Economic development players ink agreement to streamline their efforts



For the first time in a while, the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce is going all out to celebrate Economic Development Week with several events:

■ 6 p.m. Tuesday — Young Entrepreneurs Academy graduation ceremony, Chez Luna, Western Colorado Community College.

■ 2 p.m. Wednesday — Economic development partners give presentation to elected officials at the Grand Junction Fire Department.

■ 4:30 p.m. Wednesday — Hire Me First certificate ceremony at the Mesa County Workforce Center.

■ 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday — Member appreciation barbecue at Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.

■ 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday, May 15 — Happy hour with Gov. Hickenlooper at Avalon Theatre.

A contract signed by all the Grand Valley’s economic development partners is remarkable both for its brevity and for the mutual trust and support between the organizations it memorializes, officials involved in negotiation of the agreement said last week.

Called a “Memorandum of Understanding,” or MOU, the contract 
reorganizes the area’s economic development efforts along the exact same lines recommended by a consulting group last year.

In a way, it places the Business Incubator Center, Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and Grand Junction Economic Partnership in the same boat and shows how they all row together.

It’s the first time the trio has agreed in writing to fully support each other’s missions, officials said.

Official announcement of the deal Monday kicks off Economic Development Week, starting with an 
11 a.m. news conference at Edgewater Brewery, 905 Struthers Ave., said C.J. Rhyne, the chamber’s new business retention specialist.

Several other events are planned through the week, which culminates May 15 with a happy hour event at the Avalon Theatre, where patrons are scheduled to rub elbows with Gov. John Hickenlooper and celebrate the outdoor recreation industry, officials said.

Still, the highlight of the week for economic forecasters was the MOU. The process worked out in that agreement has already led to the retention of a major Grand Junction business — the identity of which cannot yet be revealed — but also opened the door to three new recruitment prospects, according to Kristi Pollard, GJEP executive director, and Diane Schwenke, Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce CEO and president.

“(The MOU) shows our collaboration, that we all have the same goal,” Pollard said. “We’re all assisting each other in every single one of these efforts.”

The positive transformation in the partners’ relationship is now a matter of record. Expressed clearly in a simple, one-page document, the MOU uses the same language as a report by North Star Marketing, an agency hired last year by the city of Grand Junction and Mesa County to help align the Grand Valley’s different economic development partners under a unified brand.

The contract reads like an organizational chart and fits neatly onto one page. For example, it states:

GJEP will take the lead on recruiting new business to the area with a focus on the “primary and emerging” sectors of the local economy.

The chamber will take the lead on retaining businesses with a focus on energy, health care and manufacturing.

The incubator will take the lead on start-ups, advisory services, and new product development.

“(Getting the agreement on one page) was intentional,” Schwenke said. “Actually, there were a couple of drafts out there of your typical MOU that goes on for pages and pages and pages, but at the end of the day, the three organizations came back and said, this shows what we’re going to do, so one page is all we need. It shows we’re a team, which our community has been hungry for for a long time.”

The contract’s brevity is really a sign of how much the three nonprofits trust and support each other, Pollard said.

“We’re all talking about who’s taking the lead in terms of business retention, business expansion and business creation, but the more important point for all of us is, we all have supporting roles for each other and it’s really important that we be there for each other,” Schwenke said.

“It’s a team approach … rather than a silo-ed approach. That is very refreshing,” Pollard said. “It’s exciting we have such great teamwork going on in the community, not only from the nonprofit community, but also from the local governments. They have all bought in and we are working as a team.”


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