As you may have read in the newspaper or seen on the news, the Chamber—in partnership with Colorado Mesa University—is launching a major skilled workforce and economic development initiative. We’re calling it “CMU 20,000”: the goal is to boost CMU’s student enrollment to 15,000 students, and to engage 5,000 business and community supporters.
This month’s newsletter has some details about the initiative and, importantly, how you and your business can be among those 5,000 supporters.
So, why CMU 20,000? For starters, CMU is already an economic engine: with 9,500 students, CMU has an annual economic impact of $450 million to our community. Earlier this year, an individual approached Chamber leadership with a “what if” question: What if, instead of focusing on the next shiny object in economic development, the Chamber put its efforts into growing the economic powerhouse that is Colorado Mesa University? Boosting CMU enrollment to 15,000 students would mean hundreds of millions of dollars more flowing into our community. We loved it.
But CMU 20,000 is not about growth for its own sake: it’s about strategic growth, and creating a skilled workforce that benefits existing businesses and businesses looking to relocate. We already look to CMU as an institution for learning and—along with School District 51, Mesa County, and our business community—as a workforce development partner. CMU is unique in that it offers not just baccalaureate and master’s degree programs, but also certification and associates degrees through Western Colorado Community College. A student body of 15,000 is the right size to maximize CMU’s resources and produce graduates ready to succeed at work.
Under the leadership of President Tim Foster, CMU has made great strides in recent years: enrollment is up, the campus is expanding, and there’s been a dramatic increase in the diversity of programs and cultural offerings to our community. But don’t take that growth for granted: the higher education environment is becoming very tough—funding cuts, increased competition, and changing demographics mean that many Colorado universities are struggling with enrollment. Reaching 15,000 students will not be easy.
And that’s where the 5,000 business and community supporters come in: support from these stakeholders is critical for CMU to reach 15,000 students. If a more skilled workforce and hundreds of millions of dollars more into our economy seem like worthy goals to you, I encourage you to become a CMU 20,000 supporter. Let’s consider a few of the “what ifs” that will help us reach that goal: What if we actually branded our community as the home of Colorado Mesa University through signage at the entrances to Grand Junction, and on street signs? What if we partnered with School District 51 on making sure our K-12 students have the best chance at graduating and attending college? What if we proudly showed our support with banners and pennants and signs in our businesses? What if each one of us committed to hosting one intern (or a few interns) in our businesses? What if we advocated for the expansion of the campus and encouraged more young people to seriously consider attending CMU?
We’ve all visited communities with a “cool” college feel—places like Laramie, Wyoming, or Ames, Iowa. What if 5,000 community stakeholders embraced that vision, and helped CMU grow to 15,000 students?
Let’s turn “what if?” into “what can I do?” Join the Chamber in growing the economy and creating a better workforce. Take the first step by going to www.cmu20000.com and registering today.
Click here to download full version of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce June 2017 Newsletter.