Jobs focus of chamber’s Denver visit

When the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce heads to Denver to meet with legislators and agency officials Thursday and Friday, members have one question they’ll want addressed.

“What part of ‘jobs’ do you not understand?” Chamber President Diane Schwenke said. “We’re very serious about it.”

The Grand Junction area has the highest unemployment rate, 8.9 percent, in the state.

The chamber delegation will hear an update from state Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, and Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, as well as be briefed on health care, transportation, natural resources, severance taxes and the future of Pinnacol Assurance, the last-resort provider of workers’ compensation insurance in the state.

“We actually invited the governor” to speak “and he is unavailable,” Schwenke said.

Pommer, who declared on Feb. 16 that “Business does not care about Colorado,” then said he meant publicly-held companies that owe duties to stockholders, has the chamber’s hackles up, Schwenke said.

The comment sounded like a Freudian slip, she said, adding, “It’s like we’re the enemy.”

Grand Junction-based Enstrom Candies already felt the brunt of a new tax on sugar, despite a warning from Rick Enstrom, a regional manager and family member, to the Legislature last month.

“We simply can’t raise candy prices,” Enstrom said in prepared testimony. “We have to take lower margins and hope for things to recover or for volume to increase so our gross sales will make up for the shortfall in margin.”

In addition to the sugar tax, Gov. Bill Ritter signed bills setting new sales taxes on direct mail, energy used in manufacturing, downloaded software, Internet purchases, napkins and food containers, and certain products used in agriculture. The package of bills also set limits on income-tax credits for certain clean-fuel cars and for business losses.

The drive for new tax revenues is “so insidious,” Schwenke said. “It really permeates a lot further than just candy and soda.”

At least 22 legislators have confirmed they will meet with the chamber, Schwenke said.

Some 50 to 60 people have signed up for the trip, and there still are spots available, she said.

Anyone interested in going on the trip can contact the chamber at 242-3214. People who happen to be in Denver on other matters also can sit on parts of the program, she said.


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