GJ economy showing signs of stability

There’s still plenty of country in the Grand Valley and plenty of room for growth, both as a result of local conditions and national trends, employers and experts said.

Health care and social assistance is the largest employment sector in Mesa County and it’s likely to remain that way, said Diane Schwenke, president and chief executive officer of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s evident on a daily basis that health care is a growing industry sector,” Schwenke said. “It’s a labor-intensive industry, after all.”

Grand Junction has 449 business and other health-care and social-service establishments that employ more than 11,000 residents, according to state statistics, and the trend is likely to go upwards.

“There’s a lot of diversity within health care itself,” Schwenke said.

Both Grand Junction hospitals work regularly to attract specialists to the Grand Valley and while the new physicians might be imports, “their support staffs are usually local folks,” said Chris Thomas, president and chief executive officer of Community Hospital.

We’re seeing a continued expansion of physicians’ practices and we’ll continue to see hiring there,” Thomas said.

St. Mary’s Hospital has the largest payroll in the region and every year seeks as many as 100 new associates, spokeswoman Teri Cavanagh said.

“We have experienced decreasing associate turnover in the past couple of years, which is a good thing, and we still continue hiring excellent people to fill needed roles that support the health of our population and economy,” Cavanagh said.

Nursing remains a field of opportunity, Thomas said, noting that Community Hospital has begun working with nurses visiting the United States on H1B visas from England and the Philippines.

The completion of two rehabilitation centers in Grand Junction highlights the continuing likelihood that the medical and social-service sectors will continue to require employees.

“The older we get, the bigger consumers of health services we are,” Thomas said.

West Star Aviation remains one of Grand Junction’s biggest employers and the company is looking for more people to join the more than 400 people who already work at company locations at Grand Junction Regional Airport and on Patterson Road.

Avionics technicians need specialized training from the military or trade schools, General Manager Dave Krogman said.

West Star also does a lot of on-the-job training for painters and other employees in crafts that lend themselves to aviation purposes, Krogman said.

One challenge facing many employers is a perennial issue, said Mike Knowles of Knowles Trucking and Knowles Transportation, largely serving the oil and gas industry.

Even with low natural-gas prices, “There is a lot of work with good pay and full benefits,” Knowles said, noting that it’s difficult to attract qualified employees even with both of those rewards.

His company even offers a 4 percent match and employees are fully vested after one year, but many don’t stay on.

“They want to jump ship tomorrow” for whatever new job has become available, Knowles said. “Somehow, we have to start teaching the work ethic.”

Knowles has about 150 employees “and we want to grow, if only we can,” he said.

Oil and transportation is only one part of the transportation sector and the drive for in-town delivery from suppliers such as Amazon also is on the increase, Schwenke said.

The Grand Valley has 198 establishments providing warehousing and transportation with more than 2,400 employees among them, according to state records.

Statistics suggest that the county has seen its labor force finally stabilize, said Curtis Englehart, manager of the Mesa County Workforce Center.

“We’re not seeing the jumps and decreases” that had characterized the labor market in recent years, Englehart said. The city lost more than 6,000 jobs in the oil and gas industry with the drop in energy prices of the last decade.

Construction has remained a steady contributor to the job base, employing 4,200 people in 555 various enterprises.

The effect of the tech industry remains elusive because many employees and entrepreneurs are freelancers or one-person operations, Englehart said.

“It feels like a growing industry, but that’s very tough data to find,” he said.

Outdoor recreation remains a small component of the labor market, but a forecast of 5 percent growth over the next five years “is probably conservative,” Englehart said.

Check out most popular special sections!

734 S. Seventh St.
Grand Junction, CO 81501
970-242-5050; M-F 8:00 - 5:00
Subscribe to print edition
eTear Sheets/ePayments

© 2017 Grand Junction Media, Inc.
By using this site you agree to the Visitor Agreement and the Privacy Policy