By Cilia Kohn (originally published in The Daily Sentinel 2.20.2022)

As I write this, it is Thursday evening and my children are watching Pinocchio – I hear Jiminy Cricket singing, “If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme…” It seems a fitting theme song for what has been a monumentally exciting day for the Grand Valley.

First thing this morning, The Daily Sentinel shared the official announcement that the Fruita Arts Recreation Marketplace (FARM) is converting a prior health club in downtown Fruita into an arts and retail complex. The 13,000-square foot building will house 20 art studios and five street-facing retail spaces, complete with glass walls, skylights, and direct access to gathering spaces where visitors can enjoy a variety of events and art exhibits throughout the year.  Grand Jun Fermentation will open a tasting room in the facility and Moab’s Momentum Mountain Biking, which provides mountain biking lessons and tours, will open its second location there as well. A symbiotic mix of creative arts, outdoor recreation and carefully curated, locally sourced artisans, the FARM project is in perfect alignment with the spirit of Fruita. Together with several more, smaller but equally exciting projects underway, Fruita’s downtown is poised for a long-awaited injection of economic vibrancy and growth. As a Fruita resident, I cannot wait!

On the east end of the Valley, downtown Palisade is having its own renaissance. Already a longtime destination for wine aficionados, more recent additions like Peche Restaurant and the Spoke and Vine Motel, have turned the town into an oft-publicized, year-end destination. The much-anticipated opening of the Palisade Plunge literally has visitors rolling into town – and now town leadership is eyeing the riverfront for its next revitalization project. The GJEP team had the pleasure of doing a recent field trip to Pear Blossom Farms in Palisade, and all we can say is that creativity and innovation is alive and well on all sides of the valley, even as we hold true to values and traditions near and dear to our hearts.

Meanwhile, we suspect no one has missed the many improvement projects that are happening in the valley core. The City of Grand Junction and Colorado Department of Transportation continue to work extremely hard to build up our roads and transportation infrastructure to accommodate for the growth that is expected to come with new business and multiple real estate developments underway. In the afternoon, GJEP participated in a Grand Junction Area Chamber-led brainstorming session around a Grand Junction mobility hub. The concept is expected to activate downtown south of Main Street with the addition of a multi-modal transportation hub, likely in the area just outside the current Union Station, that offers residents not only expanded transportation options but a safe, family-friendly place to congregate. The mobility hub would be a “one-stop-shop” for travel in and out of the area, and would also offer better bike and pedestrian access to Main Street and the riverfront developments at Las Colonias and Dos Rios. Although it is still very much in the early planning stages, this is one of those Grand Valley projects that unites several key stakeholders and exudes collaborative spirit. Even Governor Polis stopped by the session to commend the effort and pledge state support!

The state’s Economic Development Commission gave us the day’s – and possibly the year’s – most exciting economic development news earlier in the day when it approved an unprecedented $1.7 million incentive package for West Star Aviation. West Star will use the funds to expand its Grand Junction location with a new aircraft maintenance facility by the Grand Junction Regional Airport, expected to employ 110 people.

West Star Aviation is currently one of the largest employers in Mesa County, with nearly 500 employees. As such, it is also a pillar of our aviation and aerospace industry. We are immensely grateful to the state for recognizing the importance of this business to our community, and for supporting the opportunity for West Star to stay and grow in the Grand Valley. We look forward to learning much more about this project as it unfolds.

As the day’s developments suggest, the valley is brimming with opportunity. And, as we keenly start to look past the pandemic and learn to live with a new kind of reality, we eagerly look forward to embracing those opportunities with you. Join us at the 2022 WCES on April 26 to get started (registration will open soon)!