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Economic development leader stepping down

Ann Driggers

After nine years as leader of an economic development organization in Mesa County, Ann Driggers has decided it’s time for a change for herself and the group.

Driggers plans to step down as president and chief executive officer of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership and has submitted a 90-day notice to the GJEP board of directors.

“For me to grow both professionally and personally, it was time to look for new opportunities and challenges,” she said in a telephone interview with the Business Times.

Steve Gunderson, regional president of U.S. Bank and chairman of the GJEP board, said Drigger’s resignation comes at a time when the board is deliberating the direction of the group.

The board plans to go ahead with a May 10 retreat, Gunderson told the Business Times. The results of the retreat will help determine how to choose a successor and what type of person is needed, he said. “The resignation of Ann has increased the importance and focus of that meeting.”

Driggers was appointed president of GJEP on April 24, 2002. She joined the organization in January 2001 as vice president after working in a similar role with the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

Ten years with one organization constitutes a comparatively long tenure in the economic development industry, Driggers said. “It just seemed like the time was right to make the decision for myself and the organization.”

She said she’s not yet certain what she’ll do or whether she’ll stay in the Grand Valley or pursue interests elsewhere. “It’s totally up in the air.”

Looking back over the past decade, Driggers said GJEP has enjoyed success not only in bringing companies and jobs to the area, but also in assisting existing companies to expand. Moreover, GJEP has positioned itself to continue to compete on a national level.

GJEP was involved in bringing a new Colorado Bureau of Investigation complex to Grand Junction as well as the construction of a new manufacturing facility for Leitner-Poma.

Even in 2010 and the aftermath of a recession, GJEP was involved with several companies that created hundreds of new jobs, Driggers said.

Many of the companies that GJEP has brought to the area over the nearly 27-year history of the organization have expanded and hired additional employees, even during the downturn, she added. “That just speaks volumes about the importance of GJEP.”

Last year, GJEP received an award from the International Economic Development Council for the best Web site for an economic development organization in a community with 25,000 to 250,000 residents. The Web site at ww.gjep.org offers a variety of information about Mesa County, including labor and market demographics as well as various rankings. Driggers said the award is significant because 80 percent of economic development prospects come through the Internet.

GJEP also takes advantage of such new media venues as social media Web sites to promote Mesa County as a place in which to do business, she said.

It’s important for GJEP to remain aggressive as business relocation and expansion activity eventually picks up as the economy recovers, Driggers said. “Building an awareness of our area as a business location on a national level is absolutely crucial.”

Gunderson said many companies remain in a “wait-and-see mode” because of ongoing uncertainty over the economy and the downturn in the housing market. Economic development activity continues nonetheless, he said: GJEP is currently working with 18 prospects considering either relocation or expansion.

And Driggers has positioned GJEP to continue those efforts, he said. “She’s left us in good stead.”

 

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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