As the Bureau of Land Management gets ready to move into its new national headquarters in Grand Junction, it appears that many of its current D.C.-based employees won’t be coming along. Of the 27 positions set to be based at the new head office, the agency appears to be hiring for many of them.
Ten Grand Junction-based BLM positions are listed on USAJobs, the main government website for employment opportunities with federal agencies. The positions include such top roles as chief of staff, senior policy adviser, and assistant director of communications. Many pay above $100,000 and some as high as $152,000, putting the listed jobs far above Grand Junction’s average annual wage of $44,600.
Robin Brown, with Grand Junction Economic Partnership, said that even though the positions will likely be filled by non-locals, this infusion of high-paying jobs will have a positive impact on Grand Junction.
“It means that our average annual wage continues to go up, which is our whole goal,” Brown said.
A higher annual wage, Brown said, stokes competition, hopefully bumping up lower paying jobs a bit.
And while 27 jobs may not sound like many, Brown stressed it’s actually “a lot” for an economic ecosystem like Grand Junction’s. The latest census estimate pegs the city's population at 63,374.
That’s 27 families “that will move here, buy a house, send their kids to school here,” she said. “So it’s great for us.”
There’s also been talk from Interior Secretary David Bernhardt that the number of Grand Junction-based employees could grow. The office space the agency has leased at 760 Horizon Dr. would certainly allow for that, at 5,000 square feet.
But Brown said she knows the BLM’s future in Grand Junction is still in flux, especially with all the current turmoil in Washington, both related and not. This move has become an increasingly partisan issue, and many Democrats see it as a way to decentralize and wound the agency. Critics also include many former BLM employees, who worry about a “brain drain” if experienced career staff at the BLM choose not to move.
Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona has argued that the move will put the BLM closer to special interests, particularly the oil, gas, and mining sectors. The Grand Junction office building selected by the agency is already home to oil and gas companies.
Brown acknowledged the current political debate surrounding the move, but stressed the idea didn’t seem partisan when it was first introduced about three years ago, with US Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, as one of its loudest champions. More recently, Colorado's Democratic Gov. Jared Polis tweeted that Grand Junction is the perfect home for the Bureau.
In all the meetings about this topic she’s been to over the years, Brown said her office was never concerned about politics. The focus has always been on economic development, specifically jobs, like the 27 that will soon be based in Grand Junction.