Friendly, inclusive communities and initiatives help new residents quickly connect and succeed in Grand Junction, Fruita and Palisade.
Celia Kohn had a good feeling when she and her husband visited the Grand Valley region of Colorado for the first time. Six months later, they immediately felt welcomed after moving to Grand Valley.
“Everyone was friendly from the beginning,” she says. “People here know each other, and that’s a good feeling.”
Kohn is director of marketing and communications for the Grand Junction Economic Partnership (GJEP), which works to attract new business and investment to the region. In March 2021, GJEP launched a Welcome Wagon program that pairs locals with new residents to help them connect to the community.
The first year matched 13 newcomers with 13 local ambassadors. The first step is a meeting geared toward answering any questions the newcomer may have, with topics running the gamut from schools and neighborhoods to coffee shops and negotiating city governance. Those chats continue through monthly check-ins.
“Not everyone is great at networking. We want to make sure that newcomers, particularly in the business community, get that one-on-one connection so they can sit down and talk with someone and get the real story of the community and find their place in it.”
Celia Kohn | Grand Junction Economic Partnership
In addition, GJEP hosts activities for all newcomers and locals each quarter. Topics range from giving back to the community through involvement in charitable organizations to touring the local university and various key businesses. “After the excitement of moving, we help people find their place in the community and connect to people,” Kohn says.
Kohn says neither she nor her husband had jobs when they moved to the region. “We started meeting people, and those people introduced us to other people, and we got jobs and settled in with their help,” she says. “That’s a typical story in this region. People here are welcoming. That’s what we hear from the new businesses who locate here – that the region, as a whole, is responsive and friendly.”
Making Instant Connections
Ben Snyder moved to Grand Junction at the end of 2020 to become executive director of the Greater Grand Junction Sports Commission. He says he quickly felt at home.
“I moved here without really knowing anyone and felt immediately connected,” he says. “There is a welcoming atmosphere here. It’s a small enough community that you get to know people quickly.”
Snyder, a Welcome Wagon participant, says it has been great interacting with public agencies and groups. “It’s a great concept. It would have been good to have had this in other communities where I’ve lived,” he says.
Young Professionals Find Support
Andrea Lopez is no newcomer, but she shares the sentiment that the Grand Valley is inclusive and welcoming. A lifelong resident of the region, Lopez is president of the board of the Young Professionals Network of Mesa County.
After high school, Lopez attended Colorado Mesa University and got involved with YPN during her senior semester. Her connection with the organization helped her find her current position as the external affairs director for the Ute Water Conservation District.
“We want them to know that attaining success is possible here
in Grand Valley and there are people here willing
to help them achieve their goals.”
Andrea Lopez | Young Professionals Network of Mesa County
“YPN is a really good bridge between education and the professional world,” Lopez says. “Transitioning out of school is a stressful time. Graduates are passing final exams and looking for jobs. What I loved about YPN is being in contact with people going through the same experience or people who had successfully navigated that experience who could offer support.”
YPN continues to help recent graduates and newcomers transition into the professional community.
“Whether you are a transplant or native, you have to start somewhere in finding your place in the community,” she says. “It’s easier to learn to network and meet people with others who are also new. We help make connections between the young professionals and the established and successful people in our community.”