Are we growing yet? Just take a look

Dale Beede

With the recession behind us and slow growth in natural gas development, you’d think the Grand Valley economy would be more stable — although we seem slow to grow jobs and incomes. What developments should we consider that could change the trajectory of slow growth and provide jobs for our children? A few items come to mind.

First, several large industrial warehouses formerly leased to energy-related businesses are now being leased or sold to companies outside the energy sector. About 700,000 square feet of industrial space has been leased or sold in the past three years, and more leases are on the way.  Some of the new uses involve the construction of wall panels used in mountain developments. Other users were formerly smaller companies that now need a larger footprint for their operations.

Two aerospace businesses — Wren Industries and Jabil Lewis Engineering — are expanding manufacturing. Capco, another government manufacturer, also has new contracts.

Given the new engineering and computer science programs at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, you’ll see we’re developing programs that will help keep some of our students in the Grand Valley after graduation.

Perhaps one of the greatest factors that will influence job growth in the next several years is the Colorado Rural Jump-Start Program. In Grand Junction, 15 companies have taken advantage of a program offering tax incentives to businesses for creating jobs.

Under the leadership of executive director Robin Brown, the Grand Junction Economic Partnership continues to help companies in several key industry sectors make Grand Junction their home. 

Some of the more exciting and promising companies include ProStar GeoCorp, a Jump-Start company since February 2016 that provides precision mapping software and services to manage underground infrastructure. Kaart Group, also approved for the Jump-Start program in 2016, creates and maintains highly accurate geographic data of developing countries. Kaart Group plans to soon construct a new office building in downtown Grand Junction.

Still other Jump-Start companies include Dude Solutions, a software development firm; Phoenix Haus, a building systems company; and Visual Globe, a business focused on developing asset management systems for the energy industry. That’s not to mention Qmast, Rebco Enterprises and TSW Analytics.

Violet Gro, the latest Jump-Start company, uses patented ultraviolet lighting to promote plant growth in indoor environments.

Combined, these Jump-Start companies will provide more than 300 new jobs in the Grand Valley by 2020.

Consider health care and outdoor recreation. You’ll see a pattern of professional services and clean industry that should help sustain economic growth in the Grand Valley for years to come.   

I’ve mentioned only a small number of new businesses. It’s important to continue supporting existing businesses and industry as the community grows and evolves. It really does take a village to provide the many support systems, new jobs and new ways to recreate our growing community will require.

The economic future of Grand Junction looks bright indeed.