Are Summit County businesses ready to grow? |

Are Summit County businesses ready to grow?

In a recent teleconference, Sen. Mark Udall said business leaders around Colorado all tell him the same thing: They’re ready to expand. The senator is currently working on an amendment to a small business bill that would increase credit unions’ ability to lend to small companies, a move he says will help small businesses expand and create jobs.

But what about Summit County businesses? Do those hit hardest by the economy – like in the construction or service industries – feel ready to take the plunge?

Katie Roberts, executive director of the Summit Independent Business Alliance, said she’s seeing cautious optimism from local businesses interested in growth.

“I’m not hearing a lot of people wanting to take big risks,” she said.

Consumers have been wary of their spending in the past few years – a trend Roberts said could stick around.

“They’re more careful, and I think the business owners are aware of that,” she said.

Rod Vargas, who purchased Summit Landscaping in Breckenridge this past October, is in the process of giving his new company a facelift. He’s repainting vehicles and equipment to give his business a uniform look, and putting up a small garden center.

“Regardless of where the economy was going, I think it was a great opportunity for us to update the image of the company,” he said.

Vargas isn’t certain when the economy will completely rebound, but said the