Christi interviews Robin Brown, the Executive Director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership (GJEP). Robin shares her history as a helicopter pilot in the Army, her numerous careers, and her love of Grand Junction. They also discuss the role of GJEP and the business and economic outlook of the Grand Valley. To find out more about the work that GJEP does, visit www.gjep.org. Please note that this episode was recorded in early March 2020, before the COVID-19 outbreak.
The full circle podcast, compelling interviews and incredible tales from Colorado's Western slope, from the mountains to the desert Christi Reece, and her team here from the movers, shakers, and characters of the Grand Valley and the surrounding mountain towns that make the Western slope, the place we all love. You'll learn. You'll laugh. You'll love with the full circle. All right , welcome everybody. We are here at the full circle podcast today with the executive director of the grand junction economic partnership. Miss Robin Brown, mrs. Robin Brown. Thanks for having me. Thanks for being here, Robin . So today I want to hear a little bit about your background, how you got to grand junction , uh, how you got to be involved with the economic partnership of grand junction and , uh, what you see coming for our future. Cause that's what everybody wants to know when they talk to you right now , what's going on with our economy. What's it going to look like in a year and five years in 10 years. So , uh , we'll do a little bit of Nostradamus there. All right . So , uh, you have read , uh , excuse me, you have led a really interesting life and I, I love talking to you about your past before you came to grand junction. And I don't know how much you'd like to share with this , but tell us a little bit about what you did before you came to grand junction. So I , um , I'm an army brat and so grew up moving every two years all over the United States and my dad was in the army. And then when I , um, went to college, the , the natural path for someone from the military of military family was to , uh, I went to college on an ROTC scholarship and to the army paid for me to go to college. And then I, when I graduated, I owed four years. So I ended up spending eight years in the army as a helicopter pilot. I loved the army. Did you know that you wanted to be an aviator? No. Um , no. And it's funny because I always feel a little bit spoiled. Cause I, I served with lots of people who it was their lifelong dream and I know lots of people who was their dream and they weren't unable to fly, but , uh, the way that RDC works is your senior year. You, they give you a list of branches and you, you, you set a priority. So you pick your first, second, third choice. And , um, my grades weren't as strong as they probably should have been. And so I didn't expect to get aviation cause that's kind of the, one of the coveted ones. Um , but surprisingly I did. So it was a total surprise my senior year and it was awesome. I loved it. Fantastic. And um, so then after military, yep . So , um, I served eight years and then , uh, and the only thing that I've mentioned about this, cause it's kind of interesting as my first four years was before nine 11 fall right in the middle and you know, the world obviously changed, but the military really changed. And so my first four years was, I always describe it as really fun. We played army and my lap , my last four years was not as much fun. We really were. Um, we weren't playing anymore . And so I did two tours to Iraq and then I got out in Oh five, which now is a million years ago. Um, and then, and my husband was also helicopter pilot and we moved back to Oregon where he was from, lived there for four years. We weren't really in Oregon. And then we landed in grand junction in 2010 with the energy industry. So my husband works for oil and gas. And you had it in between. So when you left Oregon , uh, what , what were you doing for work? So I had been a , um, obviously in the army, I was a strategic planner when I got out of the army. I worked for a lobby group , uh , veterans lobbying organization, doing strategic planning. Um, I had , I had done a lot of different things that all, all was in play in the planning. And so when I landed in grand junction, we had two really small kids. I wanted to work. I didn't want to work full time. So trying to figure out what to do with myself. Um, and I kind of looked at around where I could put my planning background. And so I hung out my shingle as a wedding planner. So for two years , uh , maybe three years I was a wedding planner. Um, and that took off pretty quickly, but you work your butt off as a wedding planner and it's always it's all the weekends and right. It was , uh , it was really hard. Um, but, and then that led to the Avalon. I think there's lots of, yes. And so the way I always say grand junction is like the easiest town to , um, if you, if you work hard, it's just such a friendly, easy town to meet people that it will lead to connections that , that worked your way. If I had drawn a line in 2010 and said, I want to be the executive director of the grand junction economic partnership, that would've sounded ridiculous. And even, I think two and a half years ago, I