Economic development has many objectives—primarily, the creation of jobs, wealth, or assets and the improvement of the quality of life. Economic development can also be defined as a process that influences the growth and restructuring of an economy to enhance the economic well-being of a community. When distilled down, economic development is and has been a community priority for many years. In fact, in 2015 the City of Grand Junction commissioned The North Star Study to determine how best we could utilize resources and make the biggest impact on thoughtful attraction, growth, and business retention in our valley.
The North Star Study identified our three organizations as the lead entities to help drive, create, and protect economic prosperity. Through attraction and recruitment efforts at the Grand Junction Economic Partnership (GJEP), protection and expansion of our existing economic base at the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce (GJACC), and the critical work done with startups and entrepreneurs at the Business Incubator Center (BIC), economic development in our community became a shared effort that has well supported us and helped diversify our economy since.
Now, as each of our organizations starts the new year under new leadership, we have taken steps to look for ways to bolster our efforts through renewed collaboration and vision.
While we don’t think it’s going to be a walk in the park to conduct business in 2023 (as we grapple with high inflation, increasing interest rates, supply chain disruptions, and labor shortages), we feel optimistic because the diversification of our business industries is steadily allowing Mesa County to be more resilient during challenging economic times.
New businesses are flocking every day to utilize and implement the resources provided at the Business Incubator Center. Knowing that roughly 90 percent of startups fail, the work at BIC is vital to keep them on track. From startup loan funding and business coaching, to a state-of-the-art “Maker Space,” entrepreneurs of every shape and size are taking their very first steps to building a successful business. Supporting these entities in their most fragile days is critical to successful economic growth. You would be amazed how many long-standing, thriving businesses out in our community got their start at the Business Incubator Center, and their impact on economic development within Mesa County is undeniable.
Workforce Development has played a critical part in successful economic development. As reported in the 58th Annual Colorado Business Economic and after fully recovering from the unemployment rates of 2020—”Mesa County was the first county in the state to recover all of our pre-pandemic jobs”—we are seeing encouraging signs and increasing momentum for the Grand Valley’s economic future and our business climate. Not only is employment now up 4.8 percent from January of 2020, labor force and employment—including sole proprietors in Mesa County, increased by 1.8 percent from September 2021 and 5.2 percent from September 2020 levels (2023 Economic Outlook, page 149). Those numbers are incredibly encouraging and highly impact the ability of our local businesses to grow and remain attractive to those seeking out a new place to live, work and play.
Recently, we were excited to celebrate both West Star and CoorsTek’s expansions, which will bring additional jobs to the area and continue to reinforce the investment and commitment both of these long-standing businesses have within our community. Both expansions were made possible by combined efforts from GJEP and the GJACC along with fellow stakeholders who understand that expanding businesses not only adds new jobs but also protects pre-existing local workforce, increases local property values, preserves our local tax base and enhances our community image with increased confidence.
Together, we are equally committed to supporting businesses that need help navigating tricky policies or growing issues that will impact how they do business day-to-day. Specifically, our entities are in a unique position to bring together business owners, government departments, elected officials, and non-profit organizations to identify, discuss, and solve multi-faceted concerns in a way that meets our community’s unique needs. Take workforce housing, the implementation of FAMLI, or the fact that Mesa County is a childcare desert as examples. All of these issues are complicated and impact our ability to recruit, retain, grow and support a thriving business climate. In order to work through the nuances and opportunities of each of these issues, we convene broad interest groups including our local business owners and tackle them head-on.
We not only convene, but from those discussions, we become catalysts for change, and when needed, we proactively champion policies or solutions to ensure that we are the voice of business. From battling bad legislation during the legislative session to prevent burdensome regulation and mandated policies, to supporting the Rural Jump Start Program, we stand side-by-side to ensure any barrier we can knock down, any door we can open, and any opportunity we can seize has our full support behind it.
We believe healthy businesses translate to a thriving local economy. We believe in partnership, we will accomplish more together for the betterment of the Grand Valley residents, business owners, and economy. By partnering, we will ensure the encouraging signs and increasing momentum reported in the 58th Annual Colorado Business Economic for the Grand Valley will become a reality cementing business resiliency in the year ahead.
The momentum being created is palpable. We invite you to join us as we embrace the energy and vibrance pulsing through our business community. In partnership, we know that our combined vision and strategic focus will continue to push our community forward in a sustainable and flourishing fashion.