State of the state: March
Manufacturing: Avon ski maker bets on bamboo
While attending a ski industry trade show in Las Vegas in 2003, James Satloff won enough money playing craps to launch a ski company in the heart of Colorado’s mountain-resort country with co-founder Dan Chalfant. A bamboo ski company.
Some five years into the venture, the duo’s bet on bamboo seems to be paying off. Despite a challenging economy and decreased pricing power throughout the industry, the Avon-based ski manufacturer expects increased sales for a fifth consecutive season. Liberty’s lightweight, twin-tipped skis are especially popular with free skiing enthusiasts, a segment Satloff says has experienced the most consistent growth in the ski and snowboard industry since the company’s bamboo skis first hit the slopes in 2004. Why bamboo? “It’s a great sustainable, renewable resource,” says Chalfant, Liberty’s 39-year-old president and CEO, who came from ski boot specialist Surefoot. “Bamboo grows on a three- to five-year cycle, unlike a lot of hardwoods. It also has performance benefits. It’s very light, very poppy.”
While Liberty’s skis sell in 16 countries, the company has remained small – probably a plus in these economic times — with four employees and six U.S. sales reps. Regional retailers credit performance, innovative design, favorable reviews and deepening penetration into international markets for keeping Liberty on a growth track. Ski-related purchases are purely discretionary buys, but according to Satloff, Liberty’s 46-year-old chairman and formerly CEO of Inform Technologies, “Demand continues to grow, even though many of our customers already have two or three pairs of skis.”
Retailers like Colorado Free Ride in Breckenridge, where all skis are currently discounted 20 percent, report moving Liberty products as well or better than other skis. At Base Mountain Sports in Beaver Creek where Liberty skis have not been discounted, General Manager Garrett Fletcher said in early January, “We are 100 percent sold out of Liberty skis.” Along with emphasizing eco-friendly production by using sustainable materials, Liberty purchases clean energy credits to achieve carbon neutrality. Fletcher said locals are loyal because the product performs, but tourists have taken to them, too. “Even if they are not looking for that type of ski, a demo turns them into buyers. Liberty is making some great skis.”
— Brian Giebel
Development: Denver Enterprise Zone expanded
More businesses in Denver will now be eligible for special state tax incentives available through the city’s Enterprise Zone following a recommendation by the Office of Economic Development to expand the zone’s boundaries to include Morrison Road, from Knox Court to Sheridan Boulevard, and Alameda Avenue, from Knox Court to Federal Boulevard. The Denver Enterprise Zone is a designation that affords qualifying businesses up to nine special state tax credits for purposes ranging from purchases of furniture to job training to rehabilitation of vacant buildings.
The expansion of the zone’s boundaries is intended to benefit businesses in a district challenged with vacant buildings, higher levels of unemployment and social need, according to a press release Jan. 30 from the Denver Office of Economic Development. Denver City Councilman Paul D. Lopez, whose District 3 includes the new Enterprise Zone boundaries, called the expansion “a very important step toward creating greater economic opportunity for our district’s families and small businesses.” For more information about the Enterprise Zone, contact the Denver Business Assistance Center at (720) 913-1715 or visit www.milehigh.com.
— Mike Taylor
Media: Channel 7 and ColoradoBiz on “The Road to Recovery”
As the economy continues to challenge businesses and consumers, KMGH Channel 7 and ColoradoBiz are collaborating on stories that explore how businesses are coping – and succeeding – despite the downturn. Look for new installments of “The Road to Recovery” at 4:30 p.m. on Thursdays, during the second half of the 4 p.m. broadcast. You can also find them online at www.TheDenverChannel.com, where you can watch videos about raising urban chickens, an uptick in the auto repair business, the success of a bison meat producer, the expansion of a comedy club and the growing trend for “virtual” offices. The segments were inspired by stories and columns from the pages of ColoradoBiz.