It takes a village to create a thriving local economy
I attended a happy hour event earlier this week hosted by the Grand Junction Economic Partnership and Mountain Racing Products for Bicycling Retailer & Industry News — the premier trade publication for the bicycle industry in North America.
They were visiting as part of their dealer tour targeting retailers across the country to learn more about local markets. Thanks to GJEP and their efforts, Bicycle Retailer added the Grand Valley to their tour — by far the smallest market they’ve visited — and it seems they were happy with the decision. While sipping local brews in the MRP warehouse, I asked an editor if she was enjoying her trip. Her response was that she was amazed at the collaboration that she saw here and intense advocacy for our community voiced from everyone she met.
As I looked around the room, there were small business owners, economic development partners, and city leadership from Palisade, Grand Junction and Fruita. This industry, working together across the valley, is a definite bright spot in our economy. Two years ago, a bunch of outdoor industry businesses got together over a beer and decided they wanted to have a voice and be a leader for diversifying our local economy. Standing in that room at MRP surrounded by valley leadership, it’s obvious they’ve been successful.
About 20 years ago, this community decided it wanted to become a retirement community. And, that makes sense. Our temperate climate, cost of living, and large health-care community make it a great place to retire. I would argue that we have successfully become a retirement community. We did that on our own just like that outdoor industry crowd is growing and strengthening their standing and impact in our community.
As much as I argue for our need for more state assistance — whether it’s fixing school funding or the formulas that channel EDC funding away from the parts of the state that need it most and into the parts of the state that don’t — it’s become obvious that nobody is going to bail us out. We’re on our own over here and we need to plow our own course for success. And after years of hunkering down and waiting for the recession to pass, we’ve finally rolled up our sleeves as a community and gotten to work. The evidence is everywhere.
New projects from both the public and private sector are cropping up such as the Factory co-working space and Bonsai Design’s riverfront business park project. The Las Colonias amphitheater is nearing completion and the RIO (Recreation Inspired by the Outdoors) program — an effort to better connect underserved kids from the Riverside neighborhood and Orchard Mesa with nature — will include an expanded playground and park on Riverside Park Drive. Colorado Mesa University has partnered with the city on a study for a proposed whitewater park and new commercial development may soon be popping up on the long-vacant riverfront Jarvis property. Popular restaurateurs Josh and Jodi Niernberg of Bin 707 Foodbar have opened a second restaurant, Taco Party, at the same time that a new coffee bar goes in on Main Street called Kiln Coffee Company.
In Palisade, the Cameo shooting complex celebrates its ribbon cutting this weekend and the Palisade Plunge is closer to happening than it ever has been. 13 Brix Cider bistro has opened across the street from popular Palisade Café 11.0. The addition of a second oven at Hot Tomato in Fruita has relieved some of the pressure as they set sales records every day. Demand is only going to increase when they finish the trail between town and Mary’s Loop.
The point is, if there was ever a time to take a risk, now is that time. Leadership across the valley is collaborating in an amazing way with the attitude that a rising tide lifts all ships. Territorial boundaries — both real and imagined — are fading away and economic development partners across the valley are coming together to tackle the tough issues. Because we have to. The victim mentality is no longer working. We must do it ourselves.
When the Colorado Commission on Higher Education rejected a capital construction request from CMU to build a health sciences building — a natural fit given our large medical and healthcare industry — a community effort ensued to reverse that decision. Because of public feedback, the commissioners agreed to a re-hearing and President Tim Foster traveled to Denver to speak with them about the health sciences program resulting in unanimous approval for the request. That’s our new norm. We have to band together to fight for success.
I applaud our community leadership across the valley for their selfless efforts to create a thriving economy, I admire our entrepreneurs who have stepped up to take the risk needed to move our community forward and I encourage all of those sitting on the sidelines to get in the game. Because the only way we’ll get there is with everybody’s help.