County drops funding for economic agency

Mesa County’s revenue shortfall has led it to withdraw its financial support for the Grand Junction Economic Partnership.

County Commissioner Janet Rowland, who sits on GJEP’s board of directors, notified the economic development organization Friday that the county will not provide funding for it next year. The county gave GJEP $25,000 this year.

Ann Driggers, GJEP president and chief executive officer, said she is appreciative of the county’s support in the past and hopes it will support GJEP again in the future once the economy recovers.

“I know the county had a very difficult budgeting cycle this time around,” Driggers said in a phone interview from Denver, where she was learning more about the state’s own budget woes. “This decision about where to put funds was very difficult. I don’t envy what they had to go through.”

Driggers said the elimination of funding shouldn’t affect GJEP’s operation next year, noting the county’s contribution accounted for just 5 percent of GJEP’s $450,000 annual budget. She said about 80 percent of GJEP’s funding comes from private businesses, with the remaining 20 percent coming from the county, Grand Junction, Fruita and Palisade.

Rowland couldn’t be reached for comment Friday afternoon. But in a morning e-mail to GJEP board members, she wrote that the county is still investing in economic development through the elimination of planning fees and the reduction of the business personal property tax for local businesses.

“This wasn’t an easy decision for Mesa County,” she said of scrapping funding for GJEP. “None of our budget cuts have been easy.”

County departments are tightening their belts in response to an estimated $12 million drop in revenue next year.

Driggers believes the funding cut reaffirms GJEP’s importance.

“Without having jobs in our community, without having primary businesses that are growing, that is when governments and other businesses suffer in this manner,” she said. “Our role is more critical right now than at any other time.”

GJEP is a private, nonprofit organization that assists businesses looking to expand in or relocate to the county.


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