Team effort will draw business, agency says

Getting the attention of companies looking to relocate or expand isn’t the same game that it was a few short decades ago, Grand Junction Economic Development Partnership Executive Director Kelly Flenniken said Monday.

That makes it all the more important to be sure that the various organizations, including local governments, tourism-boosters and business organizations, work in concert when it comes to trying to draw attention to the valley, Flenniken said.

Flenniken and others spoke at Two Rivers Convention Center during a “progress update” for the Mesa County Economic Development Plan, which grew out of a suggestion two years ago from Gov. John Hickenlooper that local communities and the state develop a “bottom-up” plan for economic growth.

One outgrowth of that effort helped an unidentified local business expand, and another could be the expansion of the Business Incubator Center to Fruita.

A key, beneath-the-surface development, however, has been the development of a concerted approach to the inquiries about the Grand Valley from any quarter.

“We are a very well-kept secret and we need a unified message,” Diane Schwenke, president of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce said.

To that end, the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau, the chamber, the economic partnership and various local governments from one end of the valley to the other are involved in the economic-development effort.

The results included unified efforts to put on a series of events such as the Tour of the Moon bicycle tour of Colorado National Monument, the Palisade Bluegrass Festival, the Rimrock Marathon and the Downtown Car Show.

A separate effort resulted in the establishment of an unconventional-energy epicenter at Colorado Mesa University, which began with a $1.6 million grant of federal mineral-lease funds.

The effort also included the establishment of a “first-response” team of officials willing to aid businesses in distress.

The first-response team interceded on behalf of a Grand Valley business that had hoped to expand, but found that its plans required spending about $100,000 to meet landscaping requirements.

Local officials worked with the business and government to reduce the cost to about $20,000, making the expansion possible, said Jon Maraschin, executive director of the Business Incubator Center.

Officials also will work with businesses before they buy property to make sure the plans can go forward, Maraschin said.

The nature of what the first-response team does means that it doesn’t identify the companies with which it works, Maraschin said, noting that the teams also have been unable to help some businesses in trouble for reasons that governments couldn’t help.

The economic partnership, meanwhile, is continuing its efforts to reach companies in other states with information about the business climate in the Grand Valley, Flenniken said.

It’s not as simple as running radio ads in Los Angeles about the virtues of the Grand Valley, hoping to catch the ear of a business executive looking to escape, as happened in the early 1990s, Flenniken said.

“How do you know he’s listening to the radio?” Flenniken said. “He might be listening to Sirius or on his iPad.”

The Grand Junction Economic Partnership still is looking to contacts it’s made in various locations — whether from inquiries, efforts that fell short of attracting a business to the valley or other reasons — to remain active in places such as Southern California; Ogden, Utah; South Carolina and Idaho, Flenniken said.


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