thought I would have thought that sounded ridiculous. Um, but yeah , so I was a wedding planner. I threw apart, I ended up throwing a party for a friend and that friend , um, had the Avalon theater foundation was hiring a development director at that time to do the Avalon cornerstone project, which was the renovation. It was $9 million renovation. And addition to the Avalon , uh, I , she said, are you interested in this job? I realized it would be a great way to know people to get to know people. I think most, a lot of the community didn't think it would ever happen. And I think a lot of people thought that we tear down the Avalon. Um, and so it was a really great opportunity to meet the community fundraise support, a really awesome cause. And three years later in 2014, we , um , did the grand reopening the Avalon that we know now. And I saw you last night. It was really fun. I'm tired that day . I'll be too , when that base started with the opening band, I was like, I'm not sure I'm going to make it through this , uh , very loud. It shows like that though, where I get so excited because that's, you know, that was the story we told people before the renovation, like we will get great shows and we will, it's an economic driver and people will come downtown and they'll go out to dinner and they'll stay in our hotels, plus all the, you know, the arts and culture exposure that we'll have for our kids and our families. And so it's true. It is , um, everything that we hoped would happen has happened at the Avalon. There's just been a great lineup of shows this year. I love it. It's fantastic. Yep . So after that, so that we'll have other yep . So the grand opening was in 2014 and then at that time, the woman who ran all the downtown events, George Rossman , if most people know George , uh, she decided had enough after seven years of , um , running downtown events. And so then I stepped into that role for the DDA. Um, and so I managed all the downtown events, which was really fun and it was a kind of a critical time in that we had been doing events the same way for a really long time and they all just needed kind of an uplift. And so that was really fun to just kind of reinventing. So like farmer's market and what else. So farmer's market is a good example. When I started, we only had, I think, five farmers , actual farmers in the farmer's market. And it was , um, even I was really critical that there weren't enough farmers in the farmer's market. And by the time I left, we had, I think, 17 farmers. Um, the big the , we did the , the car show was always fun. We actually didn't change that one at all, that it wasn't broke . We didn't fix it. Uh , car shows always fun. Um, the big one that we did was the art and jazz Fest, which I know there are still people in this community furious with me because we changed the art and jazz Fest too . Um, the downtown music festival. And then , so we did that for one year as the downtown music festival, which was the first time we did the whole, I mean, we blocked off all of main street , um, for four blocks and we had three stages and the whole thing was a Bureau garden, which was really fun. So we had multiple bars and multiple stages and it was a three day event. Um, but then after the first year, the grand junction, off-road the mountain bike race moved and it was gonna hit like back-to-back weekends. And we try not to, you know, being downtown. We tried not to close main street too often cause it does hurt some businesses. Um , and so what we did was we ended up combining them. And so we combined the downtown music festival with the grand junction off-road um, and it was just a blast. That's been a really fun event , um, that I think changed a lot of locals minds on how cool we were. Cause I think before that we did not feel very cool. And then that event was kind of one of those game changers for us. Yeah. It was a really great event. Yeah . And , um , and you had a PR company, so then , um, yeah , we had some great people in this community who , uh, specifically I'll call it. Josh Niernberg came to me and said, you should open up a PR company. We need someone that's doing PR. And really nobody was doing a true public relations. And the idea was not marketing within the Valley, but public relations on an outside of Mesa County, promoting Mesa County outside of Mesa County, specifically to the front range. And so , um, I said, I don't know anything about PR and Josh said, let's figure it out. And we did. So I opened Brown House PR and Josh was a great , um , client that allowed me to do that. Uh, but I quickly realized after about a year, which I had some really great clients was to promote a region. You have to promote the whole region. You can't just promote three companies in the region over and over again. And so , um, I saw the need for, and at the same time the North star report had happened. And then, I don't know if you remember the in 2014, we had a feasibility study done on the area , uh, economic development, feasibility study. And at the time they surveyed people in grand junction, salt Lake city, and Denver on what is your impression of grand junction? What do you think of the area? And I expected the locals to have nice things to say in the Denver and