City’s tourism director takes on expanded role

Kovalik Debbie mug 5-1-8

As the executive director of the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau, Debbie Kovalik has spent the past 18 years convincing people to temporarily relocate to Grand Junction for vacations, tournaments and conferences.

She recently expanded her duties to identifying and attracting prospects — be they businesses, builders of affordable housing or infill developers — who could put down roots here permanently.

The change is meant to get one of the city’s most well-connected employees involved in a greater push for economic development and marketing what the city has to offer.

Since June, Kovalik has overseen not only the Visitor and Convention Bureau but Two Rivers Convention Center and the Avalon Theater as part of a new department city officials have created but not yet named. The convention center and the theater used to operate within the Parks and Recreation Department.

After she became city manager in the summer of 2007, Laurie Kadrich told Kovalik she thought Kovalik was being underutilized.

Kovalik now meets regularly with the city’s economic development partners, including the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, the Grand Junction Economic Partnership and the Business Incubator Center. She is developing an economic profile of the city, building a database of retailers and other businesses that operate outside the Grand Valley and identifying “leakage areas” of items residents either shop for on the Internet or in other cities because they’re not available here.

“My goal is to keep building information, making information readily accessible to people looking at this area and making information more readily accessible on the Internet,” she said.

It’s all part of an effort to strengthen the city’s position as a regional business center.

But Kovalik isn’t focused solely on drawing new businesses here.

She and others are working on ways to help existing businesses expand and target specific areas of the city that could be redeveloped. One spot is the former Furr’s Restaurant on North Avenue. The restaurant closed in 2002 and has since been boarded up, becoming something of a blight.

“That’s not an asset to the residents who live around it. That’s not an asset to the community,” Kovalik said, adding officials want to find out who owns the land and what it might take to rebuild on the site.


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