candace headshot and title 2023While we as a community spend a large amount of time focused on navigating the challenges and barriers we face, it’s important to “stop and smell the roses” every so often. In doing so, it is quickly apparent that Spring is in full swing in Colorado’s Grand Valley, and with it, our vibrant economic landscape is bursting, showcasing the fruits of community collaboration and innovation. The impacts of new and old industries, existing programs and fresh initiatives combine to enhance the economic “garden” we tend alongside our strategic partners and stakeholders and we can’t help but highlight the beautiful “bouquet” of opportunities currently being enjoyed by our community.

Blossoming Sports Brings Economic Flowers

The Grand Junction Sports Commission has been instrumental in energizing our local economy through a variety of efforts to increase sports tourism across Mesa County and the region. The recent Maverick Classic and Beer Fest drew crowds and showcased our spirited community, combining competitive cycling with local craft beer tasting, exemplifying our unique blend of lifestyle and leisure activities. The excitement continues with the upcoming Rides and Vibes event, promising a blend of thrilling outdoor activities and live music, setting the scene for both community enjoyment and economic benefit. However, the crown jewel of our spring events is undoubtedly the Junior College World Series (JUCO). As a founding partner, the Grand Junction Chamber played a pivotal role in bringing this prestigious tournament to our city. This event alone ignites an economic spark, contributing over $3 million to local businesses during its eight-day run. The impact of JUCO stretches beyond the stands, filling our hotels, restaurants, and shops with visitors, creating a bustling atmosphere throughout the city. We encourage our entire business community to embrace every opportunity to welcome visitors from far and wide who come to the Valley for these sports-related experiences. The new dollars generated into our economic system reinforce our vibrancy and flow through every corner of our community.

Innovation and Workforce Development Sprout Future Talent Strength

Mesa County continues to stand out across the State of Colorado for its innovative and collaborative approaches to workforce development. Initiatives like Westslope Works, CareerWise, and Find Your Future are leading examples of how we are setting benchmarks for the state. These programs not only prepare our workforce for the future but also strengthen the economic stability of our region.This Summer marks a new milestone with the introduction of “Externships” for teachers across Mesa County. Funded by the Grand Junction Chamber’s Westslope Works program in partnership with the State of Colorado, these externships are designed to align the skills developed in our K-12 system with the needs of our local employers. This initiative is a testament to our commitment to education and ensuring that our educational strategies are closely integrated with industry demands.

Agricultural Innovation and Education Fertilizes Future Success

We are also excited to see the rollout of AgriWest, spearheaded by program Fellow Janie VanWinkle and our partners at the Business Incubator Center. This initiative puts a spotlight on the crucial role of agriculture in our economic development. AgriWest is aimed at strengthening and protecting the agricultural legacy that has not only shaped the landscape of our Grand Valley but also laid the foundational economic framework that supports our community’s growth. We look forward to supporting these efforts, which promise to enhance a vital industry integral to our heritage and prosperity.

While this is just a small “trimming” of the good things happening across Mesa County, we encourage each of you to support our local events, from sports to music and beyond, engage with the programs that are shaping our workforce future and bolster our local industries through education and patronage whenever possible. It’s a time to recognize the economic roses that are not only in bloom but are thriving because of our collective efforts and commitment.

Candace Carnahan is a relationship-driven, impact-multiplier with a passion for putting strategy into action. As the President & CEO of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, Candace is committed to a thriving business climate in western Colorado through advocacy, strong partnerships and the creation of opportunities and initiatives on behalf of the 800 local businesses the Chamber represents. To learn more about the Chamber visit, or connect with Candace directly at

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