New directors take on important jobs at workforce center and DDA

The Mesa County Workforce Center and Downtown Development Authority play important roles in the Grand Valley singularly in the resources they provide as well as collectively as part of collaborative local efforts to promote economic development. That makes the leadership of the workforce center and DDA just as important.

Fortunately, the workforce center and DDA appear at first impression to be in the good hands of new directors who oversee those operations.

John Flanagan relocated from Northwest Pennsylvania to Western Colorado to become the new director of the Mesa County Workforce Center. John Schneiger, a former city manager who worked in Fruita and Montrose, returns to the Western Slope as the new director of the Downtown Development Authority.

Flanagan brings to his new duties experience in working with manufacturers as well as desire to help promote the growth of the manufacturing sector here. He recognizes the value of the high-paying careers manufacturers offer as well as the stabilizing effects they can have on an regional economy that’s long been subject to the up and down business cycles associated with energy development.

Flanagan’s enthusiasm — and timing — couldn’t be better given other local efforts along those same lines. That certainly includes the efforts of the Western Slope chapter of the Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Alliance. By the way, if Flanagan and Eric Goertz, chairman of the CAMA West Chapter haven’t yet met, here’s hoping they soon do and initiate the beginning of a beautiful — as well as productive — friendship.

Flanagan also has experience in and sees the value in helping students explore their career options at an early age — before they begin high school, in fact.

Schneiger brings to his new duties experience in not only developing, but also implementing plans. He’s been involved in efforts that turned old school buildings into a civic center in Fruita and a library and office building in Montrose as well as setting priorities for projects in New Port Richey in Florida. Moreover, Schneiger had a real knack for securing grants for various projects when he worked in Fruita.

Those experiences and skills will come in handy with the DDA as Schneiger oversees efforts to redevelop the R-5 High School and White Hall sites as well as fund other projects in which the DDA is involved.

Flanagan and Schneiger also face challenges, to be sure. Especially Flanagan.

The Mesa County labor market continues to lag behind other areas of Colorado in recovering from the recession. The overall labor force remains 10,000 short of a labor force that peaked at 84,000 in November 2009. While the monthly jobless rate continues to retreat, the number of people receiving unemployment benefits has increased in part because of layoffs in the energy sector.

But Flanagan and Schneiger also enjoy an opportunity to build on the considerable successes of their respective organization. The Mesa County Workforce Center has a well-deserved reputation for its holistic approach in serving businesses looking for employees and people looking for jobs. The DDA has been involved in transformative projects downtown.

So welcome John Flanagan. And welcome back John Schneiger. Here’s hoping you enjoy success in your new and important roles in promoting business and economic growth in the Grand Valley.

Now, get to work.