Phil Castle, The Business Times
There’s a location in Fruita where the economic forces at work in the small town converge. Crews erect the steel frame of a 70,000-square-foot building that will double the available space for a growing energy industry manufacturer. Nearby, a newly opened business operates a unique venture in a wakeboard park that uses cable systems to tow customers around a lake.
It’s a combination of expanding companies and new firms, of traditional operations and recreational ventures that’s promoting growth. Add to the mix the town’s reputation as a mecca for biking, hiking and rafting that also offers the kind of hospitality that makes visitors feel like locals.
“We’re really excited about how things are going in the business community,” says Jennifer Seal, executive director of the Fruita Area Chamber of Commerce.
Fruita City Manager Mike Bennett is no less enthusiastic, citing various metrics that reflect growth. “It’s an exciting time.”
Seal, Bennett and others will review some of the latest developments and trends as well as look ahead to what could be in store as part of free public forum set for 6 to 8 p.m.
The forum will be held outdoors at the site of a proposed redevelopment project on city property at the end of Raptor Road southwest of the Interstate Highway 70 exchange. In the event of inclement weather, the forum will move to the Dinosaur Journey Museum at 550 Jurassic Court.
Representatives from the Business Incubator Center, Grand Junction Economic Partnership and Mesa County Workforce Center also are expected to join in the panel presentation.
Bennett says the annual economic development forum offers an opportunity to offer participants information, but also respond to any questions and concerns they might have. It’s part of an ongoing effort, he says, to promote growth, but also maintain the unique attributes that make a Fruita a desirable place to visit, live and do business.
Dan Caris, planning and development director for the City of Fruita, says the forum enables participants to not only meet the people involved in various development processes, but also to join in that process.
Seal, Bennett and Caris all say they’re encouraged by what’s been happening in Fruita.
Seal points to the opening of several new businesses — including not only the Imondi Wake Zone cable wakeboarding park, but also Rivers End Dental and a new Jimmy John’s fast-service sandwich shop.
In addition, existing businesses are expanding, she says. That includes an expansion at FHE, which manufactures equipment for the oil and natural gas industry.
Bryan Martin, operations manager at FHE, says a 70,000-square-foot building should be completed in March and will more than double the space available for the company.
The additional space is sorely needed, Martin says, to keep pace with increased demand for new products FHE has developed, especially a product called the RigLock. The device enables workers to remotely connect pressure control equipment to wellheads — which not only increases the speed, efficiency and profitability of operations, but also safety, Martin says.
FHE also plans to increase staffing, Martin says. The company employs about 100 in Fruita and a total of 150 in all of its locations, including operations in Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas as well as the United Arab Emirates.
Family Health West has expanded its health care operations in Fruita, including a $4.5 million expansion at Colorado Canyons Hospital and Medical Center to add rooms and other facilities to accommodate transitional patients.
Bennett says the Fruita economy has trended upward after several years of holding steady. “Flat was the new up for a few years.”
Sales tax collections, a key measure of retail activity, increased 12 percent in 2017 over 2016. Through the first half of 2018, sales tax collections increased 7 percent over the first half of 2017.
Lodging tax collections, a measure of hotel and motel stays, also has increased, Bennett says.
Caris says residential development in Fruita has increased. That includes the Iron Wheel subdivision, a recently approved project on 60 acres between U.S. Highway 6 & 50 and 19 Road where 271 homes ultimately will be built.
About 350 home lots have been approved in Fruita and more are going through the planning process, he says.
The City of Fruita also expects to work with a private developer on a project proposed for a site at the end of Raptor Road that were at one-time sewer lagoons.
Bennett says the lagoons have been decommissioned and cleaned up. And the site now offers an opportunity for a mixed use development that could include commercial, retail and residential spaces as well as open space and parks.
In the meantime, Seals and Bennett says Fruita has become a destination of choice not only for visitors, but also people who want to live and work in the town.
Fruita has developed a reputation as an outdoor recreation mecca known for its biking, hiking and rafting. “Fruita just has a brand in that arena,” Bennett says.
Fruita also has become well known for its welcoming hospitality, Seals says. “I’m hearing those stories from people who are moving here. They come here and fall in love. We hear that a lot, and it’s wonderful.”
Moving forward, Bennett says it’s important to promote growth, but also preserve the quality of place and lifestyle.
The city plays a central role, he says, in providing such core services as maintaining streets, sidewalks and other infrastructure; policing that keeps residents and visitors safe; and parks and recreational services that provide places and activities for leisure and fun.