Ag Secretary Vilsack will be in Greeley on March 14 |

Ag Secretary Vilsack will be in Greeley on March 14

Bill Jackson
Greeley, Colo.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will host a rural economic development summit in Greeley later this month.

Matt Cheroutes with the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, said the event will be March 14 at the University of Northern Colorado. It is scheduled from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., with Hickenlooper and Vilsack hosting a session from 1-3 p.m.

The summit, Cheroutes said, is to get ideas from residents and officials about jobs, tourism, water, energy and listen to any other ideas or concerns.

“Greeley, as you know, is the ag capital of the state. Plus, it’s pretty centrally located, and we’ve been offered facilities at UNC, so it just works out nicely,” Cheroutes said. Other details are still being ironed out, he added.

The session, he said, will start with a welcome by Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar. That will be followed by a breakout session featuring officials involved with state economic development and members of Hickenlooper’s cabinet. A working lunch and second breakout session will be followed by the two hours with Hickenlooper and Vilsack.

At the Colorado Ag Classic in December, Hickenlooper mentioned he and Vilsack were long-standing friends, that Vilsack visited Denver on a regular basis and they had talked about hosting such a summit. At the time, he said he was looking at some time this spring or summer.

Eric Brown, communications director for Hicklenlooper, said in an e-mail the governor and Vilsack met several years ago at a U.S. Conference of Mayors. At the time, Vilsack was the Iowa governor. Brown said they have been friends since that meeting. He added that Vilsack had a son who is a graduate of the University of Denver and makes his home in Denver.

The last time the Secretary of Agriculture was in Greeley was Oct. 24, 2005, when then-Secretary Mike Johanns hosted a listening session on the 2007 Farm Bill. That drew a crowd of about 400 at Island Grove Regional Park.

Local officials became aware of the upcoming summit late this week, and most were taken by surprise.

Larry Burkhardt, president and CEO of Upstate Colorado Economic Development of Greeley, said he got a brief e-mail concerning the session.

“That’s about all I know about it,” Burkhardt said Friday, adding he had changed his schedule to attend the March 14 session. He did not know if he would have a chance to speak.

Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, said Hickenlooper mentioned the summit briefly at a water meeting in Denver on Thursday. He, too, said the announcement took everyone by surprise.

“I know we plan to have people there,” Werner said, adding Northern Water looks forward to talking about the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project, a project designed to provide towns and cities in northern Colorado with an additional water supply while protecting agricultural irrigation water.

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