Local planning proceeds with brainstorming session on business expansion

A business “concierge” and acceleration program are among the top ideas for supporting the growth of Mesa County businesses, according to the latest results of an online survey.

Those results and others will be used at an upcoming community brainstorming session as work continues on an economic development plan for the county.

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce invited 5,700 business professionals and others to complete the survey and identify ways to assist existing businesses grow.

Supporting the growth of existing business is among three major goals that have been incorporated into an economic development plan for Mesa County developed as part of a grassroots initiative by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Efforts to establish an epicenter for energy research and development in Mesa County as well create and promote a community brand also constitute major goals for the plan.

Having set those goals, subsequent planning has focused on ways to achieve the goals.

A brainstorming session set for 7:30 a.m. Aug. 3 in the College Center ballroom at Mesa State College will explore ways to support business expansion. The session is free and open to the public.

The chamber conducted its latest survey on behalf of the Economic Development Partners, a group of local organizations involved in economic development and business that’s been working on the county economic development plan.

The chamber reported on July 25 that it had received nearly 370 responses. More than 50 percent of the respondents represented businesses with 10 employees or less, while 20 percent represented firms with more than 50 employees. The construction industry was the sector represented by the most responses, followed by the retail and manufacturing sectors.

The survey responses identified a number of barriers to business expansion, including such employee-related expenses as unemployment and workers’ compensation insurance, federal and state government regulations and lack of access to capital.

Asked if local government was viewed as helpful to local businesses, 62 percent of those responding to the survey answered no and 38 percent answered yes.

Asked the same question about the federal government, 76 percent of respondents answered no and 24 percent answered yes.

The survey results also identified a number of ideas for promoting business expansion, the chamber reported.

The idea identified as having the most potential suggests the creation of a business “concierge” that can help expanding firms deal with government agencies, financial institutions and other service providers.

There also was support for a business acceleration program to help local firms identify new or expanded market opportunities.

Still other ideas involved a local team of “first responders” that can help businesses in risk of leaving or relocating their expanding operations elsewhere. Survey respondents also supported efforts to continue the Listening to Business Program on an ongoing basis to identify barriers to growth.

The latest survey and brainstorming session follows similar efforts to develop ideas for establishing an epicenter for energy research and development in Mesa County

A new energy center and efforts to promote research into traditional and renewable energy technologies were among the most popular ideas to come out of a June 29 session. The establishment of a western center for energy independence was the top choice, while efforts to promote research at what soon will become Colorado Mesa University was the second choice.

Yet another survey and brainstorming session is planned to discuss the creation and promotion of a community brand.