The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce will seek to continue to catalyze economic growth and bring together leaders to educate and discuss important issues in 2020.

But the organization will also focus on becoming a champion for health care issues in the community, better coordinate with School District 51 and attempt to tackle issues surrounding daycare in the Grand Valley.

The chamber kicked off 2020 last week by unveiling five goals and a business plan for the year. It also adjusted some of its strategies. The chamber’s Board of Directors discussed and ultimately approved the goals in late 2019.

“When we looked at the major areas of focus, it’s very much about helping grow the workforce needs, but beyond that, putting a much greater emphasis on an employer-led coalition to address healthcare costs,” Chamber President and CEO Diane Schwenke said. “One of the things we had lots of conversation about is an outward focus on the community.”

The employer-led coalition will look for ways for businesses to gain bargaining power when negotiating rates to insure their employees.

Schwenke said tackling health care is a complicated issue, but she received a large response when asking for people to serve on a committee. Board Chair-Elect and Munro Companies Vice President Katie Powell said anything the chamber can do to help mitigate any costs in health care for businesses will help the community as a whole.

“The business community recognizes what an issue this is and wants to be part of a solution,” she said.

Both Powell and current Board Chairman Vance Wagner, regional president for ANB Bank, said the 2020 board is a good mix of old and new faces with fresh ideas.

“It is really exciting,” Wagner said. “There’s a lot of dynamic people making things happen.”

The chamber is also planning to reactivate its regulatory oversight committee of governmental affairs to look at the rule-making process. Further, it hopes to engage more employers in looking at workforce development — including finding more experiences for students — create more partnerships for career development, provide more economic data to its members and the community and discuss public policy issues with more businesses directly.

In meeting more directly with School District 51 regarding future ballot measures, Schwenke said she hopes the chamber can help better connect the business community with education and showcase that an educated workforce helps businesses and good schools help attract workers.

The chamber board, on a split vote, endorsed the district’s $179.5 million bond measure to rebuild Grand Junction High School and improve the district’s other high schools. Mesa County voters rejected the measure in November. However, Schwenke thinks more can be done to spread the message.

“We want to engage sooner on healthcare and K-12 education,” she said. “We feel we have something to bring to the table.”

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