Steamboat Springs Navigator Award recipients honored for commitment to community |

Steamboat Springs Navigator Award recipients honored for commitment to community

— Steamboat Springs individuals and businesses are being honored Friday for their many contributions to the community. The Navigator Awards luncheon at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort will honor the businessperson, business, sustainable business and young professional of the year.

Businessperson of the Year

Karl Gills may have retired as CEO of Yampa Valley Medical Center in March, but he says he never had plans to spend his retirement sitting in a rocking chair on a porch.

"My days are still full, but they're not as compressed and hectic as they used to be, and that's a nice change," Gills said.

Today, he remains focused on the Casey's Pond Senior Living project, a new seniors campus under construction at U.S. Highway 40 and Walton Creek Road in Steamboat Springs. Gills is volunteering his time and expertise as the board chairman and president of Colorado Senior Residences, the nonprofit community organization building the project.

"It's something that I think is going to be another very significant asset in the community, and I'm very excited about being a part of it," Gills said.

Framing is well under way on the 117,000-square-foot project, which is scheduled to open its doors in fall 2013.

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Gills said the YVMC board and hospital administrators identified the need for the facility several years ago. It will allow residents to age under one roof as their needs change. The Doak Walker Care Center skilled nursing facility will move from YVMC to Casey's Pond. The facility also will cater to those who would benefit from independent living, assisted living and memory care.

Sandy St. Clair, executive director of the Healthcare Foundation for the Yampa Valley, said Gills had the vision to bring the Casey's Pond project to fruition.

"The project of Casey's Pond was never easy," she said. "It was something where you had to bring a lot of foresight, you had to understand many facets of what this community needs, and Karl took it to heart because he's compassionate and a nice person, and he wanted to make it happen for our community."

Business of the Year

This year's business of the year is responsible for educating and training the people who work in Steamboat's most successful ski shops, resorts and restaurants.

Boasting a new 60,000-square-foot building, Colorado Mountain College has come a long way since Willy Markowitz attended the school.

"We started with no buildings whatsoever, and now we're just all staring here amazed that it's just a real school," said Markowitz, who graduated in 1968 from Yampa Valley College, the school that evolved into CMC. "For me, it’s been kind of a thrill."

CMC has celebrated several milestones in recent years, but the new $18 million state-of-the art building is the most visible with its stately three-story appearance on a hillside above downtown Steamboat. It's a hub of activity that boasts a 290-seat auditorium, a fitness center, a business enterprise center, a dining hall and new classrooms. The new academic center has been called the crown jewel that acts as a bridge between the community and its college.

“Everything we do is about the community," said Brian Hoza, who has worked at the college for 23 years. "We want to be the community's college not the community college."

The building helps symbolize an evolution at the college that has included the addition of four-year bachelor’s degree programs in business administration and sustainability. To help meet the demand from local restaurants and catering operations, the college also has added a two-year associate's degree program in culinary arts.

Hoza said that 3,400 community members take classes at CMC and that the building helps put the college on track to continue meeting the needs of the community.

"We can go wherever we want to go," Hoza said. "There's a lot more opportunity to move forward, and it's in a place that we can be proud of."

Sustainable business

Initially, the owners of the Steamboat Springs PostNet store were perplexed when they signed up for the Sustainable Business Program in 2007.

"It was the right thing to do, and very quickly we realized what an interesting business to be in a sustainable program. We're actually all about paper," said Kathy Stokes, who has owned the business services and shipping company with her husband, Terry, for 15 years.

Even though they are in the paper business, PostNet has made considerable strides toward becoming more sustainable. They sought out help from Lyn Halliday, now with the Steamboat Sustainable Business Consortium.

In the first six months, PostNet was able to reduce its energy consumption 30 percent by being better about turning off machines or putting them into sleep mode. PostNet also replaced its light bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescents and LEDs.

"We started realizing that there were definite cost savings," Stokes said.

PostNet upped its recycling efforts and then focused on how it could offer sustainable options to its customers. All of the paper used at PostNet uses at least 30 percent post-consumer waste and the business offers some paper made completely with recycled material.

PostNet established a shredding service and collects styrofoam packing peanuts. Customers are can drop off their peanuts, and PostNet reuses them.

"We're doing our job right if we can run this entire business without ever purchasing peanuts," Stokes said.

The efforts by the Steamboat business have not gone unnoticed. The sustainable strategies have been adopted by PostNet stores across the country. Halliday said that is another reason why she chose PostNet as the Sustainable Business of the Year.

Young professional

When Stephany Swinford was new to town, she reached out to the community.

Volunteering with Routt County Riders and being involved with community events including the Fourth of July Parade initially was a networking opportunity, but it evolved into more.

"It's turned into something more personal," Swinford said. "It's turned into a sense of pride and passion for myself."

Swinford and Glen Traylor are going into their third winter of operating a Ski Butlers franchise in Steamboat. The company started in Park City, Utah, eight years ago and has grown to serve more than 30 ski resorts in Colorado, California, Utah, Wyoming and British Columbia. Ski Butlers aims to make the ski and snowboard rental process as painless as possible by delivering the equipment to customers at their vacation condos and hotels. This year, Ski Butlers was one of seven businesses that received a Small Business of the Year Award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The award is a tribute to businesses that excel in the areas of staff training and motivation, community involvement and customer service.

Swinford's service work also extends to the Young Professionals Network in Steamboat.

"She's really kind of led the charge for community involvement," said Tyler Goodman, vice chairman of the YPN board. "We had a really successful 2012 year, and she was an instrumental part of that."

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email

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