Jeffco provides playground, workforce for industry to thrive

Outdoor companies represent a quarter of all new business prospects for county

Posted 10/16/18

Jefferson County is known as the Gateway to the Rockies. This makes it a prime spot for outdoor industry businesses and companies to thrive. “Jefferson County offers the quintessential Colorado …

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Jeffco provides playground, workforce for industry to thrive

Outdoor companies represent a quarter of all new business prospects for county


Jefferson County is known as the Gateway to the Rockies.

This makes it a prime spot for outdoor industry businesses and companies to thrive.

“Jefferson County offers the quintessential Colorado experience,” said Kristi Pollard, the president and CEO of the Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation (Jeffco EDC). “With Jeffco’s commitment to the preservation of open space and the quintessential Colorado lifestyle, Jeffco is a 212,000-acre testing facility that is beckoning the outdoor industry to come.”

Nationally, the outdoor industry represents 7.6 million jobs and $52.9 billion in state and local revenues, Pollard said. Jeffco EDC’s website notes that each year in Colorado, the outdoor recreation industry generates 229,000 direct jobs and $2 billion in state and local tax revenue.

In Jeffco, the outdoor industry represents nearly a quarter of all business prospects considering the area, Pollard added.

And “we believe that Colorado, and Jeffco in particular, is well suited to support the industry with workforce, business-friendly policies and the outdoor experiences that are a requirement for these types of businesses,” Pollard said.

Some businesses, such as Spyderco — a knife manufacturer founded in 1976 by Sal and Gail Glesser that put its roots in Golden in 1981 — have been in the community for a long time. Others, such as Duluth Trading Company, have recently come to Jeffco.

“We’re a lifestyle brand,” said Lonnie Ostransky, the Duluth store manager for the new Golden location, 16630 Colfax Ave., which had its grand opening on Sept. 13. “Our gear fits the lifestyle and activities that go on in Jefferson County. It’s head-to-toe clothing for the Colorado closet.”

Duluth, a Wisconsin-based company, was founded in 1989 and operated as a catalogue and online business until about 2010 when it started opening retail shops across the U.S. The Golden location marks its 40th retail store.

“It’s exciting to talk with people who are lifetime customers,” Ostransky said, “but just now get to come to the retail store for the first time.”

Proximity to the mountains and the I-70 corridor is certainly key, said Marc Cutilletta, the national sales manager for Hestra USA, a glove manufacturer.

“It’s nice for people not to have to travel to downtown Denver or Boulder” for their gear, he said. But another benefit is that Jeffco is not a “skyscraper jungle.”

“We’re in the foothills,” Cutilletta said, “so we’re constantly reminded of the natural beauty we get to work and play in.”

Hestra is a family-owned Swedish company that started 83 years ago. It came to Golden from Sweden 14 years ago but by the end of the year is moving to the area of 54th and Ward in Arvada because of the need for a larger facility.

Jefferson County offers easy access to the mountains; good amenities for dining, entertainment and lodging; and a great appreciation of the outdoors, Cutilletta said.

“We’re here to stay,” he said.

But in the recent past, not all companies have.

Breaking camp

Coleman, a well-known manufacturer of outdoor recreation products, built a $4.5 million building at 1767 Denver West Boulevard in 1995 to become its headquarters.

Coleman chose this area because of Coloradans’ high usage of outdoor products, said local historian Rick Gardner. The building itself was modeled to provide a “great outdoors feel,” he added.

But that only lasted about a year, and the company moved its leadership to Wichita, Kansas. Then, in 2012, the company brought the brand’s leadership team back to the Denver West location, after Jefferson County offered $75,000 in cash and a property tax rebate of 25 cents on the dollar over a 10-year period. However, in October 2016, Newell Brands — Coleman’s parent company — informed its Jefferson County employees that it was going to merge the Coleman and Beverageware businesses in Chicago. This resulted in a reduction of more than 50 jobs and, again, the closure the Golden headquarters.

Another example comes out of Wheat Ridge. A large parcel of land at the southwest quadrant of Highway 58 and I-70 — roughly, just west of I-70 between approximately 34th Avenue and Clear Creek — was approved for a rezone for Cabela’s, also a retailer of outdoor recreation merchandise, to build a 185,000 square foot store. However, a Cabela’s corporate decision led to the 2013 opening of two stores located along the I-25 corridor — one in Thornton and one in Lone Tree — establishing itself in the north and south ends of the Denver metropolitan area.

New expeditions

Still, Wheat Ridge continues to target new businesses, and that includes those of the outdoor industry, said Steve Art, Wheat Ridge’s economic development manager. In fact, the transit station at the end of the Light Rail’s Gold Line — 50th and Ward — has been loosely branded an outdoor recreation hub, Art said.

“Adventure begins at the end of the line,” he said.

The station, and its immediate area, has vast opportunities for outdoor recreational amenities including mountain biking, water sports, running and hiking trails and playgrounds.

All this is in addition to opportunities for private development with visibility from I-70 and “convenient access to regional employment hubs and Denver International Airport” states city documents.

It’s a vision plan, Art added, but “nothing is set in stone.”

Yeti Cycles, a Golden-based mountain bike manufacturer, also has a vision for Jeffco — an outdoor lifestyle campus.

Along with relocating its headquarters, “we hope to bring other like-minded companies to the campus,” said Yeti Cycles’ president and owner Chris Conroy, “and provide an environment that is focused on the outdoors.”

The location is an approximate 40-acre plot of land in unincorporated Jefferson County on the west side of Highway 93, about five minutes north of downtown Golden. It took the company about five years to find the right parcel of land, Conroy added.

“Great mountain bike trail access and proximity to dealers on the Front Range is critical for our business,” Conroy said. “There is also a highly educated, motivated workforce in Jefferson County that we tap into regularly.”

Pollard agrees.

“As businesses look for locations to operate, they take into account a number of factors like the cost of doing business, workforce and transportation,” she said. But, “they also look at the health of the community and opportunities for work-life balance. Jefferson County offers the best of both worlds. Employers understand that a happy, healthy employee will produce more, ultimately contributing to the overall success of the company.”

It should be noted that overall, Colorado is an active state, Art said.

“Colorado is a place where people want to try all the sports,” he said.

These activities include skiing and snowboarding in the winter, kayaking and rafting in the summer and hiking, biking and fishing that one can enjoy all year round, Art said.

And Jeffco, in particular, has a plethora of these outdoor activities that residents and visitors can enjoy, Pollard said. This means the county can attract diverse types of businesses within the outdoor industry — apparel and gear for snow and water sports, hiking and bouldering and everything in between, she said.

“Jeffco has the playground, workforce and business environment to support them all,” Pollard said.


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