Promoting prosperity: Development director passionate about adopted hometown

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Robin Brown
Robin Brown oversees the Grand Junction Economic Partnership and its efforts to bring companies and jobs to Mesa County. While Brown is new to economic development, she brings to the role of executive director what she describes as a passion for the community as well as her experience in promoting the area and its lifestyle. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

As the daughter of an Army officer and later an officer herself, Robin Brown never lived for long in any one location. “I’m not from anywhere,” she says.

But after retiring from military service and moving with her husband to the Grand Valley, Brown realized she’d developed a different perspective: that of a transplant finally rooted in a place she loves. “I adopted the town as my hometown.”

She applied that passion to jobs raising money to renovate and expand an historic downtown theater, managing events downtown and elsewhere and promoting Mesa County through a public relations firm and magazine she launched.

Now, Brown says she brings that same passion to her latest role to lead an organization that works to bring companies and jobs to the area. The timing couldn’t be better, she says, given the combination of improving business conditions, growing interest among firms to open operations in Mesa County and collaborative efforts to further strengthen the economy.
“I’m stepping on the train at a really exciting time.”

Brown was hired late last year as executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership. Brown succeeds Kristi Pollard, who resigned after two years with GJEP to become president and chief executive officer of the Jefferson County Economic Development Corp.

While Brown hadn’t previously worked for any economic development organizations, the GJEP board of directors noticed her other attributes. “What made Robin stand out is not only her breadth of experience, but her well-documented passion for the community and for its economic prosperity,” says Tim Fry, chairman of the board at the time Brown was hired. “She also demonstrates a tenacity and an unequivocal ability to take a vision and bring it to life.”

Brown says she hadn’t initially considered joining GJEP. But in talking with others about who’d succeed Pollard, Brown says she was encouraged to apply. While she was a nontraditional candidate, Brown says the position involves something with which she is familiar, and that’s promoting Mesa County and its quality of life. “I realized it could be a pretty smooth transition, and I was crazy excited about the possibilities.”

Moreover, Brown says she joins a skilled and dedicated staff in place at GJEP. Steve Jozefcyzk was promoted from business development manager to deputy director at the same time Brown was hired. The team also includes Jennifer Seal, director of operations and investor affairs, and Cilia Kohn, director of marketing and communications.

Brown says she grew up an “Army brat,” moving from place to place even as her father, who retired a major, moved from post to post. Continuing a family tradition of military service, Brown attended Fordham University in New York on a Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship and subsequently served in the Army as a helicopter pilot.

Brown flew the Kiowa Warrior helicopter and also commanded a company of pilots and crew. Brown was twice stationed in Iraq and survived a mission in which her helicopter was shot down.

After her husband, also a helicopter pilot, and Brown retired from military service, they lived in Oregon. Brown says they relocated to the Grand Valley when her husband got a job in the energy sector.

Brown says she soon fell in love with the community as a good place to raise her children and enjoy a variety of outdoor activities.

Brown says she received what she called great introduction in working as development director for the Avalon Theater Foundation and raising money for a successful expansion and renovation project. Brown later worked as co-director of the Downtown Grand Junction Business Improvement District, updating and managing events downtown.

Brown went on to launch Brown House Public Relations to promote and market Mesa County businesses and industry sectors outside the county. She also launched Spoke + Blossom, a magazine promoting the Grand Valley and Western Colorado lifestyle.

Brown says she expects to draw on all her experiences — from her military service to her various jobs promoting the area — in her latest role with GJEP.

The timing is good, she says, with various indicators signaling an improving economy. The number of companies with which GJEP works in offering information or assisting them in opening or relocating operations in Mesa County is at its highest level in more than a decade, filling a pipeline Brown expects to soon lead to new ventures and jobs.

GJEP has targeted small, owner-operated firms in a number of industry sectors as good candidates, Brown says, including agriculture, energy and health care as well as aviation and technology.

In addition, GJEP has joined with Visit Grand Junction and the Greater Grand Junction Sports Commission on a campaign to market the Grand Valley as a good place not only for outdoor recreation, but also outdoor recreation businesses.

The Rural Jump Start Program offering state and local tax incentives to companies creating new jobs has attracted 11 firms in Mesa County. GJEP expects those companies to bring a total of more than 650 new jobs to the county over the next five years.

Brown also attributes her upbeat outlook to the collaborative efforts of local groups involved in economic development. That includes GJEP as well as the Business Incubator Center, Mesa County Workforce Center and local chambers of commerce. Mesa County, the cities of Fruita and Grand Junction and town of Palisade also play important roles, she says.

“I feel really good about things,” Brown says. That bodes well for economic development — and, in turn, her adopted hometown.