News, Links, Resources & Alternatives

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Business Owners, Don’t Despair!  Here is Some Helpful Information:

  • Don’t pay the G.J. Chamber’s high membership fees if you just need networking, as many business owners mistakenly do! Check out Network Now, a business networking group unaffiliated with the G.J. Chamber that meets every other Wednesday from 8:30-9:30 a.m. in the ReMax 4000 meeting room at 120 W. Park Drive, Grand Junction, at Patterson Road and First Street. For more info call Jill at 970. 270.7958
  • 10 Ways to Hack Your Chamber of Commerce for Results — February 7, 2013, John McKown – Some Chambers of Commerce are good, and some just aren’t. This article tells business owners how to get all the benefits of a Chamber without having to join. Written by a man who worked as a web host and website developer for more than a dozen Chambers of Commerce for 15 years, but who no longer takes them as clients. Full of great tips and secrets!

THERE IS A far less expensive and friendlier ALTERNATIVE TO THE G.J. CHAMBER!

For business owners who want to belong to a chamber but want to avoid the G.J. Chamber’s troubled reputation, check out the newly-formed Western Colorado Latino Chamber of Commerce. At just $80/year and $70/year for a sole proprietorship, their dues are extremely affordable. The Latino Chamber has frequent networking mixers and has vowed to stay out of local politics. You’ll also get the benefit of networking with a whole new sector of people who are in business in this area, and the ability to tap into entirely new markets for your products or services!

Free Publicity for your business!

Through its popular Biz Buzz column, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel already prints items about your business when it first opens, moves to a new location, changes hands or closes. Now, in its new Biz Briefcase column, the Daily Sentinel will print good news about your organization – when it receives recognition or wins an award, hires a new manager, promotes an employee or has an anniversary, for example. In addition to the good news, Biz Briefcase will publish print-quality photos of the people associated with the award, recognition, or promotion. Here’s how it works:

Biz Buzz: Send news items about your business when it first opens, moves to a new location, changes hands or closes to Biz Buzz at BizBuzz@gjsentinel.com. Please put “Biz Buzz” in the subject line.

Biz Briefcase: Send news about your business when it receives recognition or wins an award, hires a new manager, promotes an employee or has an anniversary like 25 years in business or 10 years at the same location. Attach a photo with resolution of 200 dpi or greater to the email and send it to BizBriefcase@gjsentinel.com. Put “Biz Briefcase” in the subject line.

Biz Briefcase debuts Nov. 14 with the first edition of the Daily Sentinel’s new Thursday Business Section.

Take advantage of these free opportunities to spread the word about your business in the Daily Sentinel. Call (970) 256-4247 for more information.

News & Published information about the Grand Junction Chamber’s Continuing Detrimental Behavior:

October 29, 2016 

CLUELESS - Diane Schwenke attending a meeting at Main Street Bagels this morning

Diane Schwenke attending a meeting at Main Street Bagels 10/29/16

 G. J. Chamber “Hasn’t Even Considered” Marijuana as a Way to Boost the Local Economy

Diane Schwenke, the CEO of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, said at a meeting at Main Street Bagels this morning that the chamber’s board hasn’t even discussed or considered the possibility of bringing retail marijuana commerce to Grand Junction as a way to boost the local economy.

Schwenke made the statement after being asked about the chamber’s position on retail marijuana, which over the last two years has proven to be one of the biggest economic drivers in elsewhere in the state.

Marijuana became legal in Colorado 2012 after the passage of Amendment 64, but jurisdictions can opt out of allowing its sale or cultivation within their borders. The City of Grand Junction and Mesa County opted to ban marijuana commerce, but home rule cities in the County like DeBeque can still choose their own direction and permit marijuana commerce if their citizens desire.

DeBeque voters approved the sale of retail marijuana 2014 and haven’t looked back. The move has proven to be the town’s economic salvation at a time when the drilling industry has been fading.

As of May 27, 2016, 71 percent of the Colorado’s jurisdictions have decided to allow retail marijuana commerce. The result has been a distinct uptick in economic growth and sales tax revenues in the state in places where marijuana commerce is allowed.

But Grand Junction and Mesa County citizens have not been allowed to partake in the new marijuana economic boom. Instead, our local economy continues to languish while much of the rest of the state enjoys the prosperity legal marijuana has brought. Despite all the information now available about the economic benefits of retail marijuana, self-proclaimed local economic cheerleaders like the G.J. chamber scratch their heads and wonder aloud what they can possibly do to change our area’s fortunes.

Economic Growth? What Economic Growth?

