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Fruita officials take on Eurobike as they look to grow bike-based economy

Published August 31, 2016
Fruita's city manager, Mike Bennett, and Mayor Lori Buck.

FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Germany (BRAIN) — This lakeside town in Southern Germany is a long way from Fruita, Colorado. But Fruita city manager Mike Bennett and Mayor Lori Buck are here handing out their business cards — in the shape of bike cogs — and meeting European companies, in hopes to recruit them to locate their offices or U.S. headquarters in their Western Colorado mountain town.

They're also promoting Fruita to companies as an ideal venue for product launches, dealer events and company retreats.

As Fruita’s oil and gas based economy dries up, officials are looking to outdoor and cycling as target markets for economic development. They see them as a natural fit. “We need something less volatile,” said Buck. “And we’re serious about bringing people to our community.”

MRP, based in Grand Junction, Colorado, has been a helpful partner in introducing Fruita’s officials to the industry. MRP is hosting a happy hour after the show Thursday where officials will discuss the city’s robust incentives for new businesses looking to establish their U.S. base there.  

The city has more than 68 acres of land between downtown and the Kokopelli mountain bike trailhead ready for businesses to locate on lakefront lots with interstate, railroad and highway access. The lots have build-to-suit lease or purchase options, and feature improvements such as streets, sidewalks, water, electric, fiber and sewer. Fruita is also designing and constructing paved and soft-surface singletrack trails to connect the business park with downtown and a major mountain bike trailhead.

Officials have been hitting the circuit — walking the halls of the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City in early August and Interbike last fall. And Buck and Bennett will make the trek to Interbike again next month. It all is part of their plan to put Fruita on the map as more than just a mountain biking destination, but a potential bike business cluster. Much like Ogden has in Utah.

Fruita hosts the popular Fat Tire Festival every year, and MRP and DT Swiss are located in nearby Grand Junction. The city and the Grand Valley, with its 100,000 population, are also home to many bike shops, including Over the Edge. 

Bennett noted that Fruita is the fastest-growing area in Colorado’s Grand Valley, with 13,000 residents, which has doubled in recent years. It also has a low median age — 35.8 — and most are high school grads (88.7 percent); 26 percent have earned bachelor degrees or higher. It’s located 20 minutes away from Grand Junction airport, offering daily flights to major cities, and a Class 1 rail line. “And Fruita, while small, has tons of culture,” Buck noted. “What we’re selling is quality of life.”

With world-class trails, 300 days of sunshine, and an outdoor playground with rafting, hiking, camping and equestrian riding, as well as trails that cater to pedal-assist bikes, Fruita draws more than 250,000 people a year to enjoy its views and landscapes, Bennett said. Most land is owned and managed by the Bureau of Land Management so Fruita relies heavily on the outdoor recreational market and tourism.

“We figure we might as well match companies that match outdoor recreation,” Bennett said. “If you need to expand, relocate or start a business, you’ll have a supportive government.”

Interested companies can go to www.fruita.org for more information or email Bennett at mbennett@fruita.org.

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