Colorado Companies to Watch 2014: Tourism & outdoor recreation
TOURISM & OUTDOOR RECREATION
Portrait: Founded in 2005, Niner Bikes designs, manufactures and sells high-end mountain bikes.
Major Moment: There have been many, but one stands out: the decision by Niner to voluntarily recall one of its bike frames as the result of an unapproved change in the manufacturing process by a Niner supplier half a world away. Niner chose to maximize the consumer experience, though it came at an accumulated $1 million in expenses to the small startup. “Best of all, we learned much about ourselves, our commitment to our riders, and forever changed our culture and internal processes,” Niner Bikes President Chris Sugai said.
Differentiator: While larger companies must allocate resources to kids’ bikes, electric bikes, beach cruisers, etc., Niner focuses solely on the 29-inch mountain bike segment. Its MSRP ranges from $1,900 to $7,500, with a majority of unit sales hovering at the mid-range. Within this segment, Niner competes well against the big boys. Said Sugai: “When you are ready to spend $5,000 on a bike, Niner is in the conversation.”
Innovation: Earlier this year, Niner Bikes received its fourth patent. In the world of mountain biking, very few companies have a patented suspension design, and Niner is among this elite group.
ENERGY & NATURAL RESOURCES
PORTRAIT: Cartasite provides real-time safety and security technology in the oil and gas industry, offering fleet management, asset tracking, lone worker safety and field operations since 2004. Well-known clients include: ConocoPhillips and Encana Corp., among others in the energy industry.
DIFFERENTIATOR: To provide a singular inclusive company snapshot for energy industry administrators in real-time, Cartasite built a synchronized global dashboard solution, worldVIEW, which monitors analytics, provides safety and security reports, completes account management tasks and more. This instantaneous information transfer allows managers to use and understand daily operations most effectively and efficiently.
MAJOR MOMENT: In 2007, Cartasite partnered with the City and County of Denver to run a large-scale science experiment, called Driving Change. CEO David Armitage and then-Mayor John Hickenlooper collaborated to install sensors in 500 vehicles that would assess individual driver performance for a full year and determine if subtle behaviors behind the wheel could be positively influenced to reduce fuel consumption, emissions and increase safety. The program resulted in a 14 percent decline in fuel consumption and a drop in the number of auto accidents. In 2009, Encana adopted the technology into its fleet of U.S. vehicles. Ultimately, DrivingChange guided the company’s development of Realtime On-board Vehicle Reporting (ROVR) systems, directly correlating with a 55 percent decline in crash rates in commercial vehicle fleets and now deployed in 31 countries in an attempt to save lives, money and the planet.
COMMUNITY: To drive awareness and help young drivers better understand the implications of unsafe driving, Cartasite oversaw an outreach program called Safe Drivers, Safe Roads, utilizing its ROVR in Cherry Creek High School. After six weeks students evaluated their peers’ driving behaviors and observed safety (or lack thereof) trends. “The Safe Driver, Safe Roads campaign will provide an innovative way to help keep our teen drivers safe through education and incentives,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said.
EcoVapor Recovery Systems
Portrait: EcoVapor Recovery Systems turns flared gas into a usable product. This reduces emissions on energy development locations and improves the efficiency and profitability for oil and gas producers. The Greeley-based company was founded in 2010.
Major Moment: Longtime oil-industry executive Peter Mueller saw incinerating flash gas as a waste of valuable hydrocarbon resources, so he financially assisted his son Hans Mueller, a Colorado School of Mines graduate, to develop a better technology that would eliminate resource waste and improve emission control at well sites. Hans developed the ERS unit, an innovative method to capture flash gas. Noble Energy was the first customer. After a successful demo, Noble contracted for 20 ERS units. EcoVapor Recovery Systems was off and running.
Differentiator: EcoVapor Recovery Systems has patent-pending technology for removing oxygen from fugitive gasses released from oil tanks. Oxygen is not permissible in natural gas, so this contaminated stream is usually burned. By removing oxygen, this gas can be turned into fuel rather than burning it. In 2013 alone, EcoVapor removed pollutants from Colorado air equivalent to taking 28,000 cars off the road. At the same time, enough gas was captured and sold to heat more than 9,000 homes.
Innovation: As horizontal well technology came to Colorado, emissions control was exceedingly important with larger volumes of oil being produced, but ERS’ systems were not optimized to handle the higher rates. In only two years, EcoVapor was able to convert to a system able to capture four times the emissions than it previously could.
Portrait: Gravity Renewables owns, operates and develops small hydroelectric plants across the country, bringing cost-effective clean energy to schools and municipalities. It invests in small hydro plants that have often been neglected for years.
Major Moment: In 2013, Gravity Renewables executed the first-ever net metering agreement between a small hydro plant and a private college. Skidmore College of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., made a 20-year commitment to the nearby Chittenden Falls Hydro Plant, located on the site of a historic textile mill. This provides Gravity Renewables an enhanced, predictable revenue stream that allows the company to restore and preserve the historic asset and improve its value.
Differentiator: Gravity Renewables, started in 2010, is the first company in the industry to seek out plants in states with favorable laws to build relationships that create value for all. Gravity Renewables recognized that the power generated by these small, community plants should be valued similar to the way municipalities and schools value wind and solar projects.
Innovation: Gravity Renewables has taken innovations and policies to promote new distributed solar and wind facilities that serve schools and municipalities and brought them to small hydro, a neglected corner of America’s clean energy infrastructure. These plants are aging and undercapitalized and Gravity Renewables is the first firm to connect them to the purchasing power that can deliver much-needed revenue boosts.
Portrait: Halker Consulting provides specialized engineering services to the energy industry, specifically facilities and infrastructure engineering for oil and gas production. The company was founded in 2006.
Major Moment: The three locations the company has occupied since its founding mark significant milestones. The first office in Parker was the company’s original foray out of the basement where it was launched. As demand for Halker Consulting’s skill set increased, the company added innovative engineers and project managers, and thus moved its office to the Lincoln Station in Lone Tree where it exceeded 80 employees in than space. The company most recently moved into the Meridian office park, where it has more than 110 employees. It also has regional offices in Midland, Texas, and Durango.
Differentiator: Halker Consulting is a leader in progressive engineering solutions for the directionally drilled, multi-well field development strategies presently dominating the North American oil and gas industry.
Community: Halker challenges its employees to participate in activities that benefit the community locally and globally. For the past three years employees have held a turkey drive; last November 72 turkeys were donated to the Denver Rescue Mission. For 2014, the company has set a goal of $25,000 in charitable contributions.