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Nurturing business: New incubator director draws on experiences to help ventures start and grow

Jon Maraschin is only the fifth person in 24 years to serve as executive director of the Business Incubator Center in Grand Junction. Maraschin expects to draw on his experiences as an entrepreneur and banker in his new role helping businesses to start and grow their operations. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Jon Maraschin has looked at business from both sides now, as both an entrepreneur and commercial banker. He knows from personal experience what it takes to get a venture up and running. But he also recognizes from a financial standpoint what businesses need to succeed.

It’s a varied background Maraschin expects to draw upon repeatedly in his new job running an organization that helps businesses start and expand their operations. “I think I bring a lot of real world experience, knowledge and perspective across a really wide range,” he says. What’s more, Maraschin already possesses a keen appreciation for what the Business Incubator Center offers the Grand Valley. “I’ve been a real fan since I’ve been in town. It’s a really valuable asset to the community.”

As executive director, Maraschin oversees the operation of the center and its various programs. He’s only the fifth person to hold the position in the 24-year history of the center. He succeeds Chris Reddin, who served as executive director for nearly five years before deciding earlier this year to return to her roots in the private sector.

Susan Corle, a Grand Junction lawyer who serves as chairwoman of the Business Incubator Center board of directors, says Maraschin was selected over about 30 applicants, four of whom were interviewed twice. Corle says Maraschin brings to the position a number of attributes board members were looking for, including a background in finance as well as community connections and leadership abilities. “He rose to the top pretty fast.”

Prior to joining the Business Incubator Center, Maraschin worked in commercial banking for 15 years, most recently as a commercial banker at U.S. Bank in Grand Junction. He previously worked for Wells Fargo in Grand Junction and Steamboat Springs and for First Security Bank in Salt Lake City.
Maraschin holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Utah with an emphasis in accounting.

While attending college, Maraschin started several businesses, including a bicycle shop and carpet and window cleaning venture.
Prior to attending college, Maraschin served four years of active duty in the Navy, part of that time aboard a guided missile frigate during the first Gulf War.

Maraschin is no stranger to the Grand Valley or Business Incubator Center. He was born and raised in Fruita, although his family moved away in the early 1980s in the aftermath of the oil shale bust. After returning to the Grand Valley about six years ago to continue his career in commercial banking, Maraschin worked with a number of businesses and entrepreneurs who received counseling and other services at the Business Incubator Center. Maraschin also presented information at the Leading Edge business planning course offered at the center.

In addition, Maraschin has volunteered to work with other organizations. He serves as chairman of the Community Hospital Foundation Board.
Maraschin expects his new role as executive director of the Business Incubator Center to be a collaborative one both inside and outside the center. “I’m very much a collaborator. I like to work with people.”

Maraschin plans to rely on the staff at the center for their institutional knowledge, but also support them in their duties. At the same time, the Business Incubator Center is among the organizations and institutions involved in economic development in Mesa County “We all have a place at the table,” he says. “We absolutely have to.”

Maraschin expects to work with the Grand Junction Economic Partnership and Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce on efforts to help new and existing businesses. He also sees the potential for increased collaboration with Colorado Mesa University, which offers programs for students interested in entrepreneurship.

Several of the ideas to help businesses proposed as part of a new economic development plan for Mesa County are already offered through the Business Incubator Center or easily could be, Maraschin says. Maraschin says he’s particularly interested in further developing an accelerator program that would assist existing business expand their operations. “It’s just a natural fit. It really is a program I’d like to see us do because it just makes sense.”
Even as the Business Incubator Center helps businesses start and expand operations, though, Maraschin says it’s important the center also evaluate its own operations and raise awareness of what the center offers. “We have to focus on our own business, too. We can’t just wait for customers to come in.”

Founded in 1987, the center has become a model for incubation programs across the United States and around the world. Over the past 24 years, the center has assisted in the launch of more than 260 companies, the creation of about 10,000 jobs and the investment of more than $53.7 million in capital.
Nonetheless, there are still those in the region who remain unaware of the center and its programs, Maraschin says.

It’s also crucial that the center continues to garner community support, he says. While about 75 percent of the operations at the center is self-financed, periodic capital campaigns are needed to maintain and improve facilities.

Having looked at business from both sides now, Maraschin says he’s eager to put his knowledge and experience to work in running the Business Incubator Center and helping businesses start and expand their operations. “It’s such a neat opportunity for me.”

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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