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Constructive efforts: Builder expands on role as chamber chairman

Greg Motz looks over plans in the conference room at Sun King Management in Grand Junction. While Motz long has been involved in commercial and residential construction projects, he hopes to build the community in different ways as the new chairman of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Greg Motz looks over plans in the conference room at Sun King Management in Grand Junction. While Motz long has been involved in commercial and residential construction projects, he hopes to build the community in different ways as the new chairman of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Greg Motz pulls out a copy of a map of an addition to Palisade, a two-block development with which his great-grandfather was involved in 1907.

The document serves as an artifact of what’s long been a family tradition of building the community — both literally and figuratively. Four generations and more than a century later, Motz carries on that tradition as president of Sun King Management, a construction company that’s erected some of the most notable commercial buildings in the Grand Valley.

But Motz hopes to also build the community in a different role as the new chairman of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

Motz assumes leadership of the chamber board at a time when some industry sectors have grown, but other sectors still struggle in the aftermath of downturns in the economy and regional energy development. “It’s been a tough couple of years, and I think it’s going to be a tough couple of years,” he says.

The latest results of a membership survey conducted by the chamber reinforce his outlook. Most of those who responded to the survey consider the local economy weak and unlikely to recover until late this year or even the year after.

Motz holds out hope, though, renewed efforts on the part of the chamber to collaborate with other groups involved in economic development, help businesses and prepare the work force will make a difference. Drawing on a metaphor from his day job, Motz says there’s a good foundation upon which to build. “We have a lot of what we can do with what we currently have.”

Motz brings to his year-long term as chamber chairman a lifelong perspective of the Grand Valley. His great-grandfather, I.O. Motz, relocated from Iowa to the Grand Valley in 1904 and subsequent generations of the family have lived here ever since.

The family’s roots in land development and construction run just as deep. Motz said he grew up in the construction business and was operating heavy equipment for his father’s highway contracting firm before he was old enough to legally drive a car.

After earning a degree in industrial construction management at Colorado State University, Motz returned to the Grand Valley and worked for five years with the land development division of a general contractor involved with the Ridges development.

In 1982, Motz joined with his wife, Jody, and younger brother, Chris, in launching Sun King Management and pursuing work in land development and commodity trading.

“We timed that one right,” Greg Motz jokes.

On May 2 of that year, Exxon announced it was pulling out of its oil shale development project in Western Colorado, a day dubbed “Black Sunday” that triggered the bust that followed the oil shale boom. Within two years, Sun King Management operations also shut down.

Motz worked for a savings and loan and as a property manager until 1989, when the construction of a spec home in Grand Junction pulled Sun King Management back into business.

Rather than compete strictly in the residential market,  Sun King diversified by entering the commercial market. The company went on to build seven branch banking facilities for Alpine Bank as well as buildings for American Furniture Warehouse, Home Loan & Investment, KidzPlex and U.S. Tech.

Sun King further diversified by offering services related to construction management, land development, interior design and space planning and owner representation.

The company continued to grow along with the Grand Valley through 2008, when construction slowed in the aftermath of downturns in energy development and the economy.

In retrospect, Sun King might have fared better had it also diversified operations geographically, Motz says. But the priority from the beginning was to serve a local market within a 90-mile radius of Grand Junction, and Motz estimates that about 80 percent of work has occurred within Mesa County.

While residential construction and land development have begun to pick back up in recent years, commercial construction has yet to fully rebound, Motz says. “It’s nothing like it was.”

The situation is much the same for the broader economy in the Grand Valley, he says. Even as some sectors are doing well, other sectors continue to struggle.

That’s why the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors has made it a priority to play a role in promoting the growth of businesses and the economy, Motz says.

To that end, the chamber board has developed a business plan for 2014 that includes six major goals, he says.

One goal is to collaborate more closely with other organizations involved in economic development to coordinate and execute a strategy for promoting business and job growth, Motz says. That effort will include support for a “maker’s space” that promotes innovation, a regional manufacturing summit and recruitment of businesses that use the abundant supply of natural gas found in Western Colorado.

But even as the chamber continues to work to attract new businesses, the organization will continue to support existing businesses, Motz says. The group can offer a range of resources to help businesses solve problems and grow. But the chamber also will make additional efforts to connect with business owners and managers to find out what they need.

It’s important, Motz says, that the chamber provide members with a tangible return on their investment in membership, whether it’s through educational sessions, leads groups and networking opportunities or other means.

It’s also important the chamber diversify its membership to more closely reflect the business community, he adds, engaging younger business owners and managers in the group and its committees and board.

Work force development constitutes yet another goal for the chamber, Motz says, one the organization will promote through various efforts. A Young Entrepreneurs Academy offers middle and high school students training in starting their own businesses. The chamber also supports volunteer tutoring and speed reading programs. Yet another program would bring business and educational interests together to help high school students make career choices.

Meanwhile, the chamber will continue its advocacy efforts on behalf of businesses in taking positions on local, state and federal legislation and regulation; endorsing candidates for elected and appointed positions; and recruiting business owners and managers to serve in various positions.

The chamber has drawn criticism for its proactive role in endorsing candidates. But Motz says it only makes sense for the organization to not only take positions on issues that effect businesses, but also the officials who make decisions that effect businesses. What’s important is that process remains transparent, he says, and that people clearly understand why the chamber endorses certain candidates.

So even as Motz continues a family tradition as president of Sun King Management, he says he’s looking forward to what for him is a far different role as chairman of the chamber board. “I’m excited about it. I’m intimidated about it a little bit.” In both roles, though, he says the objective remains the same: to build the community.

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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