GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.
The road to economic recovery in Mesa County has been a bumpy one, but with the closure of Interstate 70 it’s been a disaster for local businesses and it could last for weeks, or even months. President of the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, Diane Schwenke says, “It really does emphasize how that transportation network, and being linked to the rest of Colorado and the rest of the Western Slope impacts every single one of us in the valley.”
The Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce polled businesses showing the I-70 closure impact. 211 responses were given in less than 5 business days. 14% have difficulty shipping products, 20% saw a drop in customers, 44% can’t get supplies, but 25% indicated no impact. “The polling that we’re doing, and the advocacy we’re doing around the canyon closure fits very well within our mission as an organization,” said Schwenke.
The purpose of a chamber of commerce is to be the voice for the business community and 75% of over 150 of those businesses are crying out for help. Some of the businesses come from the hospitality industry and others from the service industry, but there’s one business on the list you’d never expect. “Even our funeral homes are having some issues getting to the deceased because we are a regional hub for that kind of service,” said Schwenke.
The poll also asks businesses how they’re coping with the closure and the answer is simple, just follow the money. Funeral Director, Ivy Duncan, with Grand Valley Funeral Homes says, “We’re having to pay our employees more hours and better wages to go up and around. Sometimes we need to get a hotel room. It’s really tough. I mean right now, you’re looking at a 14 hour drive there and back.”
The survey data will be shared with Colorado lawmakers like Senator bennet and Congresswoman Boebert with the hope to get it done in the short term, but most importantly, the long term. “We need to have this problem fixed,” said Schwenke.
The Chamber did ask business owners what’s keeping them up at night. The top worry was that another COVID-19 surge would close their doors (52%), followed by the threat of inflation (44%), disruptions in the supply chain (41.5%) and additional government mandates (41%).