This banner on the Chamber's website claims the chamber takes the lead in shaping legislation to support business on the westerns slope, but it citizens, not the chamber are actually the ones who are working hard to bring in marijuana commerce -- a legitimate, proven growth industry -- to Grand Junction through a petition to get pot sales back in town.

A banner ad on the Chamber’s website claims the chamber takes the lead in shaping laws that affect business on the western slope, but citizens, not the chamber, are the ones working to bring marijuana commerce — a proven, high-paying growth industry employing tens of thousands of people throughout the state — to Grand Junction.

The data is now in, and there’s plenty of it.

According to the Denver Post, the cannabis industry has bolstered retail and manufacturing job growth in Colorado. Retail sales of marijuana started in 2014, and that year Colorado saw an immediate 3.5 percent jump in employment. By February, 2015, there were 15,992 people registered to work in the cannabis industry. The marijuana sector is providing high-paying jobs, too. The employment website Monster.com says after getting a foot in the door of the marijuana industry as a trimmer or retail worker, the positions to which people get promoted often pay $50,000-$90,000/year.  Marijuana has boosted the fortunes of a host of ancillary industries, too, like tourism, agricultural suppliers, residential and commercial real estate construction, manufacturing, analytic laboratories, security companies, accounting firms, legal support and other sectors. The state expects to collect about $94 million in cannabis taxes this year. The housing market in Denver is booming, and none of the dire predictions of dazed people stumbling around the streets and significant increases in crime have come true. In fact, Marijuana-related crime makes up only 1 percent of all crimes committed in Denver, and marijuana arrests have actually decreased (pdf).

A 1930's "Reefer Madness" mentality grips most of Grand Junction's leadership, including the chamber board, blocking economic progress in our area

A 1930’s“Reefer Madness” mentality grips the chamber’s leadership, impeding economic progress in our area

Amid all this data, and despite its mission of promoting economic growth in our area, the Grand Junction Chamber has turned a blind eye towards the marijuana industry by failing to even consider, mention or discuss the possibility of bringing marijuana commerce to our area as an economic driver. In the mean time, our area has some of the highest unemployment, lowest wages and highest levels of suicide, poverty and homelessness in the state.

Schwenke also said at the meeting that she was unaware that there are now more than triple the number of cannabis shops in Colorado than Starbucks (690 marijuana storefronts vs. 216 Starbucks as of April 20, 2016) although she did say she was aware the cannabis industry has brought highly-paid jobs to the state.

When asked how the chamber board can continue to ignore this growing area of commerce and all the benefits it has been bringing to other parts of the state, Schwenke just shrugged and said “Sign the petition,” referring to the petition being circulated by citizens to make marijuana commerce legal again in Grand Junction.

December 14, 2015 – Coal dead, but real estate, construction our best hope – Greg Ruland, Grand Junction Daily Sentinel business writer, reports that Richard Wobbekind, Dean of the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business and executive director of research at the school, informed the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce that “western slope coal [mining] lies on death’s door” and is “dead for now” as an economic pursuit for the western slope. Wobbekind also says the local news is also negative for the oil and natural gas industries. Wobbekind says Mesa County’s economy “lags in ever sector compared to Denver.” He suggest outdoor recreation, travel and leisure are bright spots in the area’s potential for economic development.

December 13, 2013 – “It is pathetic when only 240 out of 1,000 chamber members took the time to weigh in on what the future plans of the chamber should be. When you only get a 1/4 response and use it to say 90 percent of members are satisfied with their chamber membership, it does not compute.”  — Anonymous “You Said It” comment in the Sunday 12/13/15 Daily Sentinel.

May 12, 2015:  Opinion: With domestic violence, don’t forget about the bad guys, Robyn Parker, Grand Junction Free Press – Cites the Grand Junction Area Chamber’s refusal to condemn the domestic violence conviction of Rick Brainard, the candidate they backed for City Council in 2013. Key excerpt:

When [former city councilman Rick] Brainard refused to resign after his conviction, women’s rights advocates turned to the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce for help. The Chamber responded by hiring security guards to keep advocates from Chamber property and blocking anyone from their Facebook page who requested that they oppose domestic violence. Neither the Mesa County Republican Party nor the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce ever provided further clarification about their position on domestic violence.

April 9, 2015: The Grand Junction Area Chamber Opposes Local Businesses Again, this Time on Referred Measure 2B

–Businesses on 25 Road almost unanimously opposed Referred Ballot Measure 2B, an extension of the Riverside Parkway through existing roadways that would have let the City take land in front of 25 Road stores and tied up 25 Road in reconstruction for many months. Despite local business owners’ strong opposition, the Grand Junction Area Chamber supported Measure 2B. Why?

