Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper joined in meetings as well as bicycle rides to explore efforts to promote the outdoor recreation industry in the Grand Valley.
Hickenlooper met with elected officials and business leaders and also rode bikes in Palisade and along the Colorado River Trail.
Hickenlooper said the outdoor recreation industry could become one of the leading sectors of the future in creating jobs and economic growth in much the same way as the craft beer industry.
Sarah Shrader, an owner of Bonsai Design in Grand Junction and founding member of the Outdoor Recreation Coalition of the Grand Valley, said the visit confirmed the governor’s commitment to making the outdoor recreation industry a priority for economic development.
“The Grand Valley is on the path to become the outdoor destination in the state of Colorado — place where you can bike, ski, moto, fish and paddle the Colorado River all in the same weekend,” Shrader said. “We are thrilled to have the governor’s support.”
Hickenlooper was joined on the trip by Luis Benitez, director of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, as well as Ken Gart, a business executive who serves as the governor’s volunteer “bike czar.”
In addition to meetings, the visit include a look at the proposed “Palisade Plunge,” a trail that would take cyclists from the top of the Grand Mesa into Palisade and ranks among the priorities for a trail development initiative. The visited also included an informal happy hour meeting on the rooftop terrace at the Avalon Theater in downtown Grand Junction.
By one estimate, outdoor recreation businesses and tourism contribute more than $300 million annually to the Mesa County economy and account for more than 2,000 jobs.
Statewide, the outdoor recreation industry employs more than 350,000 people and generates $994 million a year in state and local taxes.
Outdoor recreation attracts young professionals and along with them businesses and jobs, Hickenlooper said. “If you’re a magnet for millennials, you’re going to see more jobs. I guarantee it.”
Tim Fry, president of the Mountain Racing Products bicycle components manufacturer in Grand Junction, said outdoor recreation helps his business in many ways. “We focus on leveraging the abundant outdoor recreation for product development, talent recruitment and telling our company story.”
Bonsai Design designs and installs projects specifically for outdoor recreation, including ziplines, challenge courses and canopy tours. What started out as a small firm operating out of a basement and a van has grown into a venture headquartered in the historic Union Station downtown that employs more than 30 people.
Bonsai Design constitutes a prime example of the potential for companies involved in outdoor recreation to generate business and create jobs, Shrader said.
The Outdoor Recreation Coalition of the Grand Valley was established in 2015 in the aftermath of a series of meetings of representatives from outdoor recreation businesses at first for focus groups convened as part of branding research on the area. Informal meetings followed and then more formal discussions of the collective issues and challenges facing the industry.
The coalition since has grown into a group that includes such local manufacturers as Bonsai Design, Mountain Racing Products and Leitner Poma as well as such retailers as Motorcycle Accessories, Mountain Khakis and Rapid Creek Cycles and Paddlesports and such service providers as All Metals Welding, Grand Valley Climbing and Powderhorn Mountain Resort. The membership also includes organizations involved in outdoor recreation, among them the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association, Grand Valley Trails Alliance and Mesa Land Trust.
The mission of the coalition, Shrader said, is to promote and expand the outdoor recreation industry and, in turn, the local economy.
Local businesses recently joined in an effort to produce a video showcasing the variety of outdoor recreation available in the Grand Valley. Shot in just one day, the video follows the adventures of a man on skis, a snowmobile, mountain bike, road bike, jet boat and more. The video, titled “Grand Day CO” is expected to launch worldwide on June 1.