Mountain West employee Brad Sandifer works on the irrigation system in an area recently updated at SmartWool. The local company recently began a $1.45 million facility renovation.

Photo by John F. Russell

Mountain West employee Brad Sandifer works on the irrigation system in an area recently updated at SmartWool. The local company recently began a $1.45 million facility renovation.

Work under way on $1.45 million SmartWool remodel

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— A $1.45 million remodel now under way at SmartWool headquarters in Steamboat Springs is evidence the company plans to stay in Steamboat for the foreseeable future, President Mark Satkiewicz said this week.

“We’re not leaving,” Satkiewicz said Friday. “I can’t envision a SmartWool not being in Steamboat.”

The departure of successful Steamboat Springs businesses is an ever-present community concern. Most recently, TIC Holdings announced last month that it was moving its Steamboat operations to the company's Englewood offices. TIC officials cited transportation issues and affordable housing as some of the reasons for the move.

In an effort to work proactively to keep another rapidly growing Steamboat business here, the city is negotiating the sale of its police and fire station on Yampa Street to Honey Stinger and Big Agnes for $2.1 million. Company co-owner Bill Gamber has said businesses like his face tremendous pressure to move out of Steamboat. He even hinted that without the Yampa Street building, his companies’ future in the Yampa Valley is uncertain.

Satkiewicz has always said SmartWool is committed to staying in Steamboat, but he has cited challenges the company faces being based in a small mountain town. Transportation is one of those challenges. Employees at the merino wool apparel company need to travel extensively both domestically and internationally, and driving to Denver over snowy mountain passes to catch a flight is not ideal.

Another challenge, Satkiewicz has said, is being able to recruit the right employees to Steamboat.

Satkiewicz on Friday said leaving Steamboat is “not really even something we’ve considered.”

SmartWool anticipated the extensive remodel of its headquarters at Steamboat Springs Airport would be completed a month ago. But he said the project was delayed for a variety of reasons. Regardless, Satkiewicz said SmartWool's parent company, apparel giant VF Corp., always has been supportive of its Steamboat growth.

“It just took longer to get going than we wanted,” Satkiewicz said about the remodel, which was announced in July 2011 as part of a 10-year-lease agreement with the city to remodel and continue using the former terminal building at Steamboat Springs Airport.

A month before the announcement, VF Corp. announced its plans to purchase SmartWool and then-parent company Timberland.

Although the North Carolina-based company stated SmartWool would remain based in Steamboat, some have questioned how long the company really would stay.

The remodel is the result of an economic development project spearheaded by Jon Roberts, Steamboat’s city manager who announced his resignation Tuesday.

The agreement outlines that the city initially will pay for the cost of the remodel, and SmartWool will pay the city back at a 3.5 percent interest rate during the course of the lease.

Steamboat Springs City Council President Bart Kounovsky said Friday that now that SmartWool has started renovations, the company is investing its own dollars.

“Hopefully that will signal an intent that they’re committed to Steamboat for the foreseeable future,” Kounovsky said.

He said the project is good for both the city and Steamboat.

“The outdoor recreation industry is a great fit for Steamboat Springs,” Kounovsky said.

Further securing its presence in Colorado, SmartWool recently signed a new three-year lease for its Boulder office, Satkiewicz said.

The remodel of the Steamboat headquarters will allow it to keep up with anticipated growth in the company, he said. SmartWool has about 70 employees working out of the airport terminal, where the company has been based since 2002. Satkiewicz anticipates adding 30 more employees in the next five or six years.

Fort Collins-based Drahota Construction was selected to oversee the remodel project.

“It’s a complete interior demolition and rebuild while all employees are in place,” said Joe Jones, Drahota’s operations manager.

To accomplish that, the work is being done in two parts. Demolition work has started on the east side of the building, and employees have been relocated to the west side. Satkiewicz said employees are sharing work spaces during the remodel, and some are working from home.

“It’s going pretty well, but it’s always going to be a challenge,” Satkiewicz said.

The remodel will allow the company to more efficiently use the existing space.

“It’s extremely improved space utilization,” Jones said. “It’s like adding square footage.”

Satkiewicz said SmartWool is taking over about 4,000 square feet of space that was occupied by the city’s airport operations. A new building has been built next to the terminal for those operations.

SmartWool had planned on adding 2,000 square feet of space by building another second-floor area. Satkiewicz said it was determined that space was not necessary for the anticipated growth of the company.

On Friday, workers were laying new sod in front of the building where there used to be a driveway. Satkiewicz envisions employees will be using the large grass area for Frisbee, soccer and other activities that represent SmartWool’s brand and company culture.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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