Aaron Young is a case study in the impact a young entrepreneur can have on a community.
On Sunday, the Sentinel's Joe Vaccarelli chronicled Young's concerted effort to ensure that a sizable investment he's making in his own company produces positive ripples throughout the local economy.
What seems to be a simple story of homegrown success makes a larger statement about the dearth of local private investment aimed at spurring more business activity.
Yes, we've seen "growth" in the valley, especially as the economic recovery from the recession has gained momentum. But most of the new buildings we've seen are products of government spending, hospital expansions, nonprofit capital campaigns or public-private partnerships.
There's an entire generation of business leaders who have sat on their hands, carefully tending to their own operations without considering how to leverage their success for the community's benefit. Young, in our view, represents a welcome changing of the guard.
He employs a lot of people locally. He hires graduates from Colorado Mesa University, helping stem the "brain drain" that sees our brightest young minds leave the valley in search of opportunity.
His business is so successful that he's outgrown office space and has to create more, which is expected to give downtown commerce a shot in the arm.
The nature of Young's tech-related business would allow him to locate anywhere, but he's chosen to stay in Grand Junction, making him an anchor for whatever future the Grand Valley has to become a tech-sector hub. He's a beacon to fellow tech-minded entrepreneurs — proving that it's possible to make a go of things in western Colorado where quality of life far outpaces a tech-friendly business environment.
"The tough thing about Grand Junction is basically you have to build everything yourself," Young told Vaccarelli.
Fortunately for the valley, Young is willing to take on the task of providing the infrastructure needed to expand. Unfortunately for him, local government officials haven't exactly bent over backward to help him achieve his vision.
Young is the CEO of Kaart, a geographic information mapping system company. In the past year, Kaart has opened small offices around the world, growing from 20 to 120 employees. Now he's looking to add another 100 workers and expand his office space in Grand Junction.
As Vaccarelli reported, Young plans to build a new four-story structure next to the building he already owns at 750 Main St. That building is probably best known for hosting the Factory co-working space. Eventually, Young wants to build an eight-story building for office space at the northeast corner of Seventh and Main, catty corner from the Avalon. He's under contract to buy the lot.
The new buildings, should both come to fruition, would add about 150,000 square feet of high-quality office space downtown.
It would create a new dynamic in the downtown corridor. The west side would serve as a hub for hotels and Two Rivers Convention Center and the east side would cater to technology-based companies in need of new, modern office space.
As Downtown Grand Junction Director Brandon Stam noted, the new buildings will provide a boon to local retailers and restaurants by bringing more workers downtown and help the housing project set to get underway next to the former R-5 school building.
If Young is to be the first in a new wave of civic-minded private investment, local officials would be wise to ask how they can be supportive, rather than throwing up unnecessary roadblocks.