Economic development planning to focus on community image

Work on an economic development plan for Mesa County proceeds with another brainstorming session, this time to come up with ideas for developing a community image.

The two-hour session is set for 7:30 a.m. Oct. 27 at Two Rivers Convention Center, 159 Main St. in downtown Grand Junction.

Developing and promoting a community image is one of three major goals for the new economic development plan. Efforts to establish Mesa County as an epicenter for energy research and supporting the growth of existing businesses also constitute major goals for the plan.

A group of more than 20 organizations and government entities involved in economic development in the county has been working since the beginning of the year to develop the plan as part of a grass roots initiative by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. The county plan has been integrated into regional and state economic development plans.

A series of brainstorming sessions have been conducted to involve the public in developing the plan. A February session helped set broad goals for the plan, while sessions in June and August focused on ways in which to achieve those goals.

A new energy center and efforts to promote research into traditional and renewable energy technologies were among the most popular ideas to come out of the June session. The establishment of a western center for energy independence was the top choice, followed by efforts to promote energy research at Colorado Mesa University.

The continuation of a program to interview business owners to identify and help them overcome barriers to growth ranked among the most popular ideas to come out of the August session. Other ideas included the creation of a business accelerator program as well as a team of “first responders” to work with businesses considering relocating their operations.

In preparation for the upcoming session on developing a community image, an online survey has been distributed seeking comments and ideas that will guide the discussion at the session.

The 10-question survey asks participants to rate the visual character of Mesa County and Grand Junction, describe the appealing and unappealing visual features in the Grand Valley and describe the image of the Grand Valley and Grand Junction. The survey also asks participants which entry corridors into the Grand Valley need the most work or attention and to offer ideas for elevating the community profile.