Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper tries on his new Big Agnes coat during a tour of the Steamboat Springs company's warehouse Saturday morning.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper tries on his new Big Agnes coat during a tour of the Steamboat Springs company's warehouse Saturday morning.

Gov. Hickenlooper picks up Steamboat vibe

— Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper arrived in a winter wonderland when he visited Steamboat Springs on Saturday morning. He left with a better understanding of the community's accomplishments, the needs of local businesses and a fashionable new puffy coat courtesy of Big Agnes.

"You guys are a huge success story," Hickenlooper said to Big Agnes owners and employees. "Very impressive. It's great."

Hickenlooper visited the company in addition to leaders at Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. during his visit. According to Hickenlooper's office, the trip was part of an effort to execute objectives outlined in the Colorado Blueprint, an initiative created in 2011 to spur the state's economy, help businesses grow and attract new jobs to the state.

Big Agnes served as an example of a company that has taken on the challenges of doing business in an isolated mountain community.

Hickenlooper quickly pointed out the operation was “cool” but “obviously inefficient.”

The company operates out of four buildings in Steamboat and distributes Honey Stinger and Big Agnes products to retailers throughout the world. Just last week the company received four shipping containers filled with merchandise.

"We're the largest shipper in Northwest Colorado now," Big Agnes co-owner Bill Gamber said.

While Steamboat might be known for its skiing and cycling, it is not known for being a shipping hub.

“It’s kind of an outpost up here, and we know that, and that’s our choice,” Gamber said.

He told the governor that the company has continued to grow because it can call itself a Steamboat company.

“We are successful because of Colorado,” said Gamber. Hickenlooper replied, “I get the vibe.”

Hickenlooper pointed out how it was important to keep companies like Big Agnes in Colorado.

“We’ll help you in any way we can in terms of branding,” Hickenlooper said.

Sporting his new coat, Hickenlooper then visited with leaders at Ski Corp.

Steamboat Ski Corp.’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Rob Perlman told the governor about what the company and community have accomplished in recent years.

Hickenlooper was interested in the Steamboat community’s commitment to spending millions of dollars in lodging tax revenues on new trails and how it would work out.

“It’s just an example of the community understanding what it takes to drive tourism,” Hickenlooper said.

Perlman told Hickenlooper about the new 4 Points Lodge, the addition of night skiing and the bountiful amounts of snow Mother Nature has provided this ski season.

“Two-hundred inches (of snow) before the middle of January is insane,” Hickenlooper said.

The governor also was impressed with the community’s airline program.

“You can fly non-stop from Newark to Hayden?” Hickenlooper asked. “That’s awesome.”

Steamboat Ski Corp.’s Vice President of Human Resources Trish Sullivan told the governor about workforce challenges the company faces as the unemployment rate drops. The ski area relies on guest workers, but getting visas is a very complicated process, Sullivan said.

“Any influence that you have on our friends in Washington would certainly help with that,” she said.

As part of his tour, Hickenlooper planned on meeting with Hayden residents Friday evening at the Granary, but the stop was cancelled because the governor's plane got a flat tire while he was in Grand Junction earlier in the day.

Editor's note: This story was corrected to say Hickenlooper's stop in Hayden on Friday night was cancelled.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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