salt Lake crowd have negative things to say, but the exact opposite was true. Denver and salt Lake both had very positive feelings about grand junction. It had tended , it seems like it actually, it surprised me that it had such a good reputation. People outside the area loved visiting. It was affordable as beautiful, but the people from grand junction, just the responses were horrible. And I quickly realized we just didn't have a lot of pride. And so at that point I launched and that was, and by the way, that was not the experience that my family, we love living here. Um , you know, we have kids and we have a really great lifestyle here and we spend a lot of time outside and , um, I mean, we could have found a group of people that would, would, would have responded totally differently to that. There's a lot of people that love it here and love the beauty. But you know , sometimes when you open things up to , uh, the entire public, you get a lot of naysayers. Yup . Well, and I think that there's definitely , um, there's a negative kind of a cynical , um, vein that runs through the Valley sometimes. And we just constantly put ourselves down or we're not good enough and we're not. And you know, it's like when the, the national park conversation was happening with the Colorado national monument, the biggest, there's a lot of reasons that we shouldn't turn it into a national park, but not being big enough or beautiful enough, shouldn't be one of those reasons. And that was the reason that I heard most. Um, so what I did was I decided we needed a regional lifestyle magazine and I had the entire purpose for that magazine was I wanted three things to happen. I wanted people to learn about their community, feel pride in their community and then get engaged in the community. And so I launched spoken Lawson magazine , um, and that was really well received. And the community has loved it. I only put out two issues before I ended up surprisingly in the job that I have now. Um, and Cat Mayer took it over for a year and a half and it was simply, it was recently sold to a woman named Kim fuller and she manages it and she's done continue to do a really good job with it. Yeah. It's great. Yeah. Publication, thank you for starting that. Well, it's , that was the point, was it , there's so many great stories in the Valley and they just needed , we needed a venue to tell them. And so I love the history and that you, you did so many businesses because it gives you a really interesting perspective, being an economic development director in our town, you have a lot of experience in a lot of different areas. Well, it was really interesting because when Kristi Pollard, who was my predecessor left and went to Denver and there's nothing more ironic than when Denver steals your rural economic developer, my phone actually blew up and I had tons of people that I respected, kept saying, you should apply for that job, which I thought was crazy. Cause I knew nothing about economic development. Um , and what I was told repeatedly is you can learn the tools of the job. You don't need to know economic development. You have to be a problem solver. You have to have passion for the community, which is absolutely true because you're selling the community. Um , and so when I started to look at what the mission of GJ was and what the mission of my PR company, they were really close. And so , um, was a completely unexpected opportunity. And I was so nervous about it because I just thought it was such a stretch. And you know, that whole thing, they say, women, men tend to go for jobs that even if they're not qualified, but women have to be a hundred percent qualified before they'll take that kind of leap. This was one of those things where I was just really unsure. Um , and I ended up as a finalist and the other two people were , um, longtime economic developers from other communities and they ended up hiring me. And it's funny cause very quickly, I mean, within like three months I realized I was in my dream job and I would never have been able to identify that or anytime before then. That's so great. What's interesting too, is I think that everybody that knows you in this community knew more than you did. You were the right person for the job. Yeah . And that's one very flattering. It's also very humbling. Um, but I do love my job and I take it very seriously. I have a lot of fun with it as well. And um, I do think it's really important. You know, it's a diet , I love serving in army. I loved the army and I love serving my country. I was really proud to do that. And it's taken me 13 years to find something that fulfills me the way the military did. And so I feel like I'm serving my community and I feel very passionate about it and I'm very proud of it. It's awesome. Thank you. Thank you. Um, so when the opportunity arose, what, what did you think were the pressing issues facing up at the time? I mean, Kristi Pollard was a , uh, a powerhouse. She did a great job and were very well respected, big shoes to fill. So I think my, the first thing I tackled , um, was getting people to understand what we did. So I even, I, you know, I had lived here at that time. I think eight years I've been here 10 years now. Um, and I didn't fully understand what