January 4, 2015

“Buy local” is doomed for failure as long as people like me will never shop in a chamber [member] store. As long as the Chamber of Commerce …supports the ultra-conservative crazies, I will continue, with others, not to set foot in these stores.  

   –“You Said It” that appeared in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel on Sunday, January 4, 2015

June 27, 2014 — The chamber reveals its new “Save Local Now” website and mobile app, but just as quickly the Chamber debuted the new app and web page, the Daily Sentinel reported that the chamber had hired an out-of-state web developer to create them. Dan Ryan, owner of the Grand Junction-based web marketing firm Ryan-Sawyer Marketing, said “This town has a lot of very capable web developers in it … I don’t recall receiving any RFPs on that, but surely it’s ironic that’s being developed by an out-of-town company.”

February 10, 2014Letter to the Editor in the Daily Sentinel admonishes Grand Junction Chamber for its “good-ole-boys’-club” politics and its continued failure to recognize small, local businesses:

It is time for chamber to get out of the political arena

On Feb. 1, I opened The Daily Sentinel to see that the Chamber of Commerce has given the Business of the Year Award to Home Loan and Investments. Do we have to run a retread around the block again? No other business was deserving of this award that had not been recognized before by the chamber?

Then I read on to see the Grand Junction Rockies is awarded the Small Business of the Year Award. This is a business that is open three months of the year, has its payroll subsidized by a multi-million dollar corporation on the Eastern Slope, spends upwards of 50 percent of its budget while on the road in other communities, has little or no cost for health insurance because most of its employees are part-time and still on Mom and Dad’s insurance policy. So, just how many full-time, year-round employees are there?

I think it’s time that Diane Schwenke and the chamber get out of the political arena, drop membership in the “Good Ole Boys Club” and get out there to meet the companies and their owners that really make this community what it is.

TIM PARTSCH
Grand Junction

February 5, 2014- KREX-TV, Channel 5 News: G.J. Mayor/chambermade Sam Susuras is publicly rebuked at a City Council meeting for openly backing Airport Board’s fraudulent use of federal funds.

January 30, 2014 – Wages in Mesa County are some of the lowest in the state. The per capita and median household incomes in the chamber’s area are far lower than the state average, and 13% of Mesa County citizens live below the poverty line. A huge number of Mesa County families are in desperate need of more income, but Chamber Director Diane Schwenke opposed raising the minimum wage by more than $2/hour,  saying doing so would have “devastating at least short term impacts.”

  • Photo that appeared in the Daily Sentinel showing the G.J. Chamber Board holding a meeting at a lodge in the next state. The photo was positioned underneath a survey showing local business owners wanted the chamber to promote shopping locally.

    This photo appeared in the Daily Sentinel on 11/28/13 showing the G.J. Chamber Board holding a meeting at a lodge in Utah. The photo was positioned directly underneath a survey that showed local business owners want the chamber to promote patronization of locally-owned businesses.

    Nothing amiss about Utah trip, chamber insists; Prez: Moab retreat fits mission – November 28, 2013, Charles Ashby, Grand Junction Daily Sentinel – Discusses a half-page ad the chamber placed in the Sentinel on Monday, Nov. 25, 2013 that gave results of a “buy local survey” in which 85% of responding chamber members said they wanted the chamber to promote shopping locally.  Directly below the survey was a photo of the chamber board holding its meeting at a lodge in Moab, Utah.  When questioned about the contradiction the ad represents, chamber board president Michael Burke said “Moab is in our region.” Moab is a 113 mile drive from Grand Junction and is in another state.

