Gov. sees potential here, but ‘electricity’ missing
Grand Junction is listed 19th in a nationwide report of the number of new start-up tech businesses per capita, Gov. John Hickenlooper told The Daily Sentinel’s editorial board Friday, adding, “That’s not a bad place to be.”
But, when he compared this community with other bustling cities in the state — places like Boulder, Denver and Fort Collins and Colorado Springs that are in the top 10 of start-ups per capita, Hickenlooper noted that there doesn’t seem to be the same economic energy here.
“Your problem is how to make this place electric,” so that it will attract more young workers and entrepreneurs, he added.
The governor’s prescription for doing that is to invest more in amenities that attract young people — things like parks, trails and facilities for music and other entertainment.
Regular readers of these pages know that The Daily Sentinel has argued for many of the same things. We believe cultural amenities are critical to attracting not just young entrepreurs, but in enticing new businesses offering good jobs to move here. We think the governor is right in that regard.
However, that doesn’t mean the state has no role to play in helping boost the economy in this part of the state.
When asked why the capital improvements budget his Office of State Planning and Budgeting submitted to the Legislature late last year was so heavily weighted to Front Range projects, Hickenlooper said he would examine the list and see if more projects could be added on this side of the mountain.
“I can probably move some money for projects over here, but that’s not going to solve your problems,” he added.
True enough, but it will help. So would making some effort to move more facilities for state agencies to this region.
Equally important, it would help alleviate the feeling that state government is primarily concerned with the Front Range, not areas out here in the hinterland.
That said, nobody here should dismiss the governor’s thoughts on what could help change the economic atmosphere in this community.
After all, Hickenlooper was a young entrepreneur himself 25 years ago, when he opened the first microbrewery in the state and helped revitalize the lower downtown area of Denver. As mayor of that city, he helped it become one of the most attractive places for businesses to locate. And, as he noted in his State of the State speech Thursday, in the past four years Colorado has gone from being ranked 40th in the nation in job growth, to being ranked fourth.
Hickenlooper is quick to add that he doesn’t claim credit for all of that change. But it’s clear that his upbeat, pro-business attitude and his eagerness to promote Colorado to various industries has played a role.
Unfortunately, much of the Western Slope — and Mesa County in particular — has not shared in that economic transformation. The state can do more to help, and we hope it will. But ultimately, it’s up to those of us who live here, and especially our elected officials, to find ways to “make this place electric.”