GGF did and I was pretty engaged in the community and I didn't really understand why it was different than what the incubator did or the chamber of commerce or any of these other economic development partners that we have. And , and that was going to be one of my questions for you that I'm sure a lot of people in the community now still are a little confused about the different roles. Yep . And so , uh , what I did for the first well, and what I did almost immediately is we, I , in the paper we write a monthly column. I write a monthly column in the paper that previously had been used to , um, have events and updates and , um, kind of highlight some of our investors and I completely transformed it into an economic development one-on-one um, and so kind of laying out over the course of the next year, what we did, how it fit in with the other organizations , um, and then also helping us as all the different partners to speak with one voice, which I think we've done a really good job with. Um, it's still really hard to communicate with the public no matter what, but I definitely, you know, a major focus was to explain what we did. And so I speak to a lot of civic organizations. I give a presentation , you kind of an overview of what we're doing, what our projects are. Um, and I just, I spent a lot of time talking what we're doing , uh , but I think that's served us well because there's definitely been more clarity on our role as the economic development agency for the County , um , how it fits in with the chambers of commerce, the business incubator, CMU, the airport. Um, it also, you know, the , the tide had begun to turn and the economy was improving. So it's been, we've had some really exciting wins at GGB over the last couple of years that we hadn't had previously simply because the economy was still so sluggish. And I want to talk about some of those wins, but going back to all the different agencies in town that are promoting grand junction in a variety of ways, it seems like you have good interagency communication with everybody at this point. So we, yes, and that the relationship building was really important to me as well as that we have a lot of resources in the Valley and they need to work together in order for us all to be successful. I joke that all I really do is talk about what everybody else is doing. And that is actually true. To some extent, I'm constantly talking about our partners at the workforce center and what they're doing, right. If you come to grand junction, let me tell you about all the people that are here that can help you. Yep . And so that is, you know, I'm constantly talking about the success at the airport. I'm constantly talking about CMU and its growth, and that's a huge draw for a lot of employers because of the workforce development piece. So , um, so, and again, building those relationships and really kind of streamlining us all working together, there's a lot of public projects that I, you know, again, another joke is that the same five people sit at the table for any of these public projects. And so making sure that these projects are , um, progressing the way they should be in that we're all collaborating on them. So , um, and it helps when things are improving to have those, you know, those relationships, it's easy to have good relationships when you have wins and successes. Um, so building those relationships and then just better telling the story of economic development in the Valley have been, were , were two of my first original goals. Uh, learning the job , uh, actually was fairly simple. It really is about promoting what we're doing. And it's a lot of storytelling and narrative about life here in a truthful way. Cause obviously we don't want to promise someone something and then they get here and realize it's not accurate. And they're unhappy. We realized really fast. I realized really quickly that getting the actual win when we get a company to move to the area is the very beginning. I thought that was the end. And you know , we got the wind off , we're done. That's very wrong. It's actually the very beginning. And then we have to make sure they have all the resources they need to be successful. It's extremely hard to move a company it's hard to move employees. And so making sure they have everything they need to be successful was a , is another thing that we've worked really hard on. So what are you most proud of , uh, with your tenure at GJ? Oh, that's , uh , uh, that's a tough one. Um, you know, the BLM headquarters , uh, was kind of, it was so shocking even to us. I mean, I had been walking around the community for months , uh, saying of course the BLM headquarters should come here and I believed it. I didn't, I don't know if I really, it would happen though, just cause there's so much involved in so much politics, so many politics and there's so many pieces to that. And so when that announcement came, I, that one , I was floored and that's really exciting. And um , now that they're coming and they're moving here, it's really great to see them , uh, they've realized how affordable it is. Um, and they really like it here. And so they've gone, you know, originally it was 27 employees. It's up to 40 now. Um, and so that's been really fun to see that