A Blueprint For Success In Rural Colorado

At least 17 communities across Colorado will be involved in initiatives that include branding, coworking, film production, outdoor recreation and tourism promotion.

By the BF Staff
From the September/October 2017 Issue

The Rocky Mountain State is moving forward with an ambitious program to jumpstart development in rural areas of the state. The program, known as Blueprint 2.0, leverages state partnerships and specialized resources to address the economic development goals of rural areas of Colorado. Launched in 2015, Blueprint 2.0 is a bottom-up effort to turn regional feedback on local economic needs into a statewide set of initiatives to advance the economies of rural communities.

Shovel ready sites available in Fruita, CO with a view.

The second round of Blueprint 2.0 offered six new initiatives based on participant feedback and economic opportunities. Each initiative includes services not previously provided by the state and leverages state resources and partnerships with organizations outside the state to provide technical assistance to regions that expressed an interest in pursuing the initiatives.

A total of 17 communities across Colorado will be involved in initiatives that include branding, coworking, film production, outdoor recreation and tourism promotion. Grand Junction is among the latest communities selected to implement initiatives under state economic development efforts. Grand Junction and Grand Lake were selected for the creativity lab initiative under Colorado Blueprint 2.0.

Stephanie Copeland, executive director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, announced the latest initiatives. “OEDIT is committed to building rural economies through a variety of innovative programs and initiatives,” Copeland said. “We are excited to announce the communities that will benefit from the second round of Blueprint 2.0 initiatives and look forward to working with communities across the state.”

Colorado Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne said the initiatives reflect efforts to meet the needs of rural regions. “We congratulate today’s recipients and look forward to seeing how these regions leverage the new services and resources to help strengthen their economies and communities.”

Meridith Marshal, a senior manager for regional development, said, “We are excited to be helping communities address everything from placemaking and branding to housing and economic development. We had great success with the first round of Blueprint 2.0, and we are looking forward to the second round of initiatives and how they will advance rural Colorado.”

In 2016, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade led 27 initiatives during the first round of the Blueprint 2.0 initiatives. The original blueprint was developed as an economic development strategy for Colorado.


Colorado is a magnet for new and expanding businesses. The state boasts the #1 economy according to U.S. News & World Report, is #1 in labor supply per CNBC and is the 5th best state for well-being according to Gallup-Healthways. Whether looking at quantifiable data or quality of place, we’re fortunate to offer the best of the best in the Centennial State—and particularly on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains, where relative anonymity allows businesses and residents to enjoy all that Colorado has to offer, minus the high costs, competition and congestion surrounding its capital.

Colorado Mesa University is a comprehensive regional higher academic institute. (Photo: Ken Redding)

Traditionally known as “Colorado Wine Country” for its abundance of vineyards and orchards, and a hub for the Mountain West energy industry—the Mancos Shale in the local Piceance Basin holds 66 trillion cubic feet of shale natural gas per a 2016 assessment—Colorado’s Grand Valley is expanding upon its heritage in agriculture and oil & gas and attracting companies in outdoor recreation, healthcare, technology and manufacturing. These businesses are drawn to the region for its ample natural resources, low cost of operations and marvelous landscape.

“It’s the Colorado you were promised,” says Kristi Pollard, executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, the economic development agency that serves the Grand Valley. Here are 5 reasons Colorado’s Grand Valley should be at the top of your site relocation list:

An outdoor playground unlike any other. Colorado’s Grand Valley stretches from the world’s largest flat-top mountain (Grand Mesa) to the Utah border, encompassing Mesa County (pop: 150,000) and its three largest communities: Fruita, Grand Junction and Palisade. It’s no coincidence that all three are nominated for “best adventure town” by Elevation Outdoors—Fruita has earned the title for the last two consecutive years. The Grand Valley vista is pure Wild West, from rivers rolling through desert plains and towering red rocks to snowcapped mountains and emerald lakes surrounded by aspens and fir trees as far as the eyes can see. The area offers year-round outdoor recreation such as biking, hiking, hunting, fishing, water and winter sports. Quality of life may not be the first priority for site relocation, but the ability to offer a covetable, healthy lifestyle to employees and their families is essential in talent recruitment.

A tax holiday, just one of many business perks. In 2016, the Grand Valley was the first to offer businesses Colorado’s Rural Jump-Start tax credit program, which allows eligible businesses to operate free of both state and local taxes for 4-8 years, particularly in the fields of advanced technology and manufacturing. Participating companies form a partnership with Colorado Mesa University to source talent and fuel growth. The program allowed TSW Analytical, a leading forensics research corporation out of Australia, to open up its first North American headquarters last year. Another participant, KAART Group, doubled its staff and created a physical hub for tech companies in Western Colorado.

Local organizations, like the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, Business Incubator Center, local city management and chambers collaborate to offer tailor-made packages that include local, state and federal incentives suited for individual business. Most also qualify for multiple tax credits through the Colorado Enterprise Zone.

Affordable sites with a view. Like many locations in Colorado, the Grand Valley offers a juxtaposition of modern, industrial sites, historic downtown renovation projects and wide open land. What is unique about this area is that there’s a plethora of affordable sites with million-dollar views. In Fruita, an industrial park just minutes from downtown sits alongside the Colorado River with bike paths to the Kokopelli trailhead and lakefront, shovel-ready sites across from the Colorado National Monument.

In Grand Junction, work has just begun on a $30-million business and recreational development situated in Las Colonias, a riverfront public park in the heart of the city. The River District will offer 10-15 acres of build-to-suit plots specifically for businesses in the outdoor recreation industry that wish to R&R where they R&D. Bonsai Design, a 2017 Colorado Companies to Watch, will move its headquarters here next spring, complete with a signature aerial adventure course open to the public.

Accessible by air, rail and highway. Interstate 70 and U.S. Highway 50 run through the Grand Valley with over 100 freight and trucking companies offering distribution services in the area. Union Pacific Railroad operates two freight rails in the area and Grand Junction Regional Airport, a FAA Class I airport, with private, passenger and freight operations, offers direct daily flights to several major airport hubs. The airport provides access to a 10,500-foot main runway courtesy of locally based West Star Aviation—and construction on a new commercial runway recently entered the design phase.

Talent grows here. Colorado Mesa University, located in Grand Junction, is a regional public higher education institution offering liberal arts, professional, and technical programs at the master’s, bachelors, associate and certificate levels. Among its 13 departments, CMU offers several engineering programs in partnership with the University of Colorado—Boulder campus, comprehensive business and public administration programs, and hands-on technical training in numerous fields through the Western Colorado Community College. In partnership with CMU and the Mesa County Workforce Center, which offers professional placement and development, businesses in the Grand Valley have an effortless path to talent and growth.

If your business belongs in a place that delivers on the Colorado promise of opportunity, innovation and adventure, explore Colorado’s Grand Valley at www.grandvalleyco.com.