New business group vows proactive role in setting public policy

Michael Anton

The leaders of a new organization vow to pursue a proactive role in determining how public policies affect Western Colorado businesses.

Michael Anton, president of the Western Colorado Business Alliance, said the group will strive to address the growing effects of elections, regulation and legislation on businesses in the region. “That’s what caused this organization to be founded.”

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce formed the WCBA to add its advocacy efforts on behalf of members, said Phyllis Norris, chairwoman of the chamber board of directors.

Norris said members frequently ask that the chamber “stand up and be their spokesman” in addressing issues affecting businesses and the economy. “And that’s exactly what they’re going to do,” Norris said of the alliance.

The chamber formed the WCBA as a 501(c)(4) organization, a status that refers to a section of the federal income tax code denoting non-profit organizations that engage in political lobbying.

Diane Schwenke, president and chief executive officer of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, said 501(c)(4) organizations differ from political action committees in that they have a broader purpose beyond a specific ballot measure or candidate.

In the case of the WCBA, the group will work to improve the business climate in Grand Junction and the region by informing voters and encouraging voter registration, involving people in serving on boards and in elected offices and engaging the public in discussions about how policies affect businesses and job growth.

The Grand Junction chamber is one of the first in Colorado to form a 501(c)(4) organization, she said.

The WCBA will add to, rather than replace, chamber efforts, Schwenke said. “This is just another ally that we’re forming that can help us do that.”

The six-member board of the WCBA is comprised of current and past chamber board members to better coordinate the activities of the two groups.

Anton said the first priorities for the WCBA will be to reach out to businesses to raise awareness of the group as well as funding to carry out its mission.

A number of activities are planned for coming months, Anton said, including policy forums for people interested in serving on boards and commissions as well as running for elected offices.

The WCBA also will be involved in educating voters about initiatives likely to appear on the upcoming municipal election ballot in Grand Junction, he said.

Over the next 15 months, the WCBA will focus on such issues as government processes that offer the assurances needed for private investment, public infrastructure needed to improve business access, streamlining regulatory processes and removing barriers to business growth in the region.

Anton said many people remain unaware of the harmful effects elections, regulations and legislation can have on businesses. That’s resulted in growing frustration among business owners and managers.

The WCBA will address that situation in making sure business interests are heard and considered, he said.