  • Letter to the Editor printed in the Daily Sentinel on Sept. 29, 2013 praises GJChamber.info, as “informative and thoughtful and documented.” Writer says. “If the website was personal or myopic, it could be written off and/or ignored, but in light of other points made by individual citizens, the council and the chamber have some explaining to do, to us, the people.”
  • Chamber hires out-of-town attorney to fight its online critics, September 20, 2013, Charles Ashby, Grand Junction Daily Sentinel — Chamber hires a Denver attorney, instead of a local attorney, to intimidate its critics by threatening legal action against GJChamber.info.
  • Regretting What We Wrought, Jim Hoffman (realtor/columnist), August 8, 2013, Grand Junction Free Press (Op-Ed) – writer discusses the community’s lack of confidence in the Chamber-selected city council members (the three “chambermades'”) — decision to usurp the city charter by skipping holding an election and instead appointing two new council members (one to replace Rick Brainard, who resigned, and one to replace Harry Butler, who died). Hoffman cites the “arrogance of the G.J. Chamber of Commerce” in denying citizens the chance to elect their own replacement representatives on Council.
  • Brainard’s Chamber challenge cost him dearly – (op-ed) July 23, 2013, Bill Grant, Daily Sentinel  – Columnist Bill Grant says Chamber-promoted members of City Council (the “chambermades”) are more loyal to the Chamber than to citizens of the City. Key quote: “Like the chamber itself, these partisan [City] council members are meant to serve the chamber members, rather than the community. As Chamber President Dianne Schwenke said, ‘We aren’t here to be responsible to the community at large so much as we are to be responsible to our members.’ ”
  • Scandal Plagues Grand Junction City Council, Cori Coffin, KREX-TV, July 23, 2013 — TV news report in which City Councilman Jim Doody says “he couldn’t sit by as some council members changed public policy to fit their agenda.” Doody was referring to chambermades  Norris, Susuras and Chazen and their unprecedented act to declare themselves a majority on the seven-seat Council, against the advice of City Attorney John Shaver.
  • Politics and Business, July 21, 2013, Charles Ashby, Grand Junction Daily Sentinel — describes the Chamber’s recent foray into local politics, chamber president Diane Schwenke’s compensation package and how it differs from comparable chamber presidents, the GJ Chamber’s lobbying expenditures compared to similar chambers around the state, the GJ Chamber’s selectivity about its membership, the Chambers behind-the-scenes effort to influence a land use issue and the growing public backlash against the Chamber.
  • Chamber: No change in support for Brainard – June 22, 2013, Duffy Hayes, Daily Sentinel – The Chamber refuses to renounce its support of Rick Brainard even after he admits assaulting his girlfriend to G.J. Police his official arrest affidavit.
  • Donors to Brady’s campaign a mystery, May 3, 2013, Amy Hamilton, G.J. Daily Sentinel – Describes secret campaign funding arranged by the Chamber. The Chamber’s lobbying group, Western Colorado Business Alliance (WCBA) funds a campaign for Referred Measure A on behalf of Brady Trucking, a local business. WCBA then refuses a request from the City to disclose its donors and budget, blocking people from knowing who is influencing the election. Key quote: “Schwenke balked when asked why the Western Colorado Business Alliance did not file [the donor report] anyway. ‘Why should we?’ she said.”
  • City Rejects Renewal of Chamber Membership, May 2, 2013, Jason Atcho, KJCT-TV Channel 8 (ABC affiliate). G.J. city Councilman Jim Doody says, “We’re giving [the Chamber] $6,000 and at the same they’re running candidates against seated council members and doing political advocation against them. It doesn’t seem right to me.”
  • Grand Junction Council Cuts Chamber Contributions, May 2, 2013, 9News Denver (NBC affiliate). The Grand Junction City Council cuts funding for the local Chamber of Commerce over concerns the chamber has become too political.
  • Chamber reacts to City Council membership withdraw, May 2, 2013, Amanda Brandeis, KREX-TV Channel 5. Chamber president Diane Schwenke states she has gained enough new members to compensate for loss of the City’s $6,000 membership.
  • G.J. City Council Withdraws Membership from Chamber of Commerce, May 1, 2013, KREX-TV. GJ Chamber’s endorsement of Rick Brainard raised questions about the Chamber’s political involvement in municipal elections; City Council votes to pull their membership in the Chamber.
  • YouTube video of Diane Schwenke speaking at the Mesa County Republican luncheon, next to a cardboard cutout of Ronald Reagan. She tells the audience the Chamber does not take government funds, and that the loss to the Chamber of the City’s $6,000 in dues was inconsequential in light of the Chamber’s $600,000 annual budget. Despite saying the chamber doesn’t take government funds, she thanks chambermades Marty Chazen and Sam Susuras for restoring City (government) funds to the Chamber as their first act after their swearing in ceremony.
  • Picketers protest against the Grand Junction Area Chamber's support of woman abuser and then-city council member-elect Rick Brainard (Photo credit: KREX-TV)

    Picketers protest the Grand Junction Area Chamber’s support of woman abuser and then-city council member-elect Rick Brainard (Photo credit: KREX-TV)

    Residents Protest G.J. Chamber’s Support of Brainard, April 29, 2013, John Dias, KREX-TV (CBS affiliate) — TV news report of citizens marching and picketing against the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce over its continued support of Rick Brainard.

