More than 300 community members gathered today at the Grand Junction Economic Partnership's Annual Meeting. GJEP focused on the future of the local economy, and ways to attract new businesses to the area, while enabling existing businesses to grow.
Kelly Flenniken, executive director of GJEP, said being proactive is the key to growing the local economy.
"We really do want to be the master of our destiny, we want to captain our own ship," Flenniken said. "We need to figure out the ways we can generate new business in town, create those primary jobs and figure out ways in which we can get ourselves out there."
Flenniken said GJEP is actively recruiting new businesses to the area, with a focus on five key industries: aviation, energy, healthcare, IT and outdoor gear manufacturing.
Governor John Hickenlooper, the event's keynote speaker, said proper marketing and branding of the Western Slope will be essential towards reaching these goals.
"Branding is a basic element to how you grow a business, and places are no different," he said.
Marketing the area includes promoting its quality of living, he said, to attract people to the area not just for a career move, but for a better way of life. In doing so, it will attract entrepreneurs to the area and entice Colorado Mesa University students to stay in Grand Junction after graduation, rather than relocating elsewhere for jobs.
"Businesses that are located where young, talented kids want to be are going to do better and outperform other businesses," Hickenlooper said.
Hickenlooper cited Mesa County's drop in unemployment from 9.6 percent to 8.1 percent as evidence for GJEP's positive contributions to the local economy.
"It shows GJEP is doing just what it's supposed to be doing," he said. "They are creating jobs, they are helping people expand their businesses, and they re helping improve the quality of life for the City of Grand Junction and for the County."