GJEP update: Economic news mostly good

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Steve Jozefczyk

Steve Jozefczyk considers the economic news more good than bad for Mesa County.

The unemployment rate has dropped even as sales and lodging tax collections have increased. So have passenger enplanements on commercial flights at Grand Junction Regional Airport. Moreover, Mesa County ranked 57th in the latest comparison of how small metropolitan areas fare for job and wage growth as well as high-tech output.

A low-fare airline abandoned a new route between Grand Junction and Southern California before people could find the website to buy tickets, Jozefczyk joked. And plans have been announced to move the headquarters of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management from Grand Junction back to Washington, D.C.

Overall, the outlook remains encouraging, said Jozefczyk, deputy director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership. “We’re still doing pretty good.”

Jozefczyk offered his update as part of the Western Colorado Economic Summit in Grand Junction, both an annual meeting and fund-raiser for GJEP and its economic development efforts.

Jozefczyk and Mike Sneddon, chairman of the GJEP board of directors, also encouraged participation in a new effort to envision what the Grand Valley should look like as it emerges from economic distress.
GJEP will set long-term goals based in part on the results of an online survey posted at www.gjep.org/grand-vision.

The COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions took a toll on Mesa County in 2020, Jozefczyk said, with declines in employment, tax collections and the overall value of locally produced goods and services.

The county recovered in 2021, he said, citing a number of economic indicators.

The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropped to 5.7 percent in August, the latest month for which estimates are available.

Mesa County sales and use tax collections through the first three quarters of 2021 increased 21.5 percent over the same span in 2020. The City of Grand Junction reported a 23.1 percent increase in sales and use tax collections through the first eight months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. Year-to-date lodging tax collections were up 67 percent.

Through July of 2021, passenger enplanements at Grand Junction Regional Airport were up 60 percent.

Jozefcyk said one of his favorite indicators was a 24-place jump for Mesa County in the Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index for 2021. The county ranked 12th for job growth over the past year.

Grand Junction received attention in the Wall Street Journal as a one of the top housing markets in the country, Jozefcyzk said. In addition, GJEP was recognized in an annual magazine awards program. GJEP won the 2021 ColoradoBiz Top Company award in the nonprofit category.

Meanwhile, efforts continue to bring new businesses to Mesa County and help existing businesses expand, he said. “Developers are knocking on our doors daily.”

Sneddon said Mesa County is at a pivitol point, and residents can play a role in envisioning what the future should look like as the county emerges from economic distress.

GJEP has launched an effort to develop a plan that will include long-term goals for the community set by the community, he said.

The GJEP board delved into a series of discussions and activities centered around how to improve quality of life for Grand Valley residents, a key concept within the GJEP mission. A total of more than 20 business executives and community leaders joined in a session. GJEP opened the discussion to the community with a survey exploring quality of life measures and priorities. The process is expected to take six months and include several workshops.

In addition to economic indicators, Sneddon said it’s important to consider quality of life indicators unique to Mesa County.