Who We Are: Tom Benton
Grand Junction is an amazing place to call home because of people like Tom Benton. For the past 35 years, we have benefited from his high ethics, passion for mentoring, business savvy, and love of the outdoors and community.
Growing up on a Colorado cattle ranch in rural Burns in Eagle County, a two-room school, horseback riding, hard work, and play in the outdoors were a daily way of life. Glenwood Springs introduced Benton to swimming, hiking and skiing. (Keep your eyes open on Powderhorn’s slopes this winter because he’s been known to ski in the original chaps he wore as a teenager!)
“My dad was a visionary and great mentor to me,” Benton said. “He encouraged me to do something else… before automatically going into ranching.”
Benton attended Colorado State University in Ft. Collins and began what would evolve into a successful career in banking, before a job opportunity in Grand Junction brought him to town only a few months prior to Black Sunday in May 1982—the fateful day when Exxon pulled out.
“My roll of helping businesses grow [suddenly] switched over to helping businesses survive,” said Benton somberly.
Subsequently, he teamed up with what he called “good-quality people” who helped the community adjust to the huge economic change underway, and to encourage more diversity within the business sector in the Grand Valley. This forward-thinking group, begun more than 30 years ago, morphed into the Grand Junction Economic Partnership (GJEP)—where Benton recently served as its president.
“Working with GJEP to make Grand Junction a better place gave me a roadmap for the next stages of my career and my civic service,” Benton added.
Currently, Tom Benton is president of the Grand Junction Downtown Rotary Club and vice chairman of the city’s Airport Authority Board. He has also served in key leadership roles within 4-H, Boy Scouts of America, United Way, the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations which share the common goals of adding value to the community.
One paramount key for any vibrant and growing community is to keep a “rural touch for youth”–giving them a balance of life experiences,” Benton said. “Everyone has a hot button… a channel of energy where they can make a difference. Whatever you’re doing, look both internally and externally, look to give back or give forward, and look to make Grand Junction a better place.”
And as for the looming prospect of retirement anytime in the near future, Colorado Mesa University apparently had other ideas; the growing institution whose burgeoning campus is situated near the heart of Grand Junction decided to recruit him as acting director of its acclaimed Maverick Innovation Center. The center partners faculty and students from various departments with community mentors, to create and patent new products and ideas. (Several patents are now pending as the center begins its third year of operation.)
“Investing in the next generation is important because they will be following behind us,” said Benton. “CMU is emulating other colleges by putting together think tanks [encompassing] high technology and creative living-learning spaces. This environment encourages innovation and student confidence, and for me the energy of mentoring students is very refreshing,” he added.
“I’ve been to forty-two of the fifty states, and every one of them has something to offer,” said Benton. “But when you put everything on the scale, this community has more diversity in recreation, a good balance of cultural activities, tremendous friendly Western ethics, and is a safe place with a climate providing four seasons. It’s a jewel a lot of people don’t recognize is here,” he concluded.
PHOTO CREDIT: TYLER LOGAN