  • Demonstrators Protest Chamber of Commerce, April 2013, Charlie Blackmer, GJMole Colorado Mesa University emerging media blog (Photos of protest)
  • G.J. Chamber reacts to Brainard Protest, Meaghan Wallace, KREX-TV Channel 5 (CBS affiliate), April 30, 2013
  • Grand Junction Council Cuts Chamber Contributions, May 2, Associated Press/Denver Post
  • HOFFMAN: Local powerbrokers making calculated plays for higher office, February 28, 2013, Grand Junction Free Press, states, “It seems the Western Slope Conservative Alliance or whatever name they are using today (Freedom Colorado?) is conspiring with the GJ Chamber of Commerce to hand-select candidates for local office; candidates that will support a pre-determined agenda.” Regarding chambermade-appointed City Council member Duncan McArthur, Hoffman writes, “McArthur is the government affairs director for both the GJ Board of Realtors and the GJ Chamber of Commerce. He had a home foreclosed in 2010 and another currently slated for foreclosure.” The Chambermades appointed the Chamber’s own lobbyist to fill a vacant City Council seat! (Note: Prior to his appointment to council, Duncan McArthur had also been arrested for a DUI with a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit.)

  • GJ feud pits incumbents vs. chamber – Amy Hamilton, Daily Sentinel, March 21, 2013.  City Councilor Laura Luke calls out Chamber board member Michael Anton at a City Council meeting for bullying her by placing an intimidating and threatening, quarter-page “I-am-your-worst-nightmare” campaign ad targeting her in the Daily Sentinel. Luke: ““No threatening message is going to alter my obligation to the people of Grand Junction and if that’s how you intend to bully your citizens, I don’t think they’ll take kindly to it.” Schwenke’s answer: “ ‘My only response to that is we go and actively solicit high quality leadership,” Schwenke said of the candidates the chamber endorsed.’ ”  Councilor Bennett Boeschenstein stated “he thinks it’s the role of the chamber to be a civic group, not a politically motivated group.”
  • City Council Candidates Object to Chamber Endorsements, Sharon Sullivan, March 14, 2013, Grand Junction Free Press — former city councilor warns of “monopolization” of the City by the G.J. Chamber of Commerce. Quotes: “The Chamber publicly stated at its annual chamber banquet at Two Rivers [Convention Center] that they were making it their mission to infiltrate chamber members into every level of government, from the state level clear down to the local level,” [Councilor Laura] Luke said. “That places a strong imbalance of their interest over the comprehensive interest of all community members.” City  Councilor Jim Doody said, “I’ve been hearing that the Chamber has put together a team to overturn Council and put (new members) in its pocket.”
  • Independents vs. big-box stores: Grand Junction chamber’s  ‘Shop Local’ campaign includes national chains, Sharon Sullivan, July 26, 2013, Grand Junction Free Press — describes how the Chamber’s “Buy Local” program encourages area citizens to shop at big box stores like Wal-Mart, that actually funnel money out of the area. Cites Bloomberg research that says “for every $100 spent at a locally owned store, $45 remains in the local economy, compared with about $13 per $100 at a big box.” Quotes the owner of a small, locally-owned shop on Main Street who says, “My opinion of the chamber is they are not pro-small, locally-owned business in this community. The Shop Local program is a good example of that.”

  • Mesa County’s Dominant Political Party: the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, July 22, 2013, Op-Ed by Jim Spehar, G.J. Daily Sentinel — Op-ed about the Chamber’s excessive political involvement and poses the question, “How did it happen that the organization that was once an umbrella for differing opinions and a bastion of goodwill between businesses and their customers morphed into a ‘my way or the highway’ entity seemingly indifferent to anything but the bottom line?”
  • The Continuing Trouble with Rick Brainard, June 23, 2013, ColoradoPols blog — Cites the Chamber’s failure to uphold its promise to the public to review its position on Brainard after he was adjudicated.
  • Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce 2013 Voter Guide  (indicates candidates the Chamber endorsed)
  • Diane Schwenke supported construction of a new uranium mine in the area because the workers would have to come to Grand Junction to use the medical facilities. Schwenke told KKCO 11 News, “From our standpoint, it just makes good economic sense to support it.” (Uranium causes cancer.)
  • YouTube video an angry made about Diane Schwenke’s offensive Facebook joke
  • Rein In The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce Facebook page
  • Guidestar reviews of the G.J. Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Yelp.com reviews of the G.J. Area Chamber of Commerce

Historic Stuff

  • GJ Chamber to lobby only on business topics – January 28, 2009, Daily Sentinel  – Remember the days when the Chamber could see when it was overstepping the limits of its political activity? Key quote: “Colorado Mesa University Tim] Foster said he heard that the chamber had become a ‘laughingstock’ for opting to lobby on so many bills.” That year, the Chamber actively lobbied on 49 bills.