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6:01 am
Sat August 3, 2013

Cow Town Opts For Funk Over Funky Smell

Originally published on Sat August 3, 2013 1:46 pm

Greeley, Colo., has an image problem. Actually, it's more of an odor problem.

A meatpacking plant is on the northeast side of town, and when the wind blows just right, you can't miss the smell — a cross between a slaughterhouse, a cow farm with manure and other unidentified odors.

In fact, the city's website says back in the 1960s, folks joked that that odor was merely "the smell of money." One of the town's main industries was, and is, cattle.

But the northern Colorado city is trying to shake its scent — and its image — in an effort to drum up tourism. A new campaign refutes long-standing presumptions about the city, but a whiff of uncertainty lingers.

The odor didn't truly become a problem until the '80s, when the Denver Broncos held spring training in the city. Media reports about the smell spread like wildfire.

"I think Greeley has got the reputation that we have cattle yards, we have stock yards, we have feed lots within the city limits," says John Pantaleo, a spokesman for Greeley. "And I think that came from the fact that that was true, but that was years ago."

Now, Pantaleo points to an arts community, the University of Northern Colorado, the oldest philharmonic orchestra in the state, and tourism.

The city has taken steps to mitigate the smell, including the creation of an Odor Hotline, which residents can call to report and describe the stench. Reports have declined significantly since the hotline started in 1995; there were 600 calls the year it started and just 25 in 2012. Also, the meatpacking plant now has a smokestack that further reduces the problem.

But the old reputation remains, so the city is constructing a new one.

" 'Greeley Unexpected' is a really nice way to represent the community," says spokesman Panteleo, referring to the city's current slogan. "In fact, it's not what they thought or what they heard in the past."

A $250,000 ad campaign is getting the word out. Of course, this does nothing to actually get rid of the smell — and there's no guarantee it'll work.

This isn't the first time the city has attempted to rebrand itself, either. Nearly a decade ago, it tried, "Great from the Ground Up," which arguably isn't the best slogan for a city with a meatpacking industry.

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Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Greeley, Colorado, about an hour north of Denver, may not be too far from the magnificent Rocky Mountains, but the place is probably better known for its funky odor. For years, the farming community has smelled strongly of cattle. Now, Greeley is desperately trying to shake its cow-town image in an effort to drum up tourism. From member station KUNC, Nathan Heffel reports.

NATHAN HEFFEL, BYLINE: Greeley Colorado has an image problem. Ask someone from Denver what they know about the city, and you're likely to get answers like these:

LAURA RICKHOFF: Cows.

JEFF NIKAIDO: Everybody always tells me, everyone talks about the smell when you go to Greeley.

CYNTHIA ORD: I think there's meat processing there, if I'm not mistaken, and bad smells.

HEFFEL: That was Laura Rickhoff, Jeff Nikaido, and Cynthia Ord, all of Denver. The meat packing plant is on the north east side of town, and when the wind blows just right, you can't miss the smell of the slaughterhouse. In fact, the city's website says back in the '60s folks joked that that odor was merely the smell of money. One of the town's main industries was, and is, cattle. The odor didn't truly become a problem until the '80s when the Denver Broncos held spring training in the city. Media reports about the smell spread like wildfire.

JOHN PANTALEO: I think Greeley has got the reputation that we have cattle yards, we have stockyards, we have feed lots within the city limits.

HEFFEL: John Pantaleo is a spokesman for the city of Greeley.

PANTALEO: And I think that came from the fact that that was true, but that was years ago.

HEFFEL: Now, Pantaleo points to an arts community, the University of Northern Colorado and the oldest philharmonic orchestra in the state, as well as tourism. Stephanie Boulton and her husband decided to move here three years ago when they saw a bed and breakfast for sale. However, a Denver realtor told them they probably wouldn't like the home.

STEPHANIE BOULTON: And she paused and said, oh, yes. That's in Greeley. And she said you don't want to look at that place. And I said, well, why not? She said, and I quote, "I don't think you're culturally compatible with Greeley."

HEFFEL: The city has taken steps to mitigate the smell including the creation of an odor hotline. And the meatpacking plant now has a smokestack that further reduces the problem. But the reputation remains. So, how do you change that if you can't stop the odor?

PANTALEO: Greeley: Unexpected is a really nice way to represent the community.

HEFFEL: Again city Spokesmen John Pantaleo says by using the slogan Greeley: Unexpected...

PANTALEO: In fact, it's not what they thought or what they heard in the past.

HEFFEL: And to get word out, a quarter of a million dollar ad campaign. Of course, this does nothing to actually get rid of the smell and there's no guarantee it'll work. This isn't the first time the city has attempted to rebrand itself. Nearly a decade ago, it tried Great from the Ground Up, which isn't the best slogan for a city with a meatpacking industry. For NPR News, I'm Nathan Heffel.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WERTHEIMER: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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