Unwelcome change, unexpected success

Brian Stevens offers a moral to his life story about his struggles in the aftemath of the housing crises and his subsequent turnaround: Unwelcome change sometimes leads to unexpected success. The secret, he says, is how people cope with change.

It’s probably no coincidence all that sounds a bit like a metaphor for what’s happened in Western Colorado in the aftermath of the recession — or that Stevens was among the featured speakers at a summit on economic development in the region.

A successful mortgage officer, Stevens saw his income plummet and savings disappear in the bust that followed the housing boom in the United States. But the realization he’d tumbled to rock bottom served as motivation to change his life, he said. He redoubled his efforts, identified niche markets to serve and listened intently to what his customers needed.

Stevens further reinvented his career when he joined Frank Garay as the hosts of what became the “National Real Estate Post” video blog. Those duties added at first to what Stevens described as a nearly round-the-clock work schedule, but he’s never missed a show. The blog has become one of the most popular in the real estate industry in attracting millions of views.

That story Stevens related during his presentation at the economic development summit in Grand Junction was full of useful advice for business owners and managers in affirming the importance of developing niches, delivering quality customer service and, of course, persevering in the face of challenges.

Stevens believes business owners and managers perform better when they’re uncomfortable rather than comfortable — or complacent.

Steven’s personal story is similar to what’s happened in Western Colorado in the bust that followed an energy boom and then, worse still, a broader economic downturn. But the same basic approach that applies to rebuilding individual businesses also applies to regional economic development.

The Western Slope has yet to fully recover from the recession, especially compared to the resurgence that’s occurred along the Front Range of Colorado. But there are signs economic development efforts are starting to pay off.

Kristi Pollard, executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, said she’s encouraged by recent developments, including the number of prospects with which GJEP is working that are interested in relocating to or expanding operations in Mesa County.

Meanwhile, four businesses have been approved to participate in the new Rural Jump Start Program offering them tax incentives to create new jobs in Mesa County. Pollard expects four more businesses to gain approval through the program by the end of June and the eight businesses will collectively create more than 350 jobs over the next five years.

Change, especially for the worse, is seldom welcome. But there can be a silver lining of sorts when change prompts new efforts and new ways of doing things that ultimately lead to success.

As Stevens put it: Change happens. Let it.

Here’s hoping new efforts and new ways of doing things ultimately lead to a more robust economic recovery in Western Colorado.