Grand Junction will net 27 jobs as part of the announcement by federal officials that BLM Headquarters will be moving to Grand Junction. 54 more positions will head to the Federal Center in Lakewood as part of the public lands agency’s realignment to the West. The news was first announced on Monday (July 15, 2019) by Colorado’s Republican US Senator Cory Gardner, who called it a historic decision for Grand Junction and the state. He said hopes the move will bolster the state’s reputation as a public lands and outdoors mecca.
That’s far fewer jobs than some were expecting to head to the Western Slope. Higher estimates last year were that 300 or more positions could head to the city with an economic impact in Mesa County somewhere north of $40 million. Economic development leaders in Mesa County, however, are not disappointed.
“It’s still 27 more jobs than we had yesterday,” said Robin Brown, who leads the Grand Junction Economic Partnership. “Of course we would love to see them grow that footprint once they get here and see how great a place it is to do business here.” Robin Brown thinks the relocation will likely happen this fall. BLM hasn’t decided whether it will use existing office space or construct a new campus.
Robin Brown also added that GJEP is no longer working to get a direct flight to Washington from Grand Junction, one incentive the city had offered as an enticement to have BLM relocate their headquarters to the area. BLM leaders did not make the flight a requirement.
“27 high-paying jobs in our community is always a help,” Grand Junction Mayor Rick Taggart stated in an interview.
Taggart said being known across the country as the headquarters of the BLM will ‘put Grand Junction further on the map’ and improve its economic standing. He hopes more jobs from the private sector will follow the BLM headquarters relocation.
While the number of staff relocating to Grand Junction might not seem like a lot, the people who are slated to move include the BLM’s Director and Deputy Director of Operations and Assistant Directors. There currently is not a director of the BLM, but when one is appointed, he or she will operate out of the Grand Junction office.
BLM’s total workforce is about 9,000 employees of which only a fraction are currently located in Washington DC. In total, 222 positions are being moved out of Washington to locations across the West. New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Arizona each will get between about 40 and 50 jobs. Here’s what we have learned so far:
* 27 positions will relocate to Grand Junction, including the director, deputy director and their attendant staff.
* 85 total employees will relocate to Colorado. 54 positions will be divided between the state office and BLM’s National Operations Center in Lakewood and 4 additional positions go to the state office.
* 222 employees will move to BLM state offices.
* 74 positions will be reallocated to state offices and report to state directors.
* 61 employees will remain in Washington DC at the headquarters of the Department of Interior.
‘Shifting critical leadership positions and supporting staff to western states – where an overwhelming majority of federal lands are located ó is not only a better management system, it is beneficial to the interest of the American public in these communities, cities, counties, and states,’ said Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt in a statement. David Bernhardt is a Colorado native from Rifle.
Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) first proposed the move of BLM Headquarters to Grand Junction in 2016. The move will not only bring prestige to the area but also economically benefit businesses, hotels and local shops from people who travel to Grand Junction for meetings. It is his understanding that the Department of the Interior has the authority to relocate BLM’s headquarters, but the plan may still undergo congressional review. “Obviously notification will be given to Congress and there will be a time period where I guess if somebody wanted to they could throw a wrench into the works,” Gardner said. But he said the relocation has strong bipartisan support from Colorado and beyond. “I’ve not heard of any substantive objections,” he said.
Senator Michael Bennet, (D-Colorado), said the relocation, which he supported, is a good start. “But the details released today also suggest more needs to be done to establish a true national headquarters in the West,” he said in a written statement. “We look forward to working with the Department of the Interior to permanently secure BLM headquarters in Grand Junction.”
Congressman Scott Tipton, (R-Colorado), said in a prepared statement, “Today is a great day for Grand Junction, the Western Slope, and for every believer that the federal government should be closer to the people whom its decisions affect. Colorado’s Third Congressional District serves as a microcosm of almost every land-management issue in the American West.”
“As a native of our district, (Secretary) Bernhardt knows the lands well and I applaud his leadership on making this move a reality. I look forward to seeing the final plan and congratulate the community of Grand Junction for this great opportunity.”
Colorado Governor Jared Polis said in a statement, “We are thrilled to welcome the Bureau of Land Management and their employees to the great state of Colorado. As I stated to Secretary Bernhardt many times, Grand Junction is the perfect location for the BLM because of community support, location closer to the land BLM manages, and the positive impact it will have on our western Colorado economy. Hard to think of a better place to house the department responsible for overseeing our beloved public lands.”
Kathleen Sgamma, President of the Western Energy Alliance, a trade and advocacy association that represents hundreds of oil and gas companies, said the BLM move is sure to help Grand Junction’s economy, including the hospitality and service industries. She said the move may not directly lead to increased oil and gas production, but it could become more difficult for BLM employees to block production when working in an area dependent on oil and gas for jobs.