GJEP director leaving group to take position with Xcel

Kelly Flenniken
Kelly Flenniken

Phil Castle, The Business Times

The woman who for four years has led economic development efforts in Mesa County will soon work in a new position, but remain in the area.

Kelly Flenniken, executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, expects to begin working April 6 as area manager of community and local government affairs for Xcel Energy. Flenniken will succeed Fred Eggleston, who’s retiring.

Flenniken said she wasn’t looking to make a change, but is excited nonetheless about her new duties in working with communities, government entities and organizations across the Western Slope. “Its a very a very cool and exciting opportunity for me.”

The GJEP board of directors is expected to soon decide on a process to find a successor to Flenniken. The time line likely will be a short one, she said.

Flenniken said GJEP remains well-positioned to continue its mission to promote a stronger and more diverse economy by attracting new businesses and jobs to the area while also helping existing businesses thrive. As local conditions continue to improve, the number of jobs GJEP has a role in creating will increase, she predicted. “The dominoes are going to begin to fall in our favor.”

Flenniken joined GJEP in 2008 as a business development manager and earned recognition in that role for implementing a marketing and communications plan that included a revamped Web site. In 2010, the International Economic Development Council presented an award to GJEP for best Web site for an organization from a community with 25,000 to 250,000 people.

The Economic Development Council of Colorado subsequently named Flenniken its rookie of the year, an award presented to an economic development professional who’s worked in Colorado for at least one year, but not more than three years.

Flenniken was promoted in 2011 to executive director of GJEP. Flennkien succeeded Ann Driggers, who served nine years as GJEP director before resigning.

Flenniken said she was immediately tasked with developing a more proactive approach to generating leads for new and expanding companies, an effort that continues.

It’s a numbers game, Flennkin said, in that the more leads GJEP generates, the more prospects are identified and the more businesses ultimately open or relocate operations. “You need a big top to your funnel.”

GJEP has fared well against other economic development organizations and communities with greater resources in the funding, incentives and land available to recruit new businesses, Flenniken said. “We do a lot with a little.”

But even as GJEP has ramped up efforts to recruit new businesses to Mesa County, the organization increasingly has assisted existing businesses, Flenniken said. “GJEP is a community resource, more so than in the past. I think that’s just awesome.”

The prospects for increased economic development remain bright, Flenniken said, in part because Mesa County offers a good location — particularly for people who enjoy the scenic setting and proximity to outdoor recreation. “This is a place where people want to live.”

It’s a question, then, of finding ways to attract and retain talented people, including graduates from Colorado Mesa University who chose to come to the Grand Valley and would like to stay here, Flenniken said.

Challenges persist, she said, among them resistance to change. But since change is the only thing that’s assured, it might be better to embrace change rather than resist it.