Grand Junction, state as whole both rank high on business lists

Grand Junction is the 12th best small city in the nation for business and careers, according to Forbes.com.

The ranking, released June 28, seemed fair to Grand Junction Economic Partnership Interim Director Kelly Marlin. She was a little surprised but pleased the city leapt so high in the list one year after ranking 24th.

“I think we’ve earned it,” she said.

The ranking includes cities with fewer than 250,000 people and is based on: job, income and economic growth; educational attainment; quality of life; net migration; and how many highly-ranked colleges and universities are in a small city.

Grand Junction had the advantage of a cost-of-living price 5.6 percent below the national average and the presence of Mesa State College, which placed 555th in Forbes’ college rankings last year.

Local projected job growth is 1.6 percent in 2011, but the city had a 4.3 percent decline in job growth last year, according to Forbes. An unstable economy affected the majority of the country, which is what allowed Grand Junction to slip into the top 15 even with a net migration of minus 2,120 people in 2010 and unemployment at 9.9 percent in May.

Another business list released June 29, CNBC’s annual ranking of the best states in which to do business, recognized Colorado as the fifth best state to conduct business. The state placed third in 2009 and 2010.

Criteria for the CNBC list were similar to the Forbes list, but CNBC also weighed how much access businesses had to capital and technology, the quality of a state’s workforce, K–12 standardized test scores and how “friendly” a state is when it comes to business-related taxes, laws and regulations.

Colorado ranked in the top 10 for quality of life, business friendliness and workforce quality. But Nina Anderson, owner of Express Employment Professionals, 1119 N. First St., Unit G, said the Front Range may have skewed those results. On the Western Slope at least, Anderson has seen companies struggle to find workers who have the right skills.

Some may believe Grand Junction’s unemployment rate guarantees a large pool of qualified workers, but it doesn’t, according to CommWest Owner Nathan Wallace.

“I’m just not seeing what I’m looking for,” Wallace said. “I’m not sure if they’ve gone to other places with more opportunities, but four or five years ago I thought there was more talent here.”

Wallace is happy to work in Grand Junction, though, and said he prefers it to his experience in Colorado Springs before he moved west in 2000.

“I like doing business here because I feel it’s more relationship-based. The Front Range was more dog-eat-dog. Here, you have relationships with other businesses,” he said.

Marlin said Grand Junction’s bountiful supply of inexpensive real estate and a variety of workers appeal to the companies who call her for information about possibly relocating to Grand Junction.

She said she is getting the same amount of calls this year, but she has noticed callers are taking a greater interest in moving to Grand Junction this year than they were last year.

“Last year seemed more like tire-kickers who were calling a number of cities,” Marlin said.

Colorado’s tax climate is favorable for prospective employers, Marlin said, but the state’s tax and regulatory environment doesn’t appeal to everyone. Colorado ranked 30th in the CNBC list for cost of doing business. A recent survey by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce found local businesses would like to see changes in taxes as well as regulations, according to chamber co-chair Lois Dunn.

“People were asked if the regulatory environment was friendly in Grand Junction, and the answers were no,” Dunn said.



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