Grand Junction takes economic development to new level
Phil Castle, The Business Times
Tim Moore oversees a new and what he considers more proactive effort to encourage economic development in Grand Junction.
“I think the city is engaging at a new level with the business community,” said Moore, deputy city manager of the City of Grand Junction and leader of a new economic development division.
The new plan includes the traditional role of the city in providing streets, water and sewer services and other infrastructure businesses need. But the plan also includes a more entrepreneurial role in streamlining planning and regulatory processes, compiling information about economic indicators and available land for development and marketing Grand Junction and its attributes, Moore said. “I think it will be a really positive thing for the business community.”
The city plans to continue working with the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and Business Incubator Center to promote development, but also will strive to fill any gaps in resources, particularly those offered to existing businesses operating within the city limits, Moore said.
The Grand Junction City Council adopted the city’s first economic development plan following more than eight months of work on the 35-page document.
Moore said the economic development plan reflects a desire by the city council to take a more proactive role in responding to what’s been a sluggish recovery in the Grand Valley in the aftermath of a recession.
The plan strikes a balance, Moore said, between the traditional role of the city in supporting development and new activities that help existing businesses and attract new businesses.
The city will continue to promote economic development by providing public services and infrastructure and investing in capital improvements. Those investments also will include such amenities as parks as well as arts, cultural and recreational facilities.
The city can further help in obtaining grants and other forms of outside funding to pay for improvements, Moore said.
He cited as one example a nearly $1.2 million grant from the Federal Transportation, Community and System Preservation program to fund improvements along North Avenue as part of efforts to revitalize that commercial district.
The city also will continue efforts to make planning and regulatory processes as efficient, predictable and transparent as possible, Moore said.
As part of that effort, some elements of planning and economic development will be merged, he said. “Now we have to take it to the next level.”
Along with those traditional activities, the economic development plan calls for new activities.
One will be to track and report on a lengthy list of economic indicators, among them building permits, energy prices, drilling permits, foreclosure activity, labor estimates and real estate transactions.
In addition, the city can collect and offer detailed information about available land for residential and commercial development, Moore said.
The city already has assembled information for potential industrial and office sites on the Industrial Development Properties land near the Grand Junction Regional Airport as well as land and buildings along North Avenue that formerly were the site of the Mesa County Workforce Center.
Since existing businesses account for about 80 percent of job growth, it’s important the city promote the retention and expansion of those businesses, Moore said. City staff will work with local business organizations and business owners and managers to identify challenges and opportunities as well as ways the city can help existing businesses.
In some cases, the city can help businesses obtain financing through private activity bonds, he said.
The council and city staff also continue to analyze and implement policies that promote development, such as business personal property tax exemptions or other tax incentives, Moore said.
The economic development plan also calls for efforts to market the community and its attributes in conjunction with the Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau as well as economic development partners.
What’s been a series of economic booms and busts in recent Western Colorado history illustrates several things, Moore said: the large role of the energy sector in the local economy, the resulting need to further diversify the economy and the ongoing importance of promoting economic development through good times and bad.
The economic development plan formalizes the process and ensures a steady effort Moore said he expects to produce results as business conditions improve.
“Something will start the ball rolling,” he said. “And when it does, we’re going to be ready.”
For more information about the City of Grand Junction’s efforts to promote economic development, visit www.gjcity.org and click on the link for economic development. Information also is available by calling 256-4009 or sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.