By Robin Brown, GJEP Executive Director

And just like that, the Avelo flight is gone before anybody even knew about it. That certainly was one of the odder economic development events of the last few years. And that’s saying a lot considering we’re coming off the worst global pandemic of the century. Let’s recap what happened. Avelo Airlines is a brand new, low-cost carrier based out of Burbank, California. When they launched earlier this year, they announced service to twelve destinations, including Grand Junction. It was a big win that our region and airport were chosen and spoke to the growth we continue to experience in western Colorado. Service began on May 9 flying four days a week to Burbank with promotional fares of $19. My daughter and I took it and had a great experience. It was only $10 to check our bag! However, a mere eight weeks after starting, Avelo announced they were suspending the Grand Junction and Bozeman, Montana routes. Eight weeks. When the Grand Junction Regional Air Service Alliance met to discuss why it wasn’t performing well, it became obvious that people simply don’t know about it. The majority of flights to and from the Grand Junction Regional Airport are overperforming right now, so it’s not due to a lack of interest or affordability. However-just like Allegiant or Southwest- when booking your travel, you have to know to go to the Avelo Airlines website to find the flights. Avelo is brand new. It’s not a household name and most people simply don’t know the route exists and don’t know how to find it. Seems like a marketing campaign might have helped, but what do I know?

What’s frustrating is that it reflects poorly on our economy, our airport and our community when in reality, those factors don’t seem to have mattered at all. As always in economic development, it’s two steps forward, one step back. At least we’re still moving forward.

This past week, we welcomed businesses from all over the western slope to the third annual Techstars Startup Week West Slope- a gathering of entrepreneurs to network, learn about and celebrate the entrepreneurial ecosystem across western Colorado.  It’s a free event that is packed with sessions, discussions, presentations and fun and the only complaint I heard is that it’s so packed, you couldn’t possibly attend everything. The continued growth and enthusiasm for this event is a great indicator of our economic diversification and the entrepreneurial spirit present all around us in a post-COVID world is contagious. I’m sure there’s a vaccine joke in there somewhere.

This Friday, July 23, we celebrate the Grand Opening of the Palisade Plunge with a street party in downtown Palisade complete with live music, beer garden and more than a few speeches. No other project is more representative of the collaborative spirit that exists in western Colorado to get things done. Involving multiple municipalities, land management agencies, private land owners, permitting agencies, passionate business owners and non-profit groups- the fact that you can now ride a bike from the top of the Grand Mesa into the town of Palisade is absolutely stunning. Spanning 33 miles and over 6000 feet of vertical, you won’t catch me anywhere near that trail. However, I’ll gladly drink a beer at the bottom to those who do.

What a year, what a year. Onward, Ho!

The Grand Junction Economic Partnership congratulates and welcomes President John Marshall in his new role leading Colorado Mesa University. We look forward to working with you. #Gomavs!

This story was originally published in The Daily Sentinel on Sunday, July 18.