

This growth means they need new company headquarters for their 75 employees. In May of 2018, they delighted the city of Greeley, Colorado by purchasing a mostly-vacant downtown building. In the process, they are advancing a downtown recovery momentum that was already well underway.

I used to have pages and pages of available commercial properties in the Greeley Downtown District to share with prospective buyers,” said Bianca Fisher, associate director of the DDA. “And today? Maybe not even a dozen (properties).

800 8th Ave. in 2016, before renovation.
Photo credit: Bianca Fisher.

The building’s previous owners were Stephanie and Jim Mokler, who purchased what had been known as the Jerome Building in 2015 for $1.9 million.

They substantial renovated it, including facade renewal made possible with a grant from the Greeley Downtown Development Authority.  Now, Josh will be further renovating the building, while boosting Greeley’s downtown revitalization.

A DDA is a special purpose district that is established by voters who live, own or lease property in a defined area. It is governed by a Board of Directors, and is intended to foster economic development and revitalization within a downtown area.

Both residential and commercial portions of a city are important and necessary elements of its history, character and vitality.

Bashor field restoration project.
Photo courtesy of Wells Trucking.

With projects of all sizes, both commercial and residential, programs for non-profits and individuals, developers and businesses, the DDA approach has been widely successful in downtown areas across the country.

Through the use of financial tools for new development, as well as, redevelopment, they are a catalyst for revitalization.

The goal of the Greeley Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is reflected in its Vision Statement: “To create a thriving, urban neighborhood that is a vibrant place to live, work and play.

A few of the DDA’s project and services for downtown include:

  • Downtown business recruitment and retention projects;
  • Historic preservation;
  • Technical & architectural assistance;
  • Downtown beautification;
  • Architectural assistance for property owners;
  • Information about incentives for new businesses and property rehabilitation; and
  • Special events such as Oktoberfest and Friday Fest.

Featured photo of 800 8th Ave. after renovation courtesy of Bianca Fisher, Associate Director, Greeley Downtown Development Authority.

See article by Luanne Cadlub in The Tribune.

See Wells Trucking website.

See Greeley Downtown Development Authority website.

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