Caitlin Row
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January 23, 2013
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Grand Junction Economic Partnership looking to 'Advance the Ball'

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - To support its programs aimed at diversifying Grand Junction's economic base, the Grand Junction Economic Partnership (GJEP) recently launched a five-year fundraising campaign called "Advancing the Ball." The goal is to collect $1.5 million in multi-year commitments from local businesses.

"'Advancing the ball' is the theme for the campaign," Kristi Pollard, a fundraising consultant for GJEP, said. "We recognize that economic development requires all hands on deck, with partnerships from the business community, governmental entities and other nonprofits. We all need to band together. It's a team effort."

And, throughout the fundraising campaign, Pollard said she'd be coordinating efforts with local business leaders to brainstorm ways the Grand Valley can advance its goal of creating a "sustainable and economically vibrant economy."

"The work we do will build the community up for kids to come back to and stay," GJEP Executive Director Kelly Flenniken said. "Quality of life begins in quality jobs. The creation and maintenance of those primary, high-quality jobs will benefit generations to come."

Large companies - such as Choice Hotels International, Reynolds Polymer Technology, and Refrigeration Hardware Supply - were recruited by GJEP in the past.

"Our vision is to be more proactive," Mariah Campbell, GJEP's business development manager, said. "We've gone out and actively researched companies we felt fit well with the area and (we're trying) to recruit them."

Campbell said she does this by sending out information packets and calling on potential recruits through trade shows and conferences.

"It's difficult during a recession to get a company to move," she said, so proactive actions are necessary.

A community ambassador program - made up of anyone interested in recruiting a company to the valley - is also important to GJEP recruitment goals.

"A company will move if they have a personal interest in the location they're looking at," Campbell said. "We have 12 people in (the ambassador program) so far."

Campbell additionally said she works hard to benefit local business expansion efforts, as growth of existing companies is good for the local economy, too.

According to GJEP.org, "the Grand Junction Economic Partnership (previously known as the Mesa County Economic Development Council) was born in 1984, two years after 'Black Sunday,' the closure of the Exxon Colony Shale Project. Concerned with the drastic rise in unemployment and the number of shrinking businesses, local civic and business leaders met to form an organization focused on economic development."

"We were extremely dependent on the energy industry," Flenniken said, also noting that when the energy bust occurred people just packed their bags and left town. "We didn't want that to happen to the community again."

So, to prevent further boom/bust scenarios, GJEP was created to seek out other types of business to complement the oil and gas industry still operating in the valley.

Flenniken noted five broad, targeted industries currently being sought out locally:

• The aviation and aerospace industry

• The energy industry

• IT and professional services

• Health care

• The outdoors industry

"The outdoors industry isn't just recreation and tourism, which is important," Flenniken said. "(It includes) those companies that make or manufacture goods or services associated with the outdoors, like Leitner-Poma."

Leitner-Poma of America currently has a Grand Junction location, and it "offers a complete line of cable transport systems, including surface lifts, chair lifts, gondolas, MiniMetro urban transport, trams, inclined elevators, industrial trams, etc.," the Leitner-Poma website said.

"There's opportunity for industry outside of the five sectors," Flenniken added.

Campbell said she'd like to see a data center form or relocate to the Western Slope.

"It's a great area for us because we have a secure geographical location," she said. "The New York Times listed Grand Junction as the fifth safest place to live and avoid natural disasters (in April 2011)."


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The Post Independent Updated Jan 29, 2013 12:29PM Published Jan 23, 2013 06:05PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.