Bridging a cultural gap

Culture begets reputation, and reputation begets reality.

And while Grand Junction and the greater Grand Valley have made significant strides in recent years in economic, recreational and general lifestyle development, it seems folks from the outside haven’t exactly made the leap to considering Grand Junction a true, multifaceted hub of economic and social development.

The area’s cultural perception has a lot to do with that.

“The more things that we can do as a community, to be a metro type of an area, is really going to help us in recruiting businesses and young professionals who have come to expect that in the places that they are living and working,” said Kelly Flenniken, executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership.

“When businesses are calling, or people are thinking about making a relocation, we tell them all of the great reasons why this is a good place to live,” she said. “If we can say, ‘We’ve got this beautiful theater that can accommodate these types of acts,’ that definitely helps us in making that pitch.”

Harry Weiss, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, a $3 million stakeholder in the Cornerstone Project, sees cultural resources as general economic draws, too.

“The future success of downtown is inextricably tied to cultural offerings. It’s something that underpins every successful community — they have a commitment to some form of cultural programming,” Weiss said.

He looked back at the recent effort to dramatically expand St. Mary’s Hospital, and how the local philanthropic community stepped up then, and drew a parallel with the Avalon.

“This may finally be the time when the community steps forward and really looks at the cultural component here,” he said.

Speaking of culture, Kirk Gustafson, the longtime director of the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra, echoed that sentiment about broader community development.

“We have some great sports facilities in town. The college has done tremendous expansion over the last few years,” Gustafson said, about a possible cultural component. “Really this is one of the final pieces yet to be accomplished.”


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