Thanks, Kristi Pollard
There’s nothing like losing an effective leader to make an organization take stock of its future.
Kristi Pollard’s tenure as executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership now functions a prism for the board of directors who must replace her. Her accomplishments refract the skills and strengths that will be required for her successor to maintain the tremendous momentum she built over the past two and half years.
It’s a tall order, but made easier by the “healthy place” in which Pollard leaves the organization, GJEP board members told the Sentinel’s editorial board Friday. The fact that the Jefferson County Economic Development Corp. lured Pollard away with the proverbial offer she couldn’t refuse speaks volumes of the strong organization GJEP has become under her leadership.
Pollard racked up impressive wins for the community by knowing the “science” of economic development — aggregating the tools, statistics, systems and staff to showcase Mesa County’s business potential. But her biggest impact may have been as a broad collaborator who created buy-in for a community vision of prosperity.
“Under Kristi’s leadership, the business community recognized more than ever before, the importance of education in economic development,” said Tom Walch, Grand Valley Power CEO and GJEP board member. “You see it in support of the CMU20000 initiative. You see it in the business community’s support for the (District 51) bond election.”
Pollard helped galvanize that support by understanding the “art” of economic development, Walch added — bringing disparate interests to the table to support economic development goals and implement recommendations of the North Star report.
“She had a special knack for being confrontational without anyone knowing about it,” Walch said.
Her fingerprints all over the business landscape. She secured bigger financial commitments from local governments to fund economic development efforts. She helped establish a dedicated funding stream from a restructuring of how the city collects sales taxes. She played a big role in the proposed Las Colonias business park that helped keep Bonsai Design in the Grand Valley, and helped companies like Bonsai secure funding to stay in the area and expand.
She was instrumental in creating the Rural Jump-Start program and passing it through the Legislature. Using tax credits as incentives, Pollard enrolled eight companies in the Jump-Start program, which are projected to create 400 jobs by 2020. Another three companies will be enrolled in November.
She recruited several companies from out of state. Pollard also helped create the Regional Air Services Task Force to push for more direct flights to Grand Junction Regional Airport.
Pollard’s success has magnified the importance of the job. the GJEP board wants to make it a “destination” and not a stepping stone, Walch said. “That takes money and we’re going to need the support of the business community.”
There’s a silver lining in losing Pollard to Jefferson County. She might be able to steer some prospects Mesa County’s way if they’re not a good fit for the Front Range.
“We’re much better off having her there than somebody else who doesn’t know about all the good things that Mesa County has to offer,” Walch said.
We wish Pollard the best, but hope she doesn’t dig up any dirt to take with her. Maybe the Grand Valley native, Fruita-Monument grad and Colorado Mesa University alum will find her way back home someday. She’ll be missed.