Leaders hopeful about Greenway Business Park
A FedEx semi with a triple trailer clips along Colorado’s east-west artery, jockeying with other traffic on Interstate 70 on a recent nippy but sunny afternoon. Farther west are the crimson cliffs of Colorado National Monument, days’ worth of trails off the Kokopelli trail head and the undulating Colorado River, all waiting to be explored.
It’s this combination of easy interstate and railway access in a Wild West setting that Fruita leaders hope can attract some light manufacturing outdoor retailers.
The vision is encapsulated in a less than four-minute video created by Fruita resident and City Councilor Cullen Purser and posted to the city’s website, fruita.org.
A rising sun glints off the sunglasses of a mountain biker who pedals up and then sits down, smiling with a mug in hand at a desk in the center of the Greenway Business Park’s 68 acres of open space.
“Can you imagine creating an environment for your employees where they are thrilled to do their work because at the end of their day they can hop on their mountain bike, step out the back door and take a bike path to some of finest trails and scenery in the U.S.?” a voice on the video asks. “We can and we’ve worked hard to create a place for you.”
As the trajectory on graphs depicting local municipalities’ sales and use taxes continues to resemble flat, open plains or slightly sloping hills rather than the sharply rising foothills of a mountain, city leaders across the Grand Valley have been repeating the same mantra: “We need more economic development.”
Yet instead of paying for surveys and advice on how to attract businesses, Fruita’s effort seems more homegrown.
Purser already was working on a series of videos about Fruita when city leaders asked if he could provide something they could present to folks at the Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City. Purser combined Super 8 film footage of many of Fruita’s landmarks and local color with the segment on Fruita’s economic possibilities at the Greenway Business Park.
“The main point is we didn’t do this through a six-month or a year process,” Purser said. “When you’re making sidewalks it’s good to bring in consultants. When we’re talking about who we are, it’s good to have that come from (us).”
In keeping with that theme, Fruita is taking its role in pursuing economic development prospects a step further.
The Greenway Business Park, adjacent to U.S. Highway 6 where it intersects with 16 Road, is equipped with paved roads, sewer and fiber that could be accessed from a tower at the site. However, much of the land that the city has also paid to develop has long sat empty, a trend the city would like to reverse, City Manager Mike Bennett said.
Landowners and New York residents Phillipe Delouvrier and Wenke Thoman have owned the parcel for more than a decade and have invested more than $2 million in the site.
Johns Manville, a company that produces insulation and roofing products, is among the few businesses located in the park. When Fruita officials hatched an idea to market the park as a light-manufacturing hub to house outdoor retailers, Delouvrier and Thoman were all ears. They hopped a flight to the Grand Valley to hear the pitch.
In a daylong meeting with Bennett, Kristi Pollard, executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership and Jon Maraschin, executive director of the Business Incubator Center, the owners agreed to cut land prices in half, to $2.50 a square foot. They’re also on board with a plan to work with businesses to co-develop buildings on the site and offer some build-to-suit building options.
Thoman and Delouvrier have donated $10,000 and offered easements for a future section of the Colorado Riverfront Trail, which someday should pass by a lake on the land heading to the Kokopelli trail head. Eventually the owners plan to deed the lake over to the city of Fruita.
“We like the whole idea of the outdoors and the bike-to-work options, you name it,” Thoman said by phone last week. “At (Fruita’s) recommendation we’ve gotten some (Colorado Mesa University) students to design logos and a sign that’s attractive and offered a prize for the best sign.”
Bennett said he’s hoping Fruita can work with students to create a digital portfolio or virtual buildings at the site to show potential business leaders, offering a better idea of how their operation would look in the area. Build-to-suit buildings could be pre-approved by the city’s planning commission, eliminating most planning hurdles, he said.
“So we could show them, here’s an example going from 3,000- to 30,000-square-foot, pre-approved buildings,” Bennett said. “We could show them, ‘This could be yours in six months.’”
Bennett said the vision is to create the area like an extension of downtown Fruita with artwork and trails, more like a campus where people would be proud to work and less like a business park.
Bennett said after he and Mayor Lori Buck made contacts at the Salt Lake City trade show, analytics on Fruita’s video showed it received a number of views from people on the East Coast and China.
He said the area is due for development, and with the recent push in the Grand Valley to focus on the area’s recreation attributes, it might be the right time for a new life for the property.
“They left knowing this is a top priority,” Bennett said about the park’s owners. “We need some new companies with some good jobs. We need that sales tax revenue for the community. You can’t just sit back and wait. We’re determined.”