And Why Tech Companies Have Already Moved Here
By Robin Brown
As we emerge from the pandemic, we’re only just beginning to understand the permanent change to the business world. However, the biggest shift to happen last year was the acceptance that companies in the digital economy could truly be located anywhere with a good internet connection. In 2019, Grand Junction began to see a growing population of professionals who can work from anywhere migrate into the area. The COVID-19 pandemic only increased that migration and today, Grand Junction boasts a number of cutting-edge tech companies and entrepreneurs who’ve chosen quality of life over the typical tech hubs. Let’s examine why they came.
TECH WAS ALREADY HERE
Colorado Mesa University (CMU) – one of the few universities that actually increased enrollment during COVID– boasts programs in mechanical and electrical engineering, computer science and cybersecurity. Grand Junction is also home to a number of innovative companies such as Kaart, Cloudrise, Aspen Technology Group and ProStar, that are building a critical mass of GIS mappers, software developers and engineers needed to support tech growth. CMU has invited many of these local companies to sit on an advisory board that helps shape future academic programming in support of the tech industry.
WE ARE A DISASTER-FREE ZONE
Community leaders have long touted Grand Junction as a disaster-free zone. The region is free from wildfires, floods, earthquakes and hurricanes. COVID-19 was the first natural disaster to ever shut down the economy, except that it really didn’t. Manufacturers stayed open, as did day care facilities, schools and Colorado Mesa University. Restaurants and retail stayed open. Most industries continued to operate in a safe way keeping people employed, while also protecting the most vulnerable. COVID simply sped up Grand Junction’s growth, as people fled densely populated cities for a better quality of life and a place they deem a safe choice for their families and their businesses – now and in the future.
WE HAVE OPPORTUNITY
Mesa County has seven Opportunity Zones. Six of those zones are in the City of Grand Junction and one zone covers the top of the Grand Mesa and includes Powderhorn Mountain Resort, which has over 800,000 acres of developable property. The City of Grand Junction invested $14 million into a 140-acre waterfront park development located along the Colorado River, all of which is within an Opportunity Zone. Nestled within the park is a 15-acre business park anchored by Bonsai Design, an aerial adventure business that spearheaded the park development, as well as Boulder-transplant RockyMounts. This transformative project has turned a formerly blighted area of the city into a live-work-play destination and has spurred development all around the park. Mixed-use commercial projects, as well as housing, are cropping up in this riverfront Opportunity Zone, making Grand Junction one of the strongest markets in Colorado to take advantage of the Opportunity Zone tax incentive.
BIG CITY AMENITIES WITH SMALL TOWN CHARM
Grand Junction is bigger than you think. Known as the Grand Valley, the Grand Junction area includes the town of Palisade to the east and the city of Fruita to the west, totaling 156,000 in population. Add in the mountain and regional communities that come to town to do their shopping and get their healthcare, and that population grows to 350,000. Home to the Grand Junction Regional Airport with 18 daily, direct flights, you’ve got the amenities of a big city with the charm and culture of a small, rural town. Our location on I-70, halfway between Denver and Salt Lake City, puts your business within an easy drive of over 5 million people without the congestion and prices that come with big-city living.
WE WANT YOUR BUSINESS
In western Colorado, wide open spaces provide you room to grow, and we have the resources to support that growth. We have a culture of collaboration that supports sustainable development and a comprehensive plan that makes sure that growth is done in a smart way for the future. Grand Junction also has a number of training and workforce incentives that offset the wages of new employees so that companies are able to grow quickly and efficiently, as well as robust remote worker programs to help new employees get connected. The Rural Jump-Start tax incentive is the most lucrative incentive in the state, and allows new businesses to operate tax-free for up to eight years. It has enabled us to recruit 20 new businesses to Grand Junction in under five years.
Not convinced? Next month, check out the third annual TechStars Startup Week West Slope (WSSW), where you can mingle with the largest group of tech entrepreneurs to gather in Colorado west of the continental divide, and see first-hand why so many have already made the move to Grand Junction.
This article was originally published on CoBizMag.com May 4, 2021