Adams County on the Rise: The "New Frontier" of the Denver Metro Area

People who have lived in Colorado for more than a decade have seen dramatic changes in Adams County in the last 10 years. Once known primarily as the location of a few small- to mid-sized communities including Bennett, Brighton, Commerce City, Federal Heights, Northglenn, Strasburg, Thornton, and Westminster, the area is now a hotbed of population growth and economic development.

In fact, Adams County has grown by more than 21 percent over the last decade, and that rapid growth will likely continue. The Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCoG) predicts that Adams County, the state’s fifth most populous, will be a population growth leader for the next 20 years and will become the largest county population-wise by 2035. Its economic expansion is expected to be equally impressive, powered by four of five development projects in the state that exceed one billion dollars each:

  • Denver International Airport area
  • E-470 beltway
  • Fitzsimons
  • FasTracks

The county’s nearly 500,000 residents will benefit from these initiatives for years to come. But large development projects aren’t Adams County’s only source of economic vigor. It is home to thriving businesses in a number of industries led by healthcare, education, retail trade, government, construction, and wholesale trade. It is also the transportation hub of the Front Range with extensive road, railway, and airport infrastructure.

The rise in health care employment in Adams County has been particularly significant.  In 2010, three of the top ten non-retail employers in the County were health care related, led by the University of Colorado Hospital with 3,500 employees. Today, five of the top 10 non-retail employers in the County are health care related. The University of Colorado Hospital has nearly doubled in size to 6,500 employees, Children’s Hospital has 5,250 employees, 900 work at North Suburban Medical Center, 800 are at St. Anthony’s North Hospital, and 650 people are employed at Platte Valley Medical Center. Other large employers in the County today include United Parcel Service with more than 2,600 employees, and Sturgeon Electric with more than 1,200 employees.

Population and economic growth are just a few of the many reasons Adams County has been referred to as the “new frontier” of the Denver-metro area.

A County Brimming with Youthful Energy

If counties are defined to a degree by their populations, Adams County might be labeled “young and energetic.” Approximately 28 percent of its population is under 18 as compared to the state average of 24 percent, according to the Colorado Children’s Campaign 2015 Kids Count report. The school-age component of this group receives outstanding education in the county’s seven school districts:

  • Adams 12 Five-Star Schools
  • Adams 14
  • District 27J
  • Strasburg 31J
  • Bennett 29J
  • Mapleton 1
  • Westminster Public Schools

The total number of students across all the districts is approximately 85,000, which puts it on par with enrollment in the Denver Public Schools.  These districts are strengthened by an extremely diverse student enrollment, with non-white/non-Asian students make up 55 percent of the population. As the county looks ahead to its economic future, it knows it will have a sizeable pool of skilled 21st century employees on which to rely.

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

While the short-term benefits of a rapidly growing population and economy are already visible, what’s even more exciting is the positive long-term benefits that will become apparent down the road. Already the sense of opportunity and the eagerness to take advantage of the many career paths available has driven up high school graduation rates from 62.9 percent in 2010 to 71.7 percent in 2015. While there is still work to be done to meet and then exceed the statewide average of 77 percent, the County is moving in the right direction.

Overall, Adams County is an area that is beginning to hit its stride. Not only is it positioning itself for a very positive and prosperous future, it is establishing itself as a leader in the state’s upward trajectory.