Sometimes, government actually does offer help

“I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

That announcement more often serves as the ironic punch line to a joke than a sincere assurance, especially when talking to beleaguered business owners who feel under siege these days by the dual threats of economic and regulatory uncertainty.

Nonetheless, there are tantalizing indications from time to time government actually does offer more help than hindrance to small businesses.

This very issue of the Business Times includes two stories detailing those indications in a feature about Rich Englehart, the new Grand Junction city manager, and a federal grant that’s expected to jump-start revitalization efforts along North Avenue.

While Englehart was talking to the editor of a business publication, he was unprompted in discussing the relationships between the city and businesses — relationships he characterizes as important partnerships. Englehart acknowledges a symbiotic relationship given the effects of city policies on businesses and the effects of business success on city revenues. Sales and use taxes account for 60 percent of municipal revenues.

While municipal functions should include first and foremost police and fire protection and the maintenance of streets and water and sewer systems, the city also affects businesses in the way it handles development and implements and enforces land use regulations.

The city plays an even more proactive role in encouraging economic development in working with organizations involved in that effort, including the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, Grand Junction Economic Partnership and Business Incubator Center.

Englehart brings to his latest duties a longstanding familiarity with Grand Junction and Western Colorado that includes an appreciation of a tradition of collaboration. In fact, Englehart’s first job out of college was with the Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Department.

Englehart is sincere when he says he wants to help. Here’s wishing him much success in that endeavor.

Meanwhile, the city announced it has received a federal grant for nearly $1.2 million to help fund improvements along a stretch of North Avenue between 12th and 23rd streets. The project will include improvements to curbs, gutters, sidewalks and medians as well as the addition of bus turnouts.

The timing couldn’t be better given the organization of a group of business and property owners along North Avenue who’ve renewed efforts to revitalize what was once one of the most vibrant commercial districts in the city.

Grand Junction Mayor Bill Pitts put to words what everyone’s thinking: that the grant and project will serve as a jump-start to a more widespread improvements.

Given the four-mile length of North Avenue through Grand Junction and the scope of what’s involved, it’s going to take a long time to turn the vision for North Avenue into a reality. But the cliche is true: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Here’s hoping the improvements planned for a section of North Avenue constitute a promising start to more widespread renovations that attract businesses and customers. That would help, too.