GJ is ‘hopping place’ for tech
The words “Grand Junction” and “startup tech companies” might not appear to go together.
Maybe they should.
A report released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Association, a Kansas City, Mo.-based entrepreneurship research group, listed Grand Junction as the nation’s 19th best metropolitan area for tech startups. Four other Colorado cities nabbed top 10 rankings, with Boulder topping the list. Fort Collins took second place, Denver took sixth, and Colorado Springs rated as the ninth-best city to launch a tech company.
While the survey was released in August, the local recognition probably hadn’t registered for most people until Gov. John Hickenlooper noted it in a speech while touring Mesa County on Friday.
The news is no surprise for 30-year-old Jon Labrum. He owns three technology businesses, employing between 15 and 20 local people. His companies, OBJ Group, ProVelocity and Progressive Business Consulting, help businesses bridge the communication gap and help with data management.
Labrum moved to the area with his parents and attended his senior year of high school at Fruita Monument High School, but the entrepreneur probably could locate his businesses anywhere. A friend, who also launched a tech start-up company, lives in Grand Junction, but commutes to Denver to work, he said.
“The same thing that attracts anyone to Grand Junction,” he said. “All the outdoor activities is what brings people here. I think Colorado is a hopping place for technology. Colorado tech is going to be here to stay for a long time. It’s pretty stable.”
Jon Maraschin, executive director of the Grand Junction Business Incubator Center, said he knows there is a large percentage of start-up tech companies in the area. Some of that interest is the reason for a new incubator branch at Fruita’s Civic Center, 325 E. Aspen Ave. Local dignitaries plan to tour the facility during a ceremony there at 3:30 p.m. today.
“A lot of the tech start-ups can be location-neutral,” Maraschin said. “(Colorado Mesa University) has been a big factor. They have just enough support to be here. The endgame for us to would be great to be the top 10 instead of the top 20.”
Maraschin said the Business Incubator Center consults about 400 businesses, about a third of which are technology-based endeavors.
Technology startups can be as basic as someone designing web pages at home, he said.
Or they may be more like the work of Fred Fowler and Ernie Young of Delta Epsilon Instruments, who operate out of the Business Incubator Center. They create specialized borehole loggers and radiation detection equipment.
The boreholes are often purchased by folks in Third World countries to drill for ground water.
“It has the potential to do a lot of good for a lot of people,” Fowler said.
Fowler said rural areas can be attractive to entrepreneurs to startup companies. He previously worked out of Delta, selling a company to a Fortune 500 company.
Fowler and Young said they would appreciate having more of a local workforce skilled in electronics, but they noted there seems to be a network of machinists in the area.