Chairwoman: Chamber to play important role in 2011

Lois Dunn
Lois Dunn

Lois Dunn expects some sectors of the Grand Valley economy to improve during 2011. But overall, she suspects this year likely will look a lot like last year.

Regardless of what happens, Dunn said the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce offers services that will help businesses get through. As the new chairwoman of the chamber board of directors, Dunn said it’s part of her role to spread that message.

One important function of the Grand Junction chamber, Dunn said, is that of a government watchdog, monitoring state legislation as well as local decisions that affect businesses.

In addition, chamber programs promote shopping with local businesses, energy efficiency and networking. If nothing else, there’s value for business owners and managers in meeting with their peers and talking over common interests, Dunn said. “I think people feel better if they know they’re not alone.”

Dunn succeeds Craig Lamberty as head of the chamber board. She brings to her one-year term 30 years of experience in operating a real estate brokerage and serving with various business groups.

Dunn operates Invest in Colorado West, a Grand Junction real estate agency that handles residential and commercial properties and specializes in working with investors on  tax-deferred real estate exchanges.

Dunn grew up working with her grandfather, a rancher who also worked as a real estate broker. She’s worked in the real estate industry most of her life. She said she enjoys working with clients — along with the variety of that work. “Every deal is different. Every situation is different.”

While activity in the Mesa County real estate market has slowed to one of its lowest levels in decades, Dunn said the market remains better now than it was during the oil shale bust of the 1980s. She remembers condominiums selling for four for $100,000 and deals in which a purchaser who bought five condos got two more for free.

These days, uncertainty continues to dampen real estate sales even as property foreclosures and repossessions have applied downward pressure on prices, Dunn said. She’s hopeful, though, real estate activity will pick up in 2011 and the inventory of foreclosed properties will shrink.

In addition to running a real estate brokerage, Dunn long has been active in real estate industry groups. She’s served on the Grand Junction Area Realtors Association government affairs committee and as a director of the Colorado Association of  Realtors and a political coordinator of the National Association of Realtors.

Dunn also has served on the Salvation Army board of directors and as chairwoman of the Mesa County Republican Party. In addition, she belongs to Environmentally Conscious Consumers for Oil Shale, a grassroots organization whose members are interested in oil shale development.

Dunn said she’s long been interested in governmental affairs because of the potential effects of government decisions on businesses. “Regulations and taxes are the biggest dangers we face.”
Consequently, Dunn ranks monitoring government actions among the most important chamber functions. “Governmental affairs is a huge part of the chamber.”

The chamber tracks business-related measures before the Colorado Legislature and offers members information about what’s happening, whether it’s a brief overview or specific details, Dunn said. The chamber also hosts videoconferences that offer a venue for direct dialogue between business owners and state lawmakers.

The chamber takes positions on state and local measures — and often action in lobbying for and against proposals and policies. “I think the chamber puts its time and money where it’s mouth is,” Dunn said.

Dunn expects that effort to continue in 2011 — as will as a number of ongoing chamber initiatives, among them the Blue Band campaign to promote shopping at local businesses, the GreenBack$ program to promote energy efficiency and the 500 Plan to enlist volunteer tutors for elementary school students. That’s not to mention popular briefings on topics related to the energy industry. “Of course, the networking has been huge,” she said.

Dunn said there are some encouraging signs the Mesa County economy is improving — in particular rising sales tax collections and more activity in the energy sector. But overall, she expects the new year likely will remain a lot like last year. “There are some sectors that will be stronger in 2011. But I think it likely will be very similar to 2010.”

That’s why Dunn expects the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce to continue offering programs and services that help businesses get through another year. “We’re going to keep supporting business every way we can.”