transition and to be the home of the BLM headquarters, you know, Rocky Mounts holds a special place in my heart because that was , uh , it was so fast. And , um, it started with a phone call from Bobby Noyes, the owner, he had read a story about our riverfront project and I was, I mean, this is not an exaggeration. I was so excited about the phone call I got in my car and drove to Boulder. He's walking into his building and his commitment right there. Well, it was just, I , I think he thought I was crazy and he was being nice. And um, I don't think he actually believed at all. He was going to come to grand junction, but I knew if we could get him out for a visit, that's what, that's the thing. When we can get people on the ground in grand junction, it completely changes their perspective, especially somebody that likes to ride bikes. Yeah , absolutely. Come down here and let us show you around. And what was really fun with Bobby was , um, the, so the riverfront project was under construction of it . There was nothing but dirt and dirt movers down there. You could not see what the park would become, but we stood down there and I described it and I could realize he could see it like he could. And to me, I was like, Oh man, it doesn't look good. It looks really ugly down here right now. But I could talking to him, I could see that he really recognized what we were doing as a community, that we were really making an investment in outdoor rec , um, and that he could be a part of that. And so very quickly he announced that he would come and that's been really exciting. It's been really hard for him and we did not fully appreciate how hard that would be, but , um , we've made it and his building is going up if you drive by last Colonia. So it's really exciting and we hope that he'll be open and operating. I think late summer is what he's thinking. That's so fantastic. Um, so what do you think lies ahead for grand junction? Well, short term and longterm , I mean, what are you excited about that's going on right now that you can share? Obviously there's a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes that you can't tell the general public, but well, for one thing we see continued growth. So , uh , third quarter, 2019 was the first time in grand Junction's history where the number of oil and gas jobs declined , but our economy continued to grow. And that has never happened before. Normally we are so tied and dependent upon the energy industry that we feel it immediately. Um, and so we're cautiously optimistic and that , um, we'll continue to see job growth and our economy grow despite the downturn of the energy industry. Um, and we always, I mean, we love energy and we'd love to see those jobs come back. We just don't want to be so dependent on them. You'll hear a lot of people say, and I agree with them. We want it to be the icing on the cake, not the cake. And so we've added a lot of jobs. I think manufacturing is probably our biggest, right. I mean, healthcare is our biggest employer, but the largest job growth has probably been in manufacturing , uh , tack is right behind it. That was a total surprise, I think three years ago, if you said we want to grow a tech industry, you would have been laughed out of the room. We really do have a growing tech industry now. And when you really think about it, it makes a lot of sense because if you move to Denver for the Colorado lifestyle, and then suddenly you realize you're stuck in a really expensive city and you spent a lot of time in your car, and if you had the ability to work from anywhere you pick up and you come to grand junction and we're seeing that over and over again. And so whether it's location, neutral employees or these software developers or startups that can work from anywhere, they're , they're choosing the lifestyle and the low cost of living that we can provide while still having the Colorado experience. And, and speaking of short term , uh , announcement today that StarTek was closing and laying off about 150 people, which I was surprised. I, I don't know if there were any warning signs there, but so they StarTek used to have , uh , quite a few Colorado locations over the last five years. They've slowly shut them down. So I don't know. I mean, I wasn't expecting it, but looking at how they've pulled out of the state, they were recent. They were, they were acquired by an overseas company a couple of years ago. And I think what's happening is they're moving those jobs out of state, out of the country. Um, you know, trying to put a spin on a layoff like that positive spin on that. The truth is there's never a better time. There's never been a better time to find a job in grand junction. So those employees have great opportunities available. I talked to Curtis Englehart at the Mesa County Workforce Center this morning, as soon as I heard. And they have already reached out to StarTek's HR team, and they're going to get in there and meet with all those employees and show them what's available in terms of training retraining and moving them into other jobs that exist. So many local companies are adding jobs. I mean, we're talking about hundreds of jobs that I think that should, those, those people want the opportunity. I think there's lots of great