Chamber chairman banking on experience

Jeff Franklin works out of a corner office as market president of the Bank of Colorado in Grand Junction. Franklin says he expects to take on a similar role as the new chairman of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors in identifying and meeting the needs of local businesses. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
Jeff Franklin works out of a corner office as market president of the Bank of Colorado in Grand Junction. Franklin says he expects to take on a similar role as the new chairman of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors in identifying and meeting the needs of local businesses. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

What Jeff Franklin says he enjoys most about his job as a bank president is meeting the owners and managers of various businesses and finding ways the bank can help them improve their operations.

“I really enjoy helping businesses out and seeing them grow,” Franklin says.

Franklin expects to take on a similar role as the new chairman of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

Just as a bank must strive to meet the needs of its customers, the chamber must strive to identify and meet the needs of its members, he says. “We need to listen to what their needs are and figure out what our role is in helping them with that.”

There’s a lot the chamber can do to help businesses, Franklin says, whether it’s making connections through networking, helping to develop skilled employees or lobbying on their behalf at the local and state levels.

Franklin assumes leadership of the chamber board at a time when the local economy continues to slowly recover from downturns in the regional energy sector and economy. But as businesses invest more in their operations and confidence improves, Franklin foresees better times ahead. Moreover, slow and steady growth is preferable to the boom that preceded the bust. “Steady growth is really a good thing.”

Franklin brings to his one-year term as chamber board chairman 23 years of experience in the banking industry, nearly four years as market president of Bank of Colorado in Grand Junction. He oversees the operations of two locations and a total of about 30 employees.

Franklin was promoted from senior vice president to president following the retirement of Chris Launer. Franklin has worked his entire career for Bank of Colorado, starting out as a loan officer in Fort Lupton and then working as a branch manager in Holyoke. Franklin moved to Grand Junction in 2008.

Bank of Colorado operates 37 locations in Colorado. The bank is a subsidiary of Pinnacle Bancorp, a family owned financial holding company that operates a total of 130 community banks in eight states.

Franklin studied business administration at the University of Wyoming and says he became interested in banking during an internship at a bank. Franklin grew up in Bridgeport, a small town in western Nebraska where his family operates a farm and ranch.

In addition to his duties at the Bank of Colorado, Franklin has worked with a variety of local organizations, including the Downtown Development Authority, Grand Junction Economic Partnership and Riverview Technology Corp. He’s served on the chamber board for two years.

Franklin says he expects to draw on his experiences in working with various business owners and managers as chamber chairman.

While Franklin says he’s responsible for overseeing the board and appointing committee members, he considers his role meeting the needs of members.

Building chamber membership is among the goals for the coming year, he says.

Membership has declined in the aftermath of the recession as many businesses dropped memberships and reduced marketing to curb costs, he says.

But chamber membership remains a cost-effective way to build business, Franklin says, in making connections with potential customers. Attracting just a few new customers through Business After Hours or other chamber networking events can cover the cost of an annual membership, he says.

In addition, the chamber board plans to focus on work force and economic development during 2015, Franklin says.

One has everything to do with the other because existing businesses can’t expand operations and new businesses can’t open or relocate without a skilled work force, he says.

To that end, the chamber will continue to work with local businesses as well as educational institutions and government entities to determine the skills businesses need in new hires and better prepare students and workers to fill job openings. “We want to help bridge that gap,” Franklin says.

As part of the effort, the chamber launched a pilot program at Central High School that teaches students work skills even as they explore career options. The chamber also offers entrepreneurial training to middle and high school students through its Young Entrepreneurs Academy, Franklin says.

The chamber will continue to promote economic development on its own and in collaboration with such organizations as the Business Incubator Center and Grand Junction Economic Partnership as well as the City of Grand Junction and Mesa County, Franklin says. The chamber also will support efforts to improve the speed and accessibility of telecommunications.

To better understand just what businesses need to succeed and create jobs, a program called Listening to Business will resume, Franklin says. Under the program, business owners participate in in-depth interviews to identify barriers to growth and other problems they encounter.

The goal, Frankly says, is to make Mesa County an attractive place in which to do business. “We need to make it easy to start a business. We need to make it a business friendly environment.”

At the same time, the chamber will continue to serve as an advocate for its members and local businesses, Franklin says. The chamber maintains an active government affairs committee and lobbies at every level of government, he says.

Government regulations remain a concern for business owners and managers, Franklin says. Energy development, labor laws and water likely will rank among the top issues debated during the latest session of the Colorado Legislature, he adds.

Just as he enjoys working with business owners and managers as a bank president, Franklin says he’s looking forward to the same role as chamber chairman.

“It’s a great organization to be a part of,” he says.