Search begins for economic development executive

Kristi Pollard
Kristi Pollard

The search has begun for an executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership to succeed Kristi Pollard.

Pollard  resigned after taking a position as president and chief executive officer of  the Jefferson County Economic Development Corp. based in Golden. Pollard’s last day with GJEP will be Oct. 20. She expects to begin her new job Oct. 30.

“I am confident in our ability to quickly find a strong successor and to continue the momentum we’re experiencing in the Grand Valley,” said Dr. Brian Davidson, president of St. Mary’s Medical Center and vice chairman of the GJEP board of directors. “Kristi has laid a great foundation for the organization and established a highly competent team to lead our efforts forward in any interim.”

Davidson praised Pollard for her work with GJEP over the past two years. “Kristi’s hard work has rejuvenated Colorado’s Grand Valley not only in terms of bringing in new businesses and more jobs, but also encouraging more regional collaboration and community engagement in our economic development efforts.”

Pollard joined GJEP in 2015, bringing with her experience in economic development as well as government relations and fund-raising.

She worked as vice president of the Southeast Business Partnership, regional director for the U.S. Senate and principal for a government relations and fund-raising consulting firm. Immediately prior to joining GJEP, she worked as director of development and chief executive officer of the Colorado Mesa University Foundation.

During her work with GJEP, Pollard was involved in implementing the  Rural Jump-Start Program offering tax incentives to businesses that create new jobs. The program creates zones in Colorado in which eligible businesses are exempted from paying state and local taxes. In Mesa County, local government jurisdictions have offered additional incentives. Qualifying businesses are exempt from paying state income, use and sales taxes as well as county and municipal personal property taxes.

Mesa County was the first county in Colorado accepted into the program. Since then, seven companies have approved to participate and are projected to create a total of more than 600 jobs by 2020.

Pollard and GJEP also have worked with the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce to establish a foreign trade zone and local customs office.

A federal program allows for the establishment of secure areas within the United States that are considered outside of U.S. Customs territory for tariff purposes. Businesses are allowed to import goods without paying a duty until those goods leave the zone and enter U.S. commerce. When imported materials and components are used to make finished products, duties can be assessed at what’s often a lower rate applied to those products. When merchandise is exported from the zone, no duties are assessed. A foreign trade zone is expected to help existing businesses in Mesa County take advantage of reduced tariffs and paperwork as well as help recruit new businesses to the area.

In addition, Pollard was involved in efforts to establish a business park south of downtown and retain a Grand Junction company as a tenant there. The new business park will be developed near Las Colonias Park and include Bonsai Design, a company that designs, builds and installs adventure courses and ziplines.

The proposed incentives for Bonsai Design include the low-cost lease of land, a contribution toward construction of new facilities and waiving fees and real and business property taxes over a 10-year period.

The owners of Bonsai Design expect to invest $2 million in new facilities at the site, including a research and development facility that will include a zip line and challenge courses open to the public. The company also plans to hire 15 additional employees, bringing its staff to 50 with an average annual salary of $55,000.

At the Jefferson County Economic Development Corp., Pollard will direct an  operation in a county that encompasses 773 square miles and includes 10 cities.

Pollard succeeds Sam Bailey, who resigned in July to become vice president of economic development at the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. Bailey only worked in the post about seven months, but helped the Jefferson County Economic Development Corp. establish a new board of directors, expand its efforts and improve its marketing strategies.