Fruita has vision and a game plan
What if you build it and they don’t come?
That’s essentially the position the city of Fruita found itself in after spending a good chunk of money developing the 68-acre Greenway Business Park two miles west of town on U.S. Highway 6.
The city leveraged $215,000 of its own money to acquire $1 million in energy impact funds. The property owners provided matching funds of $426,000. All told, the city directed $1.7 million toward infrastructure of the park, which has roads, sidewalks, curbs, gutter, power, water, sewer and fiber, not to mention rail access.
The business park has managed to attract a few industrial tenants since 2006, but city leaders recently took a hard look at the business park and devised a comprehensive strategy to market it as a light-manufacturing hub for outdoor retailers by by capitalizing on Fruita’s “brand” as a recreation destination.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because North Star Destination Strategies said this was one of several ways the Grand Valley could improve its economic development efforts.
While the city of Grand Junction and Mesa County officials are carefully feeling their way through the recommendations of the North Star’s competitive location study, Fruita’s already ahead the head of the curve with its homegrown marketing effort.
Officials attended the Outdoor Retailer trade show armed with a video produced by former City Councilor Cullen Purser. The video describes Fruita as “funky little town not yet touched by a corporate world that forgets the value of the individual.”
It goes on to explain that outdoor manufacturers can set up shop in the business park with access to lakes, I-70, rail, Downtown Fruita, the Colorado River and world-class trailheads.
The video plants the seed that an outdoor manufacturer can locate in a place where it’s possible for employees to bike to work and hit the trail at the end of the day.
That’s the lifestyle appeal. But city leaders and local economic development officials were able to persuade the owners of the business park to cut land prices to $2.50 a square foot. The owners, Phillipe Delouvrier and Wenke Thoman, are also on board with a plan to work with buseinsses to co-develop buildings on the site and offer some built-to-suit options.
Fruita City Manager Mike Bennett is hoping Colorado Mesa University students can create a digital portfolio or virtual buildings to show potential businesses. Build-to-suit buildings could be pre-approved by the city planning commission, eliminating most planning hurdles.
The message is consistent and clear: Fruita has the lifestyle outdoor retailers want for their employees and the competitive pricing and pro-business city government they need to get their manufacturing operations up and running quickly.
Kudos to Fruita for trying to shape its own destiny.