The Bureau of Land Management’s move of its national headquarters to Grand Junction is having an $11 million initial local economic impact, the Grand Junction Economic Partnership has determined.
According to data the agency has provided GJEP, the 41 jobs the agency moved from Washington to Grand Junction pay average annual wages and benefits of $122,000 each, or more than $5 million a year in total.
Using an economic multiplier, GJEP says those BLM employees support an additional 57 local jobs through their spending in the community, resulting in a total $9 million annual employment impact from the headquarters move in terms of pay and benefits.
The move also resulted in a $1.25 million in capital investment in terms of money the BLM spent renovating the office space it is leasing at 760 Horizon Drive, according to what the BLM told GJEP. GJEP estimates that as a result, there was a $2 million total local economic impact from that $1.25 million capital investment when applying a multiplier to account for the additional spending induced by that investment, such as by subcontractors.
The employment impact associated with the move ramped up over the course of last year as the BLM staffed up the new office. GJEP Executive Director Robin Brown said the BLM told GJEP it had fully staffed up by around mid-December. The full $9 million annual employment impact of the move should be felt this year, assuming the headquarters remains in Grand Junction. Its status is up in the air as a result of the change in presidential administrations. Deb Haaland, President Joe Biden’s Interior secretary nominee, has criticized the BLM’s relocation of headquarters jobs to the West.
The Trump administration decided to move most of its Washington jobs to numerous locations in the West, including by relocating top-level jobs to a new Grand Junction headquarters. The Trump administration and other supporters of the relocation cited the importance of moving BLM leadership closer to the lands they manage and communities their decisions affect.
The move drew criticism over concerns about it weakening the agency’s standing within the halls of power in Washington, and hollowing out the agency’s leadership due to the reticence of many to make the move. The Interior Department under the Biden administration has said that the Trump administration moved 328 BLM positions out of Washington, but only 41 of the affected people moved, with the rest either retiring or finding new employment.
Keeping the headquarters in Grand Junction has bipartisan support within Colorado, however. Gov. Jared Polis and U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, all Democrats, all want it to remain in the city as does U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Silt. Hickenlooper discussed maintaining the headquarters in the city in a meeting with Haaland ahead of her upcoming Senate confirmation hearing and invited her to visit Grand Junction.
Brown said she doesn’t know that the Interior Department cares about what economic impact the relocation has had on Grand Junction, but the impact carries some weight at the state level because it matters to people such as Polis, Bennet, Hickenlooper and Boebert.
She said the total economic impact over the last four years of companies that have move into the area thanks in part to recruitment efforts has been pretty significant.
“But without a doubt 2020 was our strongest (recruitment) year and the BLM played a big role in that,” she said.
Brown considers the scale of the newly recruited BLM jobs to be significant in terms of both numbers and pay. Most of the companies recruited into the area tend to employ 20 or fewer people and pay around the average local wage, she said. The BLM jobs pay far above the average wage.
“Those are by far the highest-wage jobs we’ve recruited in,” Brown said.