Congratulations to the city of Fruita for landing an outdoor recreation company that seems like a perfect fit for the community.

The announcement that Canfield Bikes has relocated from Bellingham, Washington is the latest validation that our economic development strategy is paying off.

The 20-year-old company will join DT Swiss, Rocky Mounts, and Mountain Racing Products as makers of mountain biking-related products in the Grand Valley.

The Grand Junction Economic Partnership can take a bow for bringing Canfield across the finish line, but this was a community effort.

As Fruita City Manager Mike Bennett explained, some local citizens involved with mountain biking first approached the city, knowing the company was looking to relocate.

GJEP and the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade then lined up incentives for the creation of new jobs that pay above the county’s average wage and, voila, Canfield now boasts a headquarters office in the heart of Colorado’s most popular destination for desert singletrack riding.

Fruita could never have branded itself as a mountain biking community without the pioneers who first scratched out the trails in the North Fruita Desert and on the rocky benches above the Colorado River. So, the Canfield relocation is a “community effort” decades in the making — long before anyone considered that outdoor recreation could factor into the economy as a tourist draw or a hook for manufacturers.

In many ways, Lance Canfield, the owner of the company, is the poster child for how outdoor recreation can be a jobs creator. Fruita competed with Idaho and Utah for the headquarters, but Canfield was drawn to the area for its strong cycling community and mountain bike culture, yearlong season, proximity to mountain bike parks and trail networks, and the ability to ship goods more quickly to customers around the country.

It didn’t hurt that he previously worked in Grand Junction as an engineer and product designer with the company that would eventually become MRP. But the point is that Canfield’s exposure to the Grand Valley eventually led him to bring a company here. The same dynamic could play out tomorrow with a freelance software developer or a manufacturer of custom handgun grips who comes here to play and decided to stay based on access to outdoor recreation and other quality of life variables.

Canfield’s arrival is the kind of good news that has us wondering what can come next. That’s a 180-degree turnaround from this valley’s mindset in 2014 when community leaders brainstormed Colorado Rural Jump Start legislation to try to attract — rather than lose — jobs. For the duration of the Great Recession, a hopelessness pervaded the community. We were cutting investment in economic development. Needed school bond measures, with zero chance of passing, weren’t even presented to voters.

Today there’s optimism because at some point in the past we either had the wherewithal or the desperation to plant seeds that finally are bearing fruit.

One of those seeds was turning our public lands into a recreational haven. We need more seeds. What dominoes can we put in place today that will fall and deliver jobs and business in the valley decades from now?

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