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Representing business: Attorney relishes task as chamber chairman

Michael Burke

Michael Burke has long represented businesses and business owners as a Grand Junction attorney. Burke expects to continue that task in a different role as chairman of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Michael Burke has spent a good portion of his legal career representing businesses and business owners. So it’s a concept with which he’s not only familiar, but also relishes, in representing businesses in a different role: chairman of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

“Our mission is to be the voice for business and promote economic growth,” Burke says.

To that end, the chamber will pursue a number of goal, he says, in attracting and retaining jobs, promoting a greater awareness of economic principles and ensuring chamber members earn a tangible return on their investments in dues.

Burke expects the chamber to bring renewed vigor to its efforts at a time when the economy is recovering, but only slowly. “It’s a challenging time and it’s a time when businesses can’t be reactive. They’ve got to be proactive.”

Burke succeeds Phyllis Norris as leader of the chamber board for the coming year. He brings to the position a long and broad perspective as a lawyer whose Grand Junction practice provides a range of legal services to business owners, as a business owner himself and as an active participant in a variety of local service organizations.

Burke has practiced law in Grand Junction since 1994, most recently as a partner in the law firm of Kain & Burke. The firm of three lawyers operates a general practice that includes business law,  real estate, civil matters and estate planning. For many clients, those various areas of the practice go together. Burke says he’s helped clients with everything from forming companies to developing estate plans.

Burke says he relates to business owners because they usually bring a logical and collaborative approach to solving problems. “Business clients tend to make good clients.”

Prior to returning to Western Colorado and Grand Junction to practice law, Burke worked for two years for the U.S. Securities and Exchange in Denver.

Burke earned both his law degree and a master’s of business administration degree from the University of Denver.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from what is now Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, an institution both his parents and his grandfather also attended.

Burke grew up in Delta, where his parents worked as school teachers. His father also coached sports and served as sports editor for the local newspaper.

In addition to his work with the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, Burke has served as president of the Colorado Mesa University Alumni Association and Grand Junction Rotary Club. He’s also served as an officer of the CMU Foundation and on the board of directors of the Grand Junction Musical Arts Association. “I think service is important, and I enjoy doing that,” he says.

Burke joined the chamber soon after returning to Grand Junction. In fact, he remains a member of the same chamber leads group he first joined almost 20 years ago.

As chairman of the chamber board, Burke describes his role as “chief volunteer.” While professional staff run the chamber, the board sets policies and the overall direction for the organization in representing its business members, he says.

In response to what members have told them they want, the board has developed a business plan for 2013 focusing on three major goals, Burke said.

To achieve the first goal of attracting and retaining jobs, Burke expects the chamber to continue working with the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, Business Incubator Center and other organizations on economic development.

That work will include efforts to establish an energy epicenter in Mesa County, one of the long-term objectives in a plan drafted as part of a bottom-up economic development initiative in Colorado.

The second goal is to build a community that embraces economic principles and understands the need for a balanced environment that nurtures business.

Burke expects the creation of the Western Colorado Business Alliance to play an important role in achieving that goal.

The chamber formed the alliance to help address the growing effects of elections, legislation and regulation on businesses in the region. Among other things, the alliance will encourage voter registration and inform voters on issues, involve people in serving on boards and in elected positions and engage the public in discussions about how policies affect businesses and job growth.

An ongoing chamber program Burke helped set up to offer leadership training continues to familiarize participants with such issues as economic development, education, health care and water resources. Those who complete the training are better prepared to assume leadership roles with the chamber and other local organizations, he says.

As for the third goal, Burke says the chamber offers tangible returns on the investments members make in dues through leads groups, networking events and seminars. “We’re helping to get people plugged in and involved.”

While economic and business conditions have rebounded in the Grand Valley following the Great Recession, substantial improvement has lagged behind other areas of Colorado and the United States, Burke says. “I think we’re recovering. I think it’s slower than we’re used to.”

That makes it important the chamber apply renewed vigor to its efforts on behalf of businesses, he says.

But Burke says he’s optimistic. “I’m very excited about the year. I’m excited about 2013.”

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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