In recruiting businesses, outdoors really is great

One of the most intriguing ideas to come out of the preliminary results of a competitive location assessment and branding research for the Grand Valley is the notion the area offers a place in which people can realize their expectations for a Colorado lifestyle.

Instead of slogging through rush hour traffic to get home, they could be peddling their mountain bikes along some single track. That’s not to mention the additional allure of a place where it’s possible to go skiing and golfing — on the same day.

Recreational activities, the scenic surroundings and quality of life constitute good selling points in enticing businesses and individuals to move here.

It makes even more sense, then, to pitch those attributes to the very businesses that are in the outdoor recreation business. That will be part of the mission for a new coalition promoting the industry and, in turn, the economy.

The Grand Valley Outdoor Recreation Coalition hosted what was billed as a launch party in Grand Junction. The party included a panel discussion and a showcase of local businesses. The event also featured two visiting dignitaries in Luis Benitez, the first ever director of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, and Ken Gart, the former sporting goods executive turned volunteer bike czar. Gart is also among the investors who purchased and since has improved Powderhorn Mountain Resort.

Efforts to support and promote the outdoor recreation industry are significant because of the similarly significant role the sector plays in the economy. By one estimate, outdoor recreation businesses and tourism account for more than 2,000 jobs and generate more than $300 million annually to the Mesa County economy. Think of the collective contributions of such local manufacturers as Leitner Poma, DT Swiss, Mountain Racing Products and Bonsai Design.

There’s ample room for growth, nonetheless, and the outdoor recreation industry constitutes one of the target sectors for local economic development efforts.

Most of the entrepreneurs who start and oversee outdoor recreation companies as well as the employees who work for them naturally want to live in an area with easy access to the outdoors and recreation. It makes it easier to test products and services — not to mention tell more convincing stories to their customers. Where better to buy outdoor gear than from companies located close to the environment in which that gear is used?

It’s also a lifestyle issue, though. Even a short talk with the owners and managers of local outdoor recreation companies confirms this factor. They could operate their ventures elsewhere, but remain in the Grand Valley because they enjoy living and playing here.

Here’s hoping the Grand Valley Outdoor Recreation Coalition as well as the Grand Junction Economic Partnership and other business groups are successful in  their efforts to grow existing outdoor recreation businesses and attract new firms to the area.

One way to do that would be to follow the initial recommendations that came out of the competitive location assessment and branding research.

The Grand Valley really is a place where the expectations for a Colorado lifestyle can be realized.