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Posted: May 01, 2008

State of the State: Commercial Real Estate

Grand Junction industrial park targets manufacturers

Bob Kretschman

A 55-acre industrial park under development in Grand Junction is helping the community meet demand for property by manufacturers and similar firms.
Bookcliff Technology Park, situated on the northern edge of the city less than a mile from Grand Junction Regional Airport, already has dissuaded one manufacturer from leaving and is expected to be the next home of the Western Slope’s largest newspaper.

"The leading need for any business in relocation or expansion is a facility, and having land available for our clients is critical," said Ann Driggers, president and chief executive officer of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, the area’s leading economic-development entity.

In recent years, the Grand Junction area’s available supply of industrial-zoned land dwindled as energy-related firms moved in to support natural gas drilling in the region. Land prices increased significantly, and properties large enough to suit expanding firms were hard to find.

Enter Industrial Developments Inc., a 50-year-old organization affiliated with the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce. IDI’s main purpose is to acquire, hold and develop land to support businesses, and it had owned the cow pasture that would become Bookcliff Technology Park for more than a decade, said Diane Schwenke, IDI’s administrator and the chamber's president and CEO.

"We always envisioned it as a high-end business park," Schwenke said. However, the site’s development potential was hobbled by a lack of water, sewer and other infrastructure.

As pressure mounted for the availability of more industrial land, Bookcliff Technology Park attracted increasing attention. Eventually, Cox Newspapers, the Atlanta-based parent company of The Daily Sentinel, committed to buy 12 acres in the park and also helped IDI pay for installation of infrastructure at the site, Schwenke said. The newspaper plans to construct a new $35 million, 80,000-square-foot office, printing and production facility there to replace its aging building in downtown Grand Junction.

About the same time, Grand Junction-based Leitner-Poma of America was searching for a site to build a state-of-the-art facility to manufacture ski lifts and snow-grooming equipment. Leitner-Poma has been in Grand Junction since 1981, building ski-lift equipment for resorts throughout North America. The company — whose current facility is located in Foresight Industrial Park, an older IDI project — is growing and diversifying its operations and needed more space, Driggers said.

"They wanted to do it here but realized there were opportunities in other communities," she said.

IDI agreed to give Leitner-Poma 18 acres in Bookcliff Technology Park. A $900,000 package of grants from the state of Colorado, the city of Grand Junction and Mesa County was assembled to help pay for infrastructure. In return, Leitner-Poma agreed to maintain its current 75 jobs in Grand Junction and to add 100 new jobs, according to the economic partnership.

Leitner-Poma, the North American subsidiary of Pomagalski S.A. of France and Italy-based Leitner Technologies, plans to construct two buildings totaling more than 90,000 square feet. When the $15 million project is finished, the company is expected to manufacture ski lifts there, as well as components for "people-mover" cable transportation systems used in non-ski settings, Driggers said.

Bookcliff Technology Park has three
5-acre sites remaining, Schwenke said. The area is suited for light industrial development, she said, and it is only minutes from the airport and Interstate 70.

The installation of water and sewer service to the park has enabled the development of nearby vacant land owned by private parties, and some of them appear to be planning to build industrial parks, Schwenke said.

In addition, Grand Junction city officials recently rezoned more land in the western part of the city for industrial use, which could help alleviate the shortage that developed a couple of years ago, Driggers said.

"But we’re still in very short supply (of industrial land)," she said.

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Bob Kretschman is the Western Slope correspondent for ColoradoBiz.

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