Who you associate with does matter

            The Grand Valley business community has multiple associations and networks where businesspeople can join together to promote their businesses, build relationships, assist one another through leads, share information and understand regulations and obstacles that affect their businesses.

            “We switched from using the word ‘networking’ to ‘building business relationships’ a couple of years ago because it is more appropriate for what we do,” says Diane Schwenke, “Networking implies a handshake and a business card, which in some ways can almost feel like speed dating. We are all about building relationships.” One such event that builds relationships is the Chamber’s Networking at Noon where “Attendees are placed at tables of four to six with non competitors and people they are not familiar with.  A couple of business related questions or topics are presented to begin the dialogue and then the groups proceed to engage in conversation and lunch.”

            Contractors at both the commercial and residential level are well served through the Western Colorado Contractors Association (WCCA) and the Home Builders Association of Northwestern Colorado (HBA). The WCCA is a locally-based organization that was formed in 1948. “We view ourselves as the information hub for commercial contractors on information as it relates to job bids throughout western Colorado,” says Linda Smith, “We provide our members with a weekly newsletter, a planning room that is both in house and online, as well as safety training and education on a variety of subjects.” The group also sponsors lunch and dinner meetings, golf tournaments and other events throughout the year where members can network.

            The HBA is a trade organization dedicated to the advancement of the home building industry. “Every member of our local HBA is automatically a member of our state and national organization as well,” says Rob Griffin, “and this gives our membership innumerable education and learning opportunities through their National and International Builders shows.” Locally, the HBA sponsors networking and marketing opportunities through its Home Expo, Parade of Homes and events throughout the year. Additionally, the HBA members have donated time and materials to local charitable projects such as doing renovations to the local Salvation Army center and Boy Scout offices.

            The Mesa County Women’s Network (MCWN) is a local women’s association that believes in relationship building, educating and supporting their members through networking meetings. Its board brings in speakers and educators to help in the various areas that its members indicate as areas of particular interest and need. “Recently, our members expressed a concern about time management so the board had John Burwell with Power 30 Training come in and do a session on time management and prioritizing,” said Erika Jones.  MCWN schedules luncheons and provides activities like “speed networking” where members can quickly connect, exchange information and discover new and exciting businesses that they may have never heard of otherwise. Additionally, a percentage of the proceeds from the group’s lunches are donated to local charities. “Women business owners have a challenge to perform in business along with being a wife, mother, daughter, amongst many roles,” adds Jones, “Networking and getting a support system can increase your ability to handle day to day activities and increase your exposure for your business.”

            One additional arena where the local associations play a big role is in the legislative process in terms of both access and education of its members. “Both our state and national HBA’s provide the local builders a voice at their perspective legislative levels, it is important to understand when legislation is passed that effects our ability to do business” says Griffin. The WCCA looks at governmental affairs more locally. “We have a Legislative Affairs Representative who keeps us up to date on what the city, county and state are doing legislatively,” adds Smith.

            “Because we are the voice of business we also offer very unique opportunities for businesses to network with and build relationships with policy makers and regulators,” says Schwenke. The Chamber offers a bi-monthly video conference with Rep Bradford, Rep Scott and Senator King to give its members direct access during the session to the people who vote on the member’s behalf. The Chamber hosts roundtables with western Colorado’s Congressional delegation of Representative Tipton, Senator Bennett and Senator Udall as well.