Economic development group half way to $1.5 million fund-raising goal

Kelly Flenniken, executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, details fund-raising efforts during a press conference kicking off a campaign to “Advance the Ball.” The economic development group already is half way to its goal of raising $1.5 million. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

The Grand Junction Economic Partnership kicks off its latest fund-raising effort already half way toward its goal of raising $1.5 million in financial support for the economic development organization.

But GJEP leaders say it’s going to take a collaborative effort among local businesses over the coming year to achieve success in an campaign titled “Advancing the Ball.”

“The theme of Advancing the Ball most reflects that this is a team sport,” said Jay Seaton, publisher of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel and chairman of the GJEP board of directors.

A private, nonprofit organization  that promotes job growth through business attraction and expansion, GJEP conducts fund-raising campaigns every five years to garner multi-year financial commitments from businesses considered investors in the organization.

About 85 percent of that support comes from businesses, said John Williams, an attorney who’s the immediate past chairman of the GJEP board. The remaining 15 percent of support comes from Mesa County, the cities of Grand Junction and Fruita and the Town of Palisade, Williams said.

Chris Thomas, president and chief executive officer of Community Hospital, said the hospital supports GJEP because of its efforts to bolster the health care industry and other sectors in Mesa County. “They’re a key player in the creation of a better economy.”

Kelly Flenniken, executive director of GJEP, said the $1.5 million will be used over the next five years to pay for salaries of the three-member staff, office space and other expenses associated with the organization and its activities. “It allows us to do the various programs we have in place.”

That financial support constitutes a good investment, Flenniken said, because of the jobs, capital investments and tax revenues economic development promotes.

Over the past five years, GJEP has been involved in efforts that have led to the creation of more than 560 new jobs, she said Using economic modeling software that takes into account wages, capital investments, tax revenues and other factors, every $1 invested in GJEP over the past five years resulted in a return of $55, she added.

GJEP assisted with the recruitment of a number of new businesses between 2007 and 2012, including American Furniture Warehouse and Cabela’s. The group also assisted with the expansion of several existing businesses, among them Leitner Poma, Frank Henry Equipment and American Tire Distributors.

As a member of a coalition called the Economic Development Partners, GJEP was involved in drafting and implementing a new economic development plan for Mesa County.

GJEP worked with 35 prospects in 2012 and continues to work with 19 active prospects as the group takes a more proactive role in recruiting potential businesses, Flenniken said.

While there was some uncertainty associated with the presidential election last year, Flenniken expects relocation and expansion activity to increase this year. “I really am confident about 2013.”