By KENNETH SCISSORS and JIM MARSHALL
After a lengthy series of meetings and discussions between collaborating public and private representatives, Mesa County recently adopted the Colorado Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) financing option giving building owners and property developers access to affordable private-sector financing for the installation of energy efficiency, water conservation, and renewable energy improvements (www.copace.com).
It was heartening to see that after a few false starts, the common goal of promoting economic growth and stability in Mesa County was established. Respect for differences of opinions was displayed and in a business-like manner we arrived at a sensible plan that adequately addresses the various issues raised.
The C-PACE financing option provides many direct benefits for the involved parties. First off, it helps the participating businesses lower their utility bills, upgrade their facility, and improve their bottom lines, allowing for more growth and additional hiring. These projects will also result in more jobs for the contractors who do the work to upgrade the facilities, capital providers will gain new accounts, and the county will benefit from increased tax revenues from the uptick in economic activity.
The C-PACE financing option also helps attract new businesses. Some businesses consider the availability of the C-PACE option to be a requisite for establishing their operations in a specific county. In particular, much of the outdoor recreation industry — to which we have hitched our economic wagon — considers energy efficiency, clean energy, and resource preservation core values when locating their businesses, so not offering C-PACE financing was a self-defeating position.
The availability of C-PACE financing aids the success of our economic development organizations. In her supportive county public meeting testimony, Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Diane Schwenke emphasized that the C-PACE option is an important new “tool in the toolbox” for economic recovery and growth. Grand Junction Economic Partnership (GJEP) Executive Director Robin Brown concurred and noted that when asked by interested businesses, it would be nice to finally say “yes, we do have C-PACE,” instead of answering “no we don’t” as we strive to welcome newcomers to help diversify our economy and compete with surrounding counties that offer C-PACE.
The C-PACE financing option sends a welcome message to the business community that there is a mechanism to help operate both profitably and sustainably in Mesa County. This concept is now a reality in the business world as market forces and investment preferences are shifting in favor of resource conservation and environmentally sound practices. Adopting C-PACE signals that Mesa County is keeping up with this trend and staying competitive in a challenging and changing business environment. Business owner and Cleantech Business Coalition board member Darin Carei discussed this phenomenon at the county meeting, highlighting the prominence of cleantech economic growth he recently saw first-hand in booming Austin, Texas.
C-PACE is not for every business, but it is now at least an option for every business. Mesa County’s adoption of C-PACE is consistent with its oft-stated belief that government should do everything it can to provide private enterprise all available options so they can make their own choices and compete successfully. C-PACE is not a panacea for economic well-being. But that’s just fine. The Grand Valley way is to savor any sized gains for our small businesses and job market. We don’t ignore our local businesses in order to court big corporations. Our economic strength is in its inclusivity and diversity. We applaud our county commissioners for working collaboratively with the Chamber of Commerce, GJEP, private business owners, and the Cleantech Business Coalition in unanimously agreeing to add one more “tool in the toolbox” for economic growth, diversity, and sustainability in Mesa County.
Ken Scissors, M.D., is the chair of the Cleantech Business Coalition. Jim Marshall is co-chair of the coalition and executive vice president of Raven Ridge Resources Inc.