opportunities for them. And we have a lot of building going on not only single family, residential, but apartments over behind the Walmart they're building. Um, Zach Fritsch is looking at building down to the riverfront and we've got all the industrial and commercial things going on with not only Jen Taylor's project , but , uh, over at Las Colonias. So a lot of room for businesses to come here and bring employees and attract employees from other communities, as well as the people that already live here. So I , I was panicked about housing. I got to think in one day, if all of these prospects that we're working with actually come to fruition, where will these people live? And I am now, I am now not panicked anymore there right now, inventory is really, really low. And , um , there is not, especially in there's . The rental market is pretty much nonexistent and multifamily or high density , multifamily, apartments, condos, people really want , um , those options don't exist today, but they're all coming online. So I think that within the next 12 to 18 months, the market will balance itself out. There'll be a lot more options, especially in the rental market , um, for people. And so I'm feeling a lot better about the future of the housing market. You know, when you look at our economy, all this growth that's happening. And again, I talk to people all day long. And so there's , um, kind of the, you know, not scientific feedback that I get that just is when you talk to companies that keep adding jobs and keep adding divisions. And when you look at companies that are like corporations that have divisions here, and they are moving divisions from other parts of the country into our part of the , uh , into our part of this, like they're expanding their footprint here as opposed to other areas. Um, I just see, you know, anecdotally, there's a lot of that growth happening, but then we're also always looking at data. And so sales tax revenues and lodging tax revenue and job growth and population growth, and all of those things are happening, which is really great. My favorite data though, is the airport. And it's because most of the data that we're always looking at is two quarters behind us. And so we're always looking back. Um , but the airport you can see because the airlines forecast their flights like six to eight months out. And so they don't do that on a whim. They're using really hard data on what they expect to happen , um , to , to forecast those flights. And so what we see at the airport is increase in flights, increase in seats , um, and so , uh , increase in load capacities. And so it's really exciting to see the anticipated continued growth. And so one of the really cool numbers from the airport is like last year, I think we averaged 800 seats a day into and out of the airport. And this summer, if you look at the , the load plans or the flight schedule, we're going to average about a thousand seats a day, unless this coronavirus guts us by outside of that continued growth, really positive things coming, we're seeing lots of local companies make increased investment in their facilities. Um, and same thing at the airport. And you help with that too. You don't just help bring correct people to town. Yep . So we , we primarily, you know, if you want to , our mission, we, we, so, and the other thing is a lot of people think we're just the grand junction economic partnership. That is our name. Cause it's the MSA, but we're the economic development agency for Mesa County, grand junction, fruit, and Palisades. They all pay us to do their economic development work. Um, uh, what was the other, I got off track there. Oh , Oh , well, I got to , I digress and I lost my gut on a tangent there. Um, Oh, but our mission. So we , we do a couple things. One, we recruit new business into town , um, and that's to diversify the economy. We focus on primary jobs, which is above the average annual wage. So they're usually benefited full time jobs that we focus on. Uh, we love manufacturing. We spend a lot of time on that. We love aerospace manufacturing. That's a place that we're, I'm really hopeful for some big wins here in the next year. Um, and then we also help local businesses expand. And this has been really fun. Um, obviously the last couple of years just cause so many local businesses who are such an, you know, the , our neighbors and everyone, they are adding jobs and expanding and adding divisions. And so we've seen some pretty cool expansions at FHC and Fruto is added a whole new division, which was really great. I think that's 40 new jobs course tech is adding a whole new division somewhere between 40 and 60 jobs. There's just a number of companies that continue to grow and make investments in the community. And we love that. And then the third thing we do is work on public projects to make us a more business friendly place. Things like , um, the foreign trade zone , uh, things like the air service task force , which is the whole goal of that is to spend the lodging tax on , um, minimum revenue guarantees to get more flights to our airport , uh, the, the customs office and foreign trade zone. Did I already say that? Yep . Um, so things like that. So public projects that, that benefit our local businesses. So