The Grand Junction Economic Partnership (GJEP) – an economic development organization that works with businesses interested in locating in Grand Junction and surrounding Grand Valley – says 15% of its total prospects are from the tech industry, which is only third behind the outdoor industry (33%) and manufacturing (20%). That 15%, however, doesn’t tell the full story, since so many tech businesses, such as software developers, exist under the radar, working from home or a coworking space and building a product that is marketed beyond western Colorado.
Grand Junction’s tech industry is predominately startups and small business with 1-5 employees, but those companies have the ability to grow into larger companies. Kaart Group, which contributes to Open Source GIS data throughout the world, has quintupled in the past year with 140+ employees, 73 of whom work in Kaart’s downtown Grand Junction headquarters. As a result of that growth, GJEP decided to dive deeper and brought on a new staff member late last year to help tech companies and entrepreneurs relocate – and to better understand how to encourage and grow a tech and entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Working with a coalition of local tech companies, the Grand Junction Economic Partnership created a Tech Action Plan with specific goals, actions and a timeline to move the initiative forward. The actions of that plan fall under communications (branding and messaging), recruitment and growth, in order to better coordinate efforts across the valley that will grow and support the local tech industry.
An interesting side note is that the manufacturing industry in western Colorado is also growing and the really sweet spot in terms of jobs and economic impact is where manufacturing and tech overlap into advanced manufacturing across many industry sectors such as healthcare, IT, aerospace and outdoor recreation.
For entrepreneurs who can mostly work from anywhere, Grand Junction stands out as a desirable place to establish a headquarters and grow a business. A low cost of living combined with a high qualify of life draws those looking for the Colorado experience without the high prices that come with the Denver metro area and the mountain resort towns. Grand Junction is home to Colorado Mesa University, with an enrollment of 11,000 and programs that include civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering, as well as computer science and cybersecurity, creating a talent pipeline for the jobs that appear to be the fastest growing in the region. A regional airport with 16 daily direct flights to 7 destinations means that local companies can reach the world and compete on a global scale.
One of the most exciting initiatives to come out of the tech collaboration is the launch of a new event: Techstars Startup Week West Slope on June 5-8, 2019 in Grand Junction. Receiving enormous support from the Denver Startup Week staff and a number of front-range tech companies that want to help grow tech in western Colorado, the Startup Week will bring entrepreneurs, local leaders and companies together to network and build opportunity around a community’s unique entrepreneurial identity and will include presentations, panels, workshops and social events, all crafted by west slope locals.
For more information on Techstars Startup Week West Slope, visit westslope.startupweek.com.