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Grand Junction Area Is a Haven for Entrepreneurs

Along the Western Slope of Colorado, the love of the great outdoors meets with innovation to create new products and services.

By Brittany Anas on February 6, 2023

QuikrStuff was co-founded by Bryan Wachs
Big Ship Media House

When the trails are calling, you don’t want to spend extra time tooling a bike rack, which is why Grand Junction-based QuikrStuff’s modular aluminum-hitch bike racks are gaining so much buzz in the outdoor industry. The racks can be quickly installed on a hitch receiver without the use of any tools, and add-ons allow them to carry up to four bikes.

Company co-founders Bryan Wachs and JT Westcott pooled their expertise in manufacturing, aerospace and marketing to get QuikrStuff rolling in 2020. Already recognized by Colorado Companies to Watch, QuikrStuff is a shining example of the innovation that’s happening in the Grand Valley, where outdoor-loving entrepreneurs are taking advantage of an exciting startup scene, bringing with them new innovations.

Why Grand Valley?

The region’s competitive edge is attracting new businesses with a strong infrastructure that includes 10-gigabit bandwidth broadband and cloud networking as well as a strong labor supply and spaces for a business to grow.

For those looking to start or scale their businesses all while enjoying a work-life balance, there’s much to love in Colorado’s Western Slope region. The region’s outdoor playground includes enviable mountain biking, river sports and scenic hiking trails. Farms and vineyards provide the fresh produce and local wine. Plus, Wachs points out, the fast-growing Colorado Mesa University lends the region a passionate pipeline of talent.

“Housing costs are way below the Front Range average and the access to outdoor recreation, agriculture, the university and high-speed internet allow for people to actually live in the Colorado of their dreams,” he says.

Outdoors Meets Innovation

Located between the snow-capped Rocky Mountains and the Moab Desert, and with the Colorado and Gunnison rivers cutting through it, it’s no wonder that the Grand Valley has a knack for attracting entrepreneurs that have a love for the outdoors.

As such, the Grand Valley has become a place where the outdoors meets innovation. The area offers fertile grounds for tech entrepreneurs, software developers and telecommunications firms, as well as cleantech and agtech startups.

“Biking, skiing, getting on the river – Grand Junction is a fantastic base camp to do all these things and more,” Wachs says. “People are discovering the Grand Valley and all of its riches and moving here to create new businesses, which then create opportunities for everyone.”

Within the next few years, QuikrStuff hopes to employ 30 people, Wachs says, providing high-paying jobs in the region.

Timberleaf Trailer
Timberleaf Trailer

Ecosystem for Entrepreneurs

Other startup success stories include Loki Clothing, which makes convertible outdoor apparel suited for temperature swings, and Timberleaf Trailers, which makes high-quality, modern teardrop trailers.

Grand Valley entrepreneurs enjoy a network of resources to help them succeed.

“Grand Valley has an active and growing startup scene of entrepreneurs, funders, mentors and resources across a variety of sectors and organizations progressively working to develop Grand Junction and its neighboring communities as a place to start and scale a successful business,” says Taylor Sanders Grande, interim executive director with Startup Colorado.

In 2022, West Slope Startup Week, a weeklong conference, returned for a fourth year, with the opportunity to pitch investors and learn about everything from hiring strategies to avoiding burnout.

Other resources include Alt Space, which has a location in Grand Junction and connects small businesses, entrepreneurs and remote workers to the tools, resources and people they need to be successful. Also, a program of the Business Incubator Center, FWorks supplies entrepreneurs with high-speed internet, small business classes and affordable workspace. Other coworking space options include JXN Station and Vault Real Estate.

Bill McDonald and his sister, Kate McDonald, of Phoenix Haus

Attracting New Business

Growing up with severe allergies and breathing issues, Bill McDonald set out to build a healthier home. He started Phoenix Haus in Michigan but realized that his customer base is located in the Rocky Mountains. The pre-fabricated, energy-efficient homes he’s brought to the market even have a mountain-modern minimalist design aesthetic.

Since moving to Grand Junction in 2017, the company has tripled in size with plans to grow at a sustainable rate.

“There’s this feeling that Grand Junction is the ‘next area’ that is growing with a balance of people from all over,” McDonald says. “We meet new people moving here all the time.”

What’s more, the region boasts a collaborative spirit. To smooth his own relocation, McDonald clicked in with Grand Junction Economic Partnership and attended events at the ALT Space coworking space. “There’s this feeling of community and an ease of doing business here,” he says.

Get Connected through Jump-Start

Grand Junction Economic Partnership connects businesses with a tax incentive program called Rural Jump Start to help companies get started on the right track.

Jump-Start is part of a statewide effort to provide more opportunities for employment and career growth in rural areas in Colorado, and there have already been 25 Jump-Start-approved businesses launched in Mesa County. The program helps new businesses benefit from incentives like a state income tax exemption for eight years, cash grants, networking resources and access to top academia at Western Colorado Community College and Colorado Mesa University.

One of the local tech companies experiencing success thanks to help from Jump-Start is Sky Peak Technologies, which began in 2019 to provide satellite data-intensive content to its business customers. Another growing and thriving company is Brightly (formerly Dude Solutions), which offers management asset solutions to business clients.

Also doing well is ProStar, which developed the PointMan Pro software system that uses GPS and cloud technology to capture, record and display the locations of critical infrastructure. ProStar was named one of the Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in the World with fewer than 100 employees by Fast Company magazine.

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