As the cancellations began pouring in on Thursday and unconfirmed rumors of Mesa County’s first case of Coronavirus worked its way down Main Street, I began to wonder if I was living in the Twilight Zone. My email pinged with another newsletter from another organization assuring me that they were doing everything in their power to limit the spread of the COVID-19 and to let me know that they were prepared. I should avoid large gatherings, stay home if I feel sick and wash my hands.
I understood what was happening globally and watched with horror as the stock market and oil prices plummeted, but those things felt far away. They also felt temporary. Our local economy is humming along with good job growth and lots of development happening across the valley. Even the announcement that StarTek was closing didn’t dim our economic outlook. With a low unemployment rate, there are lots of opportunities in the valley and the Mesa County Workforce Center is working hard to find new jobs for those affected by the closure.
As the day went on, our spring break plans were cancelled on us, not by us. The spring soccer season, which dominates the vast majority of our free time, was cancelled until further notice. I figure the lacrosse cancellation will be next. CMU moved to online classes. D51 cancelled sports and recommended people not travel.
When United announced that the new direct flight to San Francisco which we hoped would begin in June would be delayed until 2021 because of COVID-19, it began to sink in that this was really going to affect us at a local level. Whether you think the hysteria is overblown or not doesn’t really matter. It’s affecting us in a huge way and that’s real. If you’re a business owner, you’re scared. If you’re an investor, you’re a nervous wreck. And we as a community are still dealing with the repercussions of a decade-long recession with new revenue from our recent growth over the past few years. It’s still very, very precarious.
So, speaking as your economic development agency, here is our call to action for you- for the next month, or until this thing passes, spend your money as locally as possible. If your vacation was cancelled, enjoy a staycation at home. Put on your tourist hat and do something you haven’t done before. After all, we are a tourism destination. People come here to see the Colorado National Monument, visit our wineries, and ride dirt bikes in the desert. Go out and do one of those things. Ski at Powderhorn. Eat in our restaurants. Shop in our stores. Go to the movies. Before hitting the ‘Buy Now’ button on Amazon, consider if the product is available locally. Yes, it’s so much easier to hit the button and you can go back to that soon, but right now, we need all the help we can get right here. The bump in toilet paper sales won’t be enough to weather this storm.
I don’t think anybody really knows if this is going to be a blip that we remember through hysterical memes for the next five years or something that will truly slow the economic progress we’ve made over the past five years, but we can’t leave anything to chance. We’ve got to keep the pedal down.
So here is our official statement:
The Grand Junction Economic Partnership is monitoring the situation closely. We recommend that you avoid large crowds, stay home if you feel sick and wash your hands. We also challenge you to help minimize the damage by shopping local. Keep your dollars in Mesa County.
The Western Colorado Economic Summit is still scheduled for April 24 from 8:00-1:30pm at CMU with a number of great speakers and break out sessions on issues specific to our region. Ticket sales are far ahead of where we were this time last year and we expect a sold out crowd for the third year in a row. Get your ticket at www.gjep.org/wces.