What’s the best way to brand Mesa County and Grand Junction and its collection of attributes? What’s the best way distill into a brief message all that’s good about the area and convince people to bring their businesses and jobs here?
That’s the considerable task at hand for a community and tourism branding research and planning firm as well as the various local participants in economic development. The effort couldn’t be more important.
Ed Barlow, vice president of NorthStar Destination Strategies, recently presented the results of branding research conducted by the Tennessee-based firm as well as some initial recommendations based on those results. The research constitutes the first half of a process to develop a brand identity and a more consistent marketing message about the area.
Barlow’s discussion with the Grand Junction City Council and Mesa County Commission, which joined in funding the work, was fascinating in revealing some of the perceptions of people in Mesa County and outside the area. As Barlow put it, the results included the good, the bad and the otherwise.
A number of attributes that could be used as selling points came up frequently in the research, Barlow said among them the scenic surroundings, recreational activities and quality of life. Wineries also were mentioned, understandable for an area that’s long been promoted to tourists as the Colorado Wine Country.
Participants in the research suggested, in fact, Mesa County affords a place where people can actually realize their expectations for a Colorado lifestyle. Instead of slogging through rush hour traffic in Denver to get home, they could be peddling their mountain bike along some single track in the Grand Valley. That’s not to mention the additional allure of a place where it’s also possible to go skiing and golfing — on the same day. That’s a selling point.
Of course, the Grand Valley still has to compete with scores of other beautiful Western Colorado communities that offer similar attributes. So what’s the distinguishing factor?
Audrey Taylor, president of Chabin Concepts, alluded to one possibility in her presentation on the results of a competitive location assessment. The Grand Valley offers resources to help businesses start and grow that aren’t available in other areas or at least not to the same degree. Taylor described the Business Incubator Center in Grand Junction, for example, as “10 times better” than similar facilities in other communities. That’s certainly a selling point.
Taylor also mentioned something she observed as part of the assessment, and that’s the operation of a number of unique, innovative and successful manufacturers in Mesa County. Those ventures share some common traits, though, in that they were launched by owners who wanted to live here, started out small and then grew.
It seems evident, then, that branding Mesa County as part of efforts to bring businesses and jobs here should include not only the allure of the scenery, recreation and quality of life, but also the resources that are available to help those businesses succeed. Moreover, the pitch might be best directed to the owners of small firms interested in taking advantage of all the Grand Valley has to offer them and their operations.