Mesa County commissioners just created a more business-friendly environment by finally allowing an important financing tool to be utilized by businesses interested in reducing energy bills and improving their facilities.

Until this week, commissioners had chosen not to opt in to the Colorado Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program — essentially sending a message that businesses interested in an affordable way to implement sustainability measures could pound sand.

Mesa County was the lone holdout in western Colorado to refuse to adopt the C-PACE loan program, putting local economic development stakeholders at a competitive disadvantage in their attempts to lure new business and relocations because an attractive financing tool for construction and capital improvements was off the table.

Individual counties must formally opt into the program for it to be available to constituents because the county’s property tax apparatus is involved in paying off a project’s loan.

The program allows eligible building owners to finance up to 100% of qualifying energy-efficiency, renewable-energy and water-conservation improvements. They obtain financing through private capital providers.

Repayment occurs through a voluntary assessment on a building owner’s property tax bill. The annual energy cost savings usually exceeds the annual assessment. Terms for C-PACE loans tend to be long (20-30 years) because repayment is secured by the tax assessment and can transfer to the next property owner. By contrast, commercial loans are usually 7-10 years.

Commissioners’ approval of C-PACE is great news, though it comes too late for business owners who could have used it over the past three years.

Commissioner Cody Davis deserves kudos for taking a lead in negotiating a contract agreement that Commissioner Scott McInnis could live with. McInnis is the lone holdover from the previous board that rejected C-PACE over concerns that it could be burdensome for county employees — even though counties are paid a fee of up to 1% to cover the cost of county administrative time.

Davis said the county wanted some say when applicants go to C-PACE with proposals because ultimately the county is on the hook in cases such as when a property owner defaults on a loan. The agreement requires that applications be referred to the county for review. Under a sunset provision, Mesa County’s initial C-PACE agreement expires at the end of 2025 but the county will review it before then to decide whether to extend it.

In the meantime, we expect they’ll be more than satisfied with the results. Diane Schwenke, president and CEO of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, Robin Brown, the director of the Mesa County Economic Partnership and Ken Scissors of the CleanTech Business Coalition all supported C-PACE financing as critical to the Grand Valley’s competitive footing.

Commissioners’ embrace of C-PACE is a good sign that smart growth and sustainability are the wave of the future. We’re a little late to the game, but at last we’re in it.