Location, city of Boulder’s efforts attract, keep ski-equipment firms
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Salewa North America LLC is in Boulder because of its proximity to Denver shipping channels and its available warehouse space, said Chris Sword. A Boulder economic development incentive approved for $10,000 in the form of tax credits helped seal the deal, he said.
Head USA Inc.’s winter-sports division was moved back to its Boulder roots from the East Coast a year ago to be close to its North American skier base, said Jon Rucker, Head’s vice president for winter sports.
(Courtesy Head USA Inc.)
They’re drawn by the strong sense of community among outdoor industry companies in the region and by the potential to apply for economic development incentives from the city of Boulder.
It doesn’t hurt that the Boulder Valley is known as an outdoor mecca that spawned such diverse outdoor ski brands as Spyder (ski clothing) and Warren Miller (iconic ski movies).
Head USA Inc.’s winter-sports division was moved back to its Boulder roots from the East Coast a year ago to be close to its North American skier base, said Jon Rucker, Head’s vice president for winter sports. About 30 percent of all skier visits are made to Colorado ski resorts, and many of those skiers live within an hour’s drive of his office, Rucker said.
“We are quickly becoming more a part of the fabric of Colorado skiing than ever before. The decision (to return to Colorado) has absolutely positively affected our business,” Rucker said.
While Head’s products primarily are manufactured in central Europe, with skis and bindings made in Austria, ski boots in Italy, and an additional manufacturing plant in the Czech Republic, the company’s showroom, its sales and marketing operations, product management, the finance office and some product testing are housed in Boulder, Rucker said.
“We wanted to locate in a town that was first off, close to skiing and snowboarding … and an incredibly active lifestyle,” Rucker said. “Boulder has the healthy lifestyles and great employees.”
Head was courted heavily by economic development officials in Ogden, Park City and Salt Lake City, in Utah, but chose Boulder instead, Rucker said. The company was approved by the Boulder city manager’s office to receive a $50,000 incentive from the city of Boulder’s economic vitality program in the form of tax credits.
As a bonus, employees love that the Head office at 3125 Sterling Circle backs up to the dirt bike tracks of the nearby Valmont Bike Park.
“We’re just really pleased to be in town, and part of the outdoor, thriving active outdoor community,” Rucker said.
Backcountry ski brand Dynafit also likes being based in Boulder, said Chris Sword, president of Salewa North America LLC, the domestic arm of the Italian outdoor company, which includes the Salewa, Dynafit and Pomoca brands. Dynafit skis, bindings and boots all are marketed from Boulder. The company offers other outdoor gear, including apparel and hiking boots.
Dynafit is known for its ski bindings, which allow a skier to hike uphill with a free heel, then to click into the bindings to ski downhill.
“These things are kinda organic,” Sword said in explaining why Salewa opened the Boulder headquarters in 2007.
Salewa is in Boulder because of its proximity to Denver shipping channels and its available warehouse space, Sword said. A Boulder economic development incentive approved for $10,000 in the form of tax credits helped seal the deal.
If well-known industry ski companies such as Head have moved back to the region, individuals such as Denny Hanson, founder of Apex Sports Group in Boulder, never left.
Hanson has called Boulder home since 1968, when he moved to Colorado to take a job working at Lange Ski Co. making ski boots in Broomfield.
The former ski racer later created his namesake Hanson Ski Boot and Apex Sports Group.
Apex’s manufacturing plant and warehouse are in Gunbarrel. The company had a chance to move to a bigger space in Niwot, but wanted to keep the Boulder address, Hanson said. The privately held company is doubling and tripling sales year over year, Hanson said, declining to give figures.
“Boulder has the cachet for sure,” Hanson said. “It has been a hub of active sports.”
Boutique ski-maker Sterling Skis LLC was founded in Boulder and never left, said owner John Mansell.
Sterling produces just 250 sets of skis per year. If the limited edition runs out, the customer has to wait until next year, Mansell said. The custom-made skis — many of them made by Mansell — cost as much as $3,500 per pair.
Specialty woods, including bird’s-eye maple, madrona burl and santos palisander, are polished to a high sheen and placed atop the highest-quality materials, Mansell said.
A couple of ski companies have exited the area. Specialty ski-maker Folsom Skis was founded in Boulder but grew quickly and moved to north Denver near Interstate 25 and U.S. Highway 36 about a year ago, and boutique ski firm DP Skis was wooed away to Utah.
Despite those departures, ski companies and other outdoor industry companies are attracted to and remaining in Boulder, in part, because of the city incentive program, said Liz Hanson, economic vitality coordinator for the city of Boulder.
“We’ve had quite a few outdoor industry companies benefit from that program when they’ve expanded or when they’ve moved,” Hanson said.
The flexible rebate program helps attract and retain “primary employers,” defined as ones that sell 50 percent or more of their products outside of the county, Hanson said.
For example, Head USA is considered to be an “attraction company” likely to draw other, similar companies to Boulder in the future, Hanson said. The “attraction company” draw was taken into consideration when deciding how much of a tax incentive rebate the company would qualify for, she said.
Other outdoor industry companies approved for Boulder tax incentive rebates include American Recreation Products Inc. in Boulder in 2012, a parent company of several well-known camping and other outdoor brands, ($25,000); and Sea to Summit Inc., an outdoor gear company approved for $10,820 in tax incentives in 2009.
The city’s flexible rebate program has been in effect since 2007, with rebate amounts varying from year to year. The city has approve more than $2 million in tax credit rebates for 44 companies across a variety of industries, from high-tech and software companies to national and organic product companies.
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