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Brainstorming session focuses on business growth

Diane Schwenke

Diane Schwenke

A continued effort to interview Mesa County business owners to identify and help them overcome barriers to growth ranked among the most popular plans to come out of the latest in a series of economic development brainstorming sessions.

“There were all kinds of ideas,” said Diane Schwenke, president and chief executive officer of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber and other members of an organization called the Economic Development Partners hosted the

Aug. 3 session at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction as part of ongoing work on an economic development plan for Mesa County.

Supporting the growth of existing businesses is among three major goals that have been incorporated into the plan. Efforts to establish an epicenter for energy research and development as well as create and promote a community brand also constitute major goals for the plan.

Schwenke said the most popular idea to come out of the Aug. 3 session was to continue a program called Listening to Business. Under the program, initially launched in 2004 as a pilot project, business owners participate in in-depth interviews to identify barriers to growth and other problems they encounter in the local business environment. Schwenke said there’d be an additional component of the program in educating local business and government leaders about the results of the interviews and finding ways to overcome those barriers.

Other ideas also emerged from the brainstorming session, including the creation of a business acceleration program to help Mesa County firms grow and identify new or expanded market opportunities.

There also was support for establishing a team of “first responders” that can help businesses in risk of leaving or relocating their expanding operations elsewhere.

Still another idea involves the creation of a business “concierge” who can help expanding firms deal with government agencies, financial institutions and other service providers.

It also was suggested that a business recruiter be hired to work full-time in California to work there with firms interested in opening or relocating operations in Mesa County. Schwenke said the county already has enjoyed success in bringing California companies to the Grand Valley.

The latest brainstorming session follows similar efforts to develop ideas for establishing an epicenter for energy research and development in Mesa County

A new energy center and efforts to promote research into traditional and renewable energy technologies were among the most popular ideas to come out of a June 29 session. The establishment of a western center for energy independence was the top choice, while efforts to promote research at Colorado Mesa University was the second choice.

Schwenke said the chamber and other members of the Economic Development Partners still are working on ways to involve the public in developing ideas for the third major goal of the plan: creating and promoting a community brand.


Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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