Facilitating Dynamic Growth

The Grand Junction Economic Partnership
Written by Grace McDermott

Located along the Colorado River in Mesa County Colorado, the Grand Valley is a community that has moved to the forefront of national development as a result of its advantageous economic climate…
With a unique combination of tax incentive programs, a growth-centric infrastructure and an unmatched quality of life which revolves around the area’s expansive natural landscape, the Grand Valley has all the right conditions for personal and professional development.

The Grand Valley is an area of western Colorado in Mesa County. The region is home to three municipalities including Fruita, Palisade and the City of Grand Junction. With a population of approximately 150,000, the Grand Valley is a small community with big potential. Its highly skilled workforce, world-class health system and some of the best mountain biking on the planet make the area an emerging hub for businesses and thrill seekers alike.

Recently, Mesa County and the city of Grand Junction have seen a new wave of industrial growth. A closer look uncovers an ongoing strategic collaboration between business, government and community that is driving change, and the Grand Junction Economic Development Council has played an important role in kick-starting this new era. As the council pioneers new corporate partnerships and growth-centric tax legislation, the potential for businesses in Mesa is being redefined. In a time when it seems like the private and public sectors are more polarized than ever, Grand Valley’s success story proves that working together, works better.

The expanding economic footprint of the Grand Valley is built on a stable foundation of industrial diversity. Unlike many areas that rely solely on one or two central industries, the Grand Valley has a well-distributed market that stretches across multiple leading sectors. With a legacy in advanced industries including health and wellness, resource, aerospace and, more recently, manufacturing for the outdoor industry, Mesa is a first point of call for businesses which require a skilled workforce and access to natural resources.

The region is gaining a reputation for innovation. Its quickly expanding, state-of-the-art regional medical center employs over 1500 people, and its aerospace sector is growing at an average of 39 percent annually. Moreover, its broad resource portfolio that spans natural gas, clean energy, solar, geothermal and shale has created a stable economic climate that withstands the ever-changing price of oil.

One of the area’s major assets for business development is its highly skilled workforce. Colorado Mesa University (CMU) is home to over 10,000 students, and, in conjunction with the local government, the institution has created a steady pipeline of specialized, work ready staff. The Grand Junction Economic Partnership has joined with CMU to create industry-specific programs to match the changing needs of local business development.

Many areas struggle to build an educated workforce because of an inability to retain graduates; however, this is rarely the case when students in the Grand Valley are presented with a job opportunity. The area is known for its quality of life, and students who make the move to Mesa actively seek opportunities to stay after graduation giving the Grand Valley a great tool to avoid the brain-drain faced by many areas. As a result, companies in the area have the opportunity to not only succeed, but expand sustainably.

In the last year, Mesa County has passed ground-breaking legislation that will enable businesses and professionals to take advantage of tax incentives at both the state and local level. This is founded on a core principle of cooperation to benefit industry and community alike.

“We have a very business friendly environment. Our tax rate is low. Our local elected officials are regularly involved in business development and, by nature, as a smaller community, we have great collaboration,” Kristi Pollard, the executive director of The Grand Junction Partnership, explained.

Mesa County elected officials and multiple economically-focused organizations are involved with regular business expansion and development across the area. The economic development support in Mesa County is extensive since the area hosts not only the economic development council, but a local chamber of commerce, a business incubator, a workforce center and, of course, CMU. These bodies work in tandem to create business stimulus, a system of support and further motivations for companies seeking to open or expand into Mesa County.

“All of these economic development partners meet on a regular basis to identify tangible ways that we can increase the business-friendly aspects of the community. That collaboration is really a phenomenal tool. We are able to pull in expertise from a variety of different areas, which makes businesses in the area stronger overall. ”

Working closely with private industry and the community, the government in Mesa has historically provided highly competitive tax incentives. The passing of new growth-stimulating legislation may just result in 2016 being the biggest year yet.

The Colorado JumpStart Program is an initiative that is redefining industrial opportunity in Mesa County. For qualifying businesses that are not currently operating in Colorado, Jump-Start Colorado provides an avenue for sustainable economic growth. The program requires eligible firms to partner with an educational institution and is driving business development in Mesa while simultaneously improving the economic prospects of residents.

The recently passed legislation has attracted national attention as it gives businesses the opportunity to operate free of county property tax, business tax, personal property tax and even corporate incomes tax for four years, with the possibility to renew for up to eight. There are obvious benefits for growing firms, but the legislation also helps workers. Employees working under the JumpStart Program will be able to forgo personal income tax payment as a result of their association with an approved business. The first projects under JumpStart Colorado will be passed in January of 2016. With more than half a dozen businesses already going through the JumpStart approval process, the program appears set for success.

In addition to the benefits of JumpStart Colorado, Mesa County has the advantage of being located in a Colorado Enterprise Zone. For communities with a developing local economy, the Colorado Enterprise Zone program provides an impetus to businesses to set up shop. These tax credits cut down the cost of purchasing new equipment or facilities and even ease employee and hiring costs.

Located right on the border of Colorado and Utah, the Grand Valley has four distinct seasons, and scenery that is not found anywhere else in the country. With the breathtaking alpine mountains on one side of the county and the arid desert landscape on the other, the area has become an oasis for outdoor enthusiasts.

From hitting the ski slopes after lunch to hiking, kayaking or biking on the county’s 135-mile bike trail system, professionals in the Grand Valley work hard and play hard. As a result of its unique environment and embedded population of adrenaline junkies, it is no surprise that the outdoor industry and related manufacturing firms have started to take root in Mesa County.

“Because we have four distinct seasons and access to great recreational opportunities, outdoor manufacturers find a lot of opportunity here, in terms of product testing grounds and a business-friendly environment.”

The Grand Valley offers the same professional opportunities as a major city, with the enhanced quality of life only available in a smaller town. “We have a great community. It is one of those places that, once people visit, they want to stay,” said Ms. Pollard.



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