Top 25 employers: Government, health care, retail

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Government, health care and retail entities lead the Grand Junction Economic Partnership’s most recent list of the Grand Valley’s top 25 employers.

School District 51 tops the list with 2,392 full-time employees at the time of reporting late this summer. The district currently reports 2,334 full-time employees and 2,757 total employees, excluding substitutes. St. Mary’s Hospital is second on the list with 1,500 employees, followed by Mesa County with 980 and the state of Colorado with 901. City Market rounds out the top five with 630 employees.

Kelly Flenniken, executive director of GJEP, said she requested full-time employee counts from a variety of larger employers in the community in order to compile the list. Some employers accurately provided a full-time count, including the top two businesses, while others reported a full-time equivalent number or head count. City Market, for example, has 251 full-time employees as of this week. The state has 781 full-time employees in the Grand Valley and Mesa County has 906 employees working full-time.

Flenniken said she gives businesses two or three chances to respond after she requests their employee tallies twice a year to compile a spring and a fall top employer list. Not everyone responds, especially if the employee count is less impressive than it had been in the past.

Halliburton, Walmart, the U.S. Postal Service, FCI Constructors and Schlumberger appeared on the spring 2012 list of top 25 employers but dropped off the fall ranking because they did not respond to requests for an employee count from GJEP, Flenniken said. Even though the list can be skewed by some employers reporting employee counts in different ways while others who may find a spot on the list neglect to respond, Flenniken said she wants to continue to produce the list for the benefit of the community and potential Grand Valley employers who seek GJEP’s help relocating or growing in the area.

“Sometimes when things are good they’re totally fine with sharing and other times they are not as willing to share. I still want to share where some of our biggest employers are,” Flenniken said.

Half of the top 10 employers are government entities. The other half, and the other 15 employers that round out the list, are in the service industry. Being a public entity and on top of the local employer heap can be challenging, according to Colleen Martin, executive director of District 51 Human Resources. It means being in the “limelight” and knowing personnel decisions can have a big impact on the community.

There are also some perks to the situation, said Cindy Starr, an applicant specialist for the district’s Human Resources Department.

“Even though the economy may be down, you still have to have school. People know even though we may need to cut, we’re still going to be open,” unlike smaller or private businesses with the option to fold or drastically restructure, Starr said.

Like the school district, Mesa County is split between numerous buildings and departments. Mesa County Human Resources Manager Sandy Perry said revenue shortfalls like the ones the county has been experiencing since 2009 can be easier to absorb in larger departments, but smaller ones struggle.

“They don’t have as much to cut back on as far as operational expenses,” Perry said.

While government jobs are prevalent on the top of the employer list, Flenniken said the absence of some familiar business names on the list and plenty of private sector companies lower on the list demonstrates how reliant the local business community is on smaller and non-government employers as well. While the school district, the county and City Market say they aren’t likely to add local employees through much more than turnover for at least the next year, Flenniken said GJEP is about to end a busy quarter for new and expanding business prospect activity, mostly from manufacturing, energy and information technology businesses.

Mesa County Workforce Center Director Sue Tuffin said current job openings in the Grand Valley are mostly tracking with the types of businesses on GJEP’s top employer list. Health, education, human services and office work are popular in the county’s job market, she said, and some of the employers on the list, including Hilltop Community Resources and StarTek, are listing job openings right now with the Workforce Center. But she added people should look beyond the biggest employers for work.

“I think smaller companies are doing much of the hiring right now. We’re not seeing St. Mary’s put on 10, 20, 30, 40 people. It’s smaller office companies that are adding a few people here and there,” Tuffin said.



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