thinking 10, 20 years down the road, just big picture, what do you see grand junction looking like? So I think that we will continue to have managed growth. So, you know, I get a lot of people are very fearful of growth and they see what's happened in other parts of the state. And so I get a lot of people that's out , we're going to turn into Boulder and I can promise you, we will never turn into Boulder. Um, but I think we'll continue to have very managed growth. The kind that we can keep up with, stay ahead of our road infrastructure. Um, stay ahead of housing , uh, get, we do need more money for schools that needs to be addressed, but I think we'll see it see that growth in a really diversified way. You know, two years ago when I started, we had these seven industries and we focused on these seven industries that we wanted to recruit in. And what's happened in the last few years as we've really gotten away from focusing on any industry. And what we focus on is , um, owner operated businesses under 50 employees. So we want companies that want to be here, want to be engaged. Uh, if the owner of his or her company gets up every day and goes to work at their business, they care about the quality of life and where that business is, is , uh, usually small businesses , uh , tend to care more about their employees just by virtue of just being small. Um, and so they tend to be much more involved , uh , uh, involved businesses in the community, just like your businesses. And so we want those types of companies. It doesn't really matter the industry. We want engaged people that love being here love our quality of life. Uh, we don't want people that want to come here and change us. We want people that appreciate what we have. We'll , you know, this morning was the community impact council breakfast, which if you don't know what the CAC is, it's all the nonprofits that get together and coordinate what they do. And it's just as amazing group of people. Because if you look at all the nonprofits that we have in the community and all the service clubs, they're all made up of business owners and there's , this is just such an incredibly generous community. And so we want to recruit in businesses that want to be like that, that want to give back and be part of the community. And so , um, so again, so in years, I think we'll just be a more diversified , um, version of ourself today. I hope we have a few more restaurants and some better shopping. Yes. I'm with you on that. I think the mall will be complete . I know them all will be completely renovated cause we met with them last week. That's really exciting. I think they're putting about 45 million into the mall, which we need, and it's going to be beautiful, like a front range shopping experience. Um, I think CMU will be one of the premier universities. I was on the campus this week and , uh , it just continues to amaze me. Yeah . I saw the bike parks and the new hotel that they're building and the is really cool. Uh , well , you know, sometimes our, I always say like our isolation , um, and our distance from Denver is a, both a blessing and a curse. You know, it is devastating every time they close [inaudible] , it hurts our economy and we're so far away, we're forgotten about a lot, but at the same time, it allows us to be really creative and that whole, like, you know, pull your up , pull yourself up from your bootstraps type of mentality. And when we have a problem with a business, if a business is really having trouble hiring people, it is so easy to call up president foster and say, Hey, we're having trouble in this industry. And this type of person, we need this, you know, this is the kind of training they need and they can figure it out. Okay. What does that a six week certification? Is it an associates ? Is it a four year degree? Incredible. It's the fact that we can do that as amazing. And I've seen such a change in the processes that our community goes through in order to make change in the last 10 years, but really just in the last five years, the processes have gotten so much smoother. I mean, so there's a lot, you know, it's , I joke that we're , um, we're finally like putting on our big boy pants. Like we , we did business as a , the way a small town does business for a long time and we're, we're, you know, we're now changing the way we see ourselves. You know, we , we, I don't think we really, in the past have seen ourselves as the largest metropolitan area in Western Colorado, which we are. Um, and I kind of consider us the Western capital of the state and our success means the success for all the small rural communities around us. And so really owning that and being , um, a champion for Western Colorado is, has been kind of a shift that's really exciting and benefiting, not just us, but all of the communities around us. Um, a lot of collaboration in that way, collaboration between counties, but again, owning the fact that we are kind of this Western capital and how do we do business that way? And it's kind of like a , um, you know, it's a more sophisticated version of ourselves. So winding down , um, if you interested, we have a little red wine here. So just a few more questions. Um, if , uh, I mean, we've talked a lot about the benefits of bringing a business, moving to grand junction, living here and the way things are going and the momentum that we've got. But , um, we were talking on my team this morning about elevator speeches. So , um, if, if you got in an elevator with somebody and they said, what do you do? And you said, I'm the executive director for grand junction economic partnership. And they said, what is it? What is that? Or why , why would I want to move to grand junction? What's your, what are you saying ? So I think if you're the answer I think is that , um, if you want to do business in a place that has big city amenities with a small town vibe, but that's us, we have immediate access to all the things you need and would have in a larger city, but you don't have to live in a city. Um , I also constantly tell people and it sounds so simple. Like it sounds like it's a nothing fact, but it actually, the fact that it's really easy to live in grand junction is one of the greatest attributes we have. It is easy. It is not hard, but it's easy to get around you don't, we don't have the stress that larger cities have. It is easy, you know , to get into a house that you like. It is easy to get the resources you need. People are really friendly. Um, and when I say that, I think a lot of times people just skip over that, but ease of life and really equates to a better mental state, you know, Mara , we hired a woman from Denver who moved over and she was explaining to me that she was trying to explain to her parents in Denver, that she is better off mentally living in grand junction because just the stress of being in a large city and all the people and how hard it is to get places and, you know, and you really want to leave your house on the weekend and fight the traffic well, and karaoke here is a lot more fun. Yes . That helps with the mental state much better. So, yeah, so I think that , um, you know, it is grand junction for everybody know , we had a prospect that came to town and she really wanted to see our mall. And I immediately knew that this was not gonna be a good fit for that business. And so you have to, you know, if that is, if shopping and that type of amenity is something that's really important to you, probably not. You're probably not going to be very happy here. Another topic I wanted to bring up, which is near and dear to both of our hearts is parking downtown. This is just like , this is my third parking ticket this week. So I got a citation today, a warning today, which was nice. I think he felt bad because he's got me twice last week. Well, Robin and I are leading the charge we're supporting downtown [inaudible] yeah . We're paying for employees with our tickets. We need more 10 hour parking downtown. Cause it's really hard for business owners to find a place to park, especially, especially on there's tons of open four hours that nobody's using. Yeah . And to go and repay the meter, even though we have this nice app it's pain, but then it runs out or I rock , I go and come back multiple times or I know I'm leaving and then I don't end up leaving. Our schedules are so yeah . I just want a parking pass that lets me park everywhere. I know that's too much to ask them . That's not yeah. Who can make that happen? Um, okay . Just a few , uh, questions and , uh, wrote about road biking or mountain biking. Neither. I'm a runner neither. Okay. Trailer road, trail. What's your favorite trail? Oh , um , so running, I love running pedagogies . Yeah. Especially down. Oh , it's like really fast. And really, I think it kind of depends on my, what kind of , I'm not in very good shape right now. So the short trails I used to love Andy's loop. Right. And now it's like, Ugh , it's really, really long , uh, intersections or roundabouts. I love roundabouts. It's like you're doing that roundabout. And the Redlands is the greatest thing that ever happened. I think that's wonderful. I can't wait till they landscape it. I can't wait until people learn to not stop on their way into the roundabout. Just look, just keep going. You only have to worry about merging , uh , monument or Mesa. Um, Oh , that's a tough one. I guess it depends on what we're doing. If I want to take my dog, obviously the Mesa, it's my pet peeve with the monument. I know it's right there. I live right against the monument. I can take my dog there. I feel like there should be an exception I buy . I'm kind of with you on that too. Cause it's frustrating. I, my favorite some of my favorite trails, I don't go on cause I'm like I have to take the dog for a walk . So I'm also a skier. And so I love Mesa. The Mesa Robin . It's been a pleasure. Thanks Christi. Thank you so much for joining us. This is Christi Reece with Christi Reece group and the full circle podcast. I want to think Robin Brown, the director executive director of grand junction economic partnership. And if anybody wants to get in touch with you because they want to move their business or they need help with their business here in town, how can they get in touch with you Robin ? So our website is GJEP, grand junction, economic partnership.org. And my email is Robin R O B I N at [inaudible] dot org. Everything's on there. Right? Thank you. Have a great day. This is Christi Reece, checking out. Thanks for listening.