Vote first step in developing business park

The Grand Junction City Council has agreed to a proposal offering incentives to a company that could become the anchor tenant in a new business park planned for south of downtown.

The council voted 6-1 to authorize City Manager Greg Caton to negotiate an incentive package for Bonsai Design, a company that designs, builds and installs adventure courses and ziplines.

The vote also constitutes a first step in developing a business park near Las Colonias Park that would include not only Bonsai Design, but also other companies involved in outdoor recreation and light manufacturing.

“The prospect of this business park and outdoor amenity combining in the lower portion of downtown is simply unlike anything we have seen here before, and frankly unlike anything in Colorado,” said Grand Junction Mayor Phyllis Norris. “This is an unbelievable opportunity for Grand Junction, and something we believe may not only further entice businesses looking to move to our area, but also provide new opportunities for those who may have skill sets from other industries.”

The proposed incentives for Bonsai Design include the lease of 4 to 4.5 acres for $20,000 a year for 25 years, a $1 million contribution toward the construction of certain new facilities and waiving certain fees and real and business property taxes over a 10-year period. The State of Colorado has approved $75,000 in cash incentives.

The owners of Bonsai Design expect 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. The estimated economic contributions of Bonsai Design total more than $20 million.

Thaddeus Shrader, chief executive officer and co-owner of Bonsai Design along with his wife, Sarah, said he’d rather keep the operation in Grand Junction than move to one of the other cities recruiting the company. “We couldn’t be more excited to expand and grow our business on the riverfront right here in Mesa County.”

Bonsai Design designs, builds and installs adventure courses and ziplines for customers around the world, but operates out the former Union Station in downtown Grand Junction. But the new owner of the building plans to develop a boutique hotel there.

While Bonsai Design was recruited to relocate operations and received offers from Carbondale and Ogden, Utah, the Shraders decided to work instead with the city and Grand Junction Economic Partners to develop the business park.

If everything proceeds as planned, Bonsai Design will occupy two of four pads planned for the first phase of a 10- to 15-acre business park on the east of Las Colonias Park. The first phase could be completed before the end of the year, with the remainder to follow over 18 months.

Bonsai Design will work with the Grand Junction Economic Partnership in recruiting additional tenants for the park.

The park will be developed through public and private partnerships involving the City of Grand Junction, Bonsai Design, Downtown Development Authority and other businesses. The park is expected to draw $20 million in private investments and $10 million in public investments.

Norris said the plan accomplishes several goals. “Not only are we retaining a renowned up-and-coming business in Bonsai, but this project brings the potential to transform this section of town and play a significant role in bolstering a struggling economy.”

Kristi Pollard, executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, said companies like Bonsai Design want to build facilities where employees can enjoy quality of life and outdoor amenities.

“This is exactly the type of development that will give the Grand Valley a significant leg up in the fierce competition to recruit new businesses, particularly in the growing outdoor recreation industry,” Pollard said. “We were thrilled to see a local business come up with such a grand vision for our community and to see our local partners come out and support the effort.”