Where Life is Grand

City of Grand Junction

Grand Junction is nestled in a wonderland of red rock canyons, towering monoliths, and roaring rivers. The community spills across the Grand Valley through the heart of Colorado wine country, and is home to some of the best that the West has to offer.

In addition to its spectacular scenery and outdoor recreation opportunities, Grand Junction boasts an excellent business climate, making it a perfect place for both work and play.

Forbes’ present rankings place Grand Junction in a very favorable position, naming it the 30th Best Small Place in the U.S. for Business and Careers, and ranking it highly in Cost of Doing Business, Job Growth, and Education. As the largest city on Colorado’s Western Slope, “we have infrastructure to support all different types of businesses – high tech, low tech, and agriculture,” says Kelly Flenniken, Executive Director of Grand Junction Economic Partnership. “On top of that we have Colorado Mesa University, the fastest growing university in the state of Colorado, producing that high quality, skilled workforce for the future.” In fact, 35 percent of Grand Junction’s workforce has a bachelor’s degree or higher. And, with the median home sale price currently only $175,200, the cost of living is below the national average, and with competitively low utility and tax rates, Grand Junction is refreshingly affordable.

Perhaps most importantly, Grand Junction offers a lifestyle that people crave. “The lifestyle is what keeps people here, working and contributing to this economy,” Ms. Flenniken asserts. The Grand Junction area is said to have more opportunities for outdoor recreation within a 100-mile radius of its boundaries than any other city in the Western United States. Skiing, snowboarding, hiking, kayaking, white water rafting, mountain biking – “Really, any outdoor activity that anybody could imagine, we can do here,” Ms. Flenniken says. “The Grand Junction area really is a four season destination.”

Grand Junction is located where the Colorado River and Gunnison River join, creating a plethora of river-related recreational opportunities and earning the community the nickname River City. Grand Junction is also just ten minutes from the stunning Colorado National Monument, which rises more than 2,000 feet above the valley floor. Home to eagles, desert bighorns, and coyotes, the semi-desert landscape boasts whimsical rock sculptures and magnificent views stretching to the distant Colorado River Valley, the purple-gray Book Cliffs, and a massive, flat-topped mountain called Grand Mesa.

Seventy percent of the county is public land, making its many outdoor activities wonderfully convenient – even on busy weekdays. “You can go to work and then have a really great lunch break [outdoors] or get out into the country very quickly in the evening,” Ms. Flenniken points out. Grand Junction is also the 7th sunniest city in the nation and is ranked the 6th Best Hunting and Fishing Town in the United States.

Grand Junction also boasts a thriving downtown and a vibrant arts and cultural scene. The city has dozens of unique art galleries, an outdoor sculpture display, and live musical events and festivals throughout the year.

To be sure, people come to Grand Junction for the educational and business opportunities and stay for the lifestyle. “Every single member of my staff is not from this area,” remarks Sarah Allen, Director of Marketing & Client Relations for Ryan/Sawyer Marketing. “We have all relocated here. A lot of us [came] for the great educational foundation in Colorado Mesa University and then found ourselves sticking around because of the lifestyle opportunity that this area provides. It’s great for raising families as well.” Joe Burtard, External Affairs Manager for Ute Water Conservancy District, has had a similar experience. “I came here [to attend] the local university, CMU, with no intentions of staying in the Grand Valley – but it just really grows on you. I’ve been here for ten years now.” More and more recent grads are following suit. “It is a younger workforce,” Mr. Burtard points out. “I’ve seen that transition. I’ve seen a lot more college graduates stay here and start careers here in the Grand Valley.”

Grand Junction’s livability attracts certain business sectors as well. For instance, the city has been named one of the 25 Best Cities for a Tech Start Up. “That goes back to the lifestyle here,” Ms. Flenniken insists. In the tech industry, “you can really telecommute and work anywhere,” she points out, and says, “you want to live in a beautiful place while you are doing code or software development.” In addition, the city has the infrastructure and positive business climate to support the sector.

Manufacturing related to sports and the outdoors is also big in Grand Junction. “For example, we have a mountain bike components manufacturer here in the valley that is building a phenomenal product and literally testing it every single day on world famous trail systems ten minutes away from their shop,” says Ms. Allen.

In total, Grand Junction has five target industries that are ideally suited to the region: aviation and aerospace, IT and professional business services, energy (traditional and alternative), healthcare, and outdoor/sports related manufacturing. With so much to offer these sectors, the city is actively recruiting new businesses. “We have a very vibrant small business culture here, so we look at businesses that are small to midsize that have a connection to community, a connection to the outdoors, and can benefit from our geographical position,” Ms. Flenniken shares.

As the official economic development agency of Mesa County, The Grand Junction Economic Partnership (GJEP) supports new, relocated, or expanding businesses by providing the resources, information and services that they need for no cost. But, the support and enthusiasm doesn’t stop there. “I think the whole community really does embrace economic development and recruiting businesses,” Ms. Flenniken states.

Another Grand Junction plus is the abundance of water in the area. Ironically, this high alpine desert is blessed with 80 percent of the state’s water, but only carries the burden of 20 percent of the population, explains Mr. Burtard. “So we are targeted [to be] one of the fastest growing areas in our state because of the availability of water. We are also the first users of the water – it is strictly snowmelt off the Grand Mesa – so we have really high quality drinking water here. We also have an abundance of irrigation water in the Grand Valley.” As a result, agriculture thrives throughout the area. And with so much water to go around, the water related fees for both residential and commercial new construction are relatively low, “so that really attracts not only new homes but large corporations.”

As the fastest growing university in the state, Colorado Mesa University (CMU) has also become a huge draw. “If you had come to town ten years ago, you would have found a small commuter campus of about 5,000 students,” recalls John Marshall, Vice President for Student Services at CMU. Since then, the school has partnered with local industry in order to expand in a way that benefits both students and the community. As a result, Colorado Mesa University now offers degrees in everything from mechanical engineering and nursing to business administration and marketing – and the student body has rocketed to 10,000. “We have folks coming from all over the country and the world,” Mr. Marshall says. “And it has really created a much more vibrant place. Our economic impact is somewhere in the range of $350 million to $450 million a year.”

And, Mr. Marshall adds, the talent is staying in Grand Junction. “They come here to go to school and more often than not they are staying here. That’s why we are really trying to continue to partner with business to make sure we are creating programs [that provide] a natural segue into the economy. We have very much embraced this role as a community and regional engine.”

With so much to offer, more and more students and businesses are expected to arrive – and stay – in Grand Junction. The community will continue to actively recruit tech companies while simultaneously working to maintain its standing as a regional healthcare hub. “And of course, we will [remain] an arts and culture destination for western Colorado,” Ms. Flenniken insists.

And, this may only be the beginning of what all Grand Junction can achieve. “We have so many untapped opportunities for companies to move here to enjoy,” Ms. Allen points out. “There is so much left in terms of development,” Mr. Marshall adds. “It is fun to be in the midst of it now, but it also has a lot of potential moving forward.”

For more information about the City of Grand Junction, please visit http://www.gjcity.org/

June 22, 2018, 6:39 PM EDT

A Proactive Approach to Resolving a Longstanding Debate

About forty skilled Central and South American workers from Ecuador, Peru, Columbia and Costa Rica came to British Columbia, Canada as temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in 2006. This story incited Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) call for reforms to Canada’s TFW program (TFWP) and the International Mobility Program (IMP). LiUNA, a powerful voice within the construction industry with over half a million members – 110,000 of whom are in Canada – has been the only Canadian union to address the issue.