This article by Cilia Kohn originally published on CoBizMag.com on November 15, 2021
Prior to COVID-19, the rise of the digital economy was already paving way for more Americans to take their job out of a traditional office. Job growth in the digital economy grew over 30% from 2005 to 2018, making it the second-fastest growing industry in the country and the fourth largest contributor to the US GDP. Add in a global pandemic and many of us are not only choosing to work remote permanently, but we’re reconsidering where that remote location should be: someplace safe, someplace that feels off the grid but still offers plenty of amenities, someplace where you can breathe fresh air and enjoy the outdoors all year round.
If you’re one of the millions of Americans searching for a new place to work remote, consider a relocation to Grand Junction in Colorado’s Grand Valley. Here are five reasons why:
1. You won’t be alone.
Working from home can be lonely. Moving to a new community and working from home makes it especially hard to meet people, network and get involved. The Grand Junction Economic Partnership (GJEP) recognized a need to help integrate the influx of highly skilled remote workers moving to the area and created a “Welcome Wagon” program to do just that. Through the program, new residents are matched with local ambassadors that meet with them regularly over the course of a year to provide support, guidance and friendship. In addition, GJEP organizes regular events, from behind-the-scenes tours to guided hikes and happy hours, all aimed at building connections and allowing new residents to find their local tribe.
2. You’ll have more time (and money) to do the things you like.
Quality of life means something a bit different in western Colorado, where social distancing is our norm. 75% of our lands are public, providing us with immediate access to the outdoors and plenty of space to get outside, get away, and recreate. We spend 32% less time sitting in our cars than Front Range residents. That’s 32% more time that we spend on our skis, bikes, kayaks, trails, or on our couch.
With housing prices half of what they are in Denver, we also spend far less of our income on our housing. Grand Junction is the most affordable metropolitan area in Colorado, so you end up spending a lot less here, while enjoying a lot more free time.
3. We want you here.
We’ve been working to diversify our economy for a decade and have seen enormous growth in the outdoor recreation and tech industries. When we began to see jobs move permanently out of offices and into homes last year, we got busy figuring out how to import those jobs and the people doing them to Grand Junction.
We are one of the few communities working with companies that have received Colorado’s Location Neutral Employee (LONE) incentive, which pays businesses to hire remote employees living in areas like Grand Junction. We are also one of the first communities in Colorado to create a Remote Worker Plan to help us shift our economic development efforts and strategy to really think about remote workers and their impact on our community, diversification efforts and our economy. The Welcome Wagon was one result of that effort and so was the rise of multiple coworking spaces to support different industry groups and allow remote workers to not only move freely around Colorado’s Grand Valley, but across the whole Western Slope. And that’s just the start. We’re rethinking how we view infrastructure, workforce, incentives and real estate based on the digital economy as well as the rise of remote jobs.
4. We can support you and your job on a global scale.
The Grand Junction area is bigger than you think. Known as the Grand Valley, it includes the Town of Palisade to the east and the City of Fruita to the west, and has a total population of 156,000. Add in the mountain and regional communities that come to town to do their shopping and get their healthcare, and that population grows to 350,000.
Home to the Grand Junction Regional Airport with 17 daily, direct flights, you’ve got the amenities of a big city with the charm and culture of a small, rural town. Our location on Interstate 70, halfway between Denver and Salt Lake City, puts your business within an easy drive of over 5 million people without the congestion and prices that come with big-city living. More importantly, we have reliable, fast and affordable internet.
5. We’ve got you covered should your job situation change.
Worried about having to move again should your job situation change? We’ve got your back. Partnerships across the community between Colorado Mesa University, the Mesa County Workforce Center and our local businesses will plug you into our local networks.
Manufacturing, construction, outdoor recreation and tech have all remained strong industries in Grand Junction through the pandemic, adding jobs as demand continues to grow.
Like working remote? Through the LONE incentive program, there are several companies actively searching for people to live in Grand Junction and work remotely. In addition, GJEP has just launched WorkRemoteCO.com, an online resource to share job opportunities and resources for remote workers. In short, opportunities abound should your situation unexpectedly change.
Cilia Kohn is the director of marketing and communications for the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, the economic development organization for Mesa County, the cities of Grand Junction and Fruita and the town of Palisade. For more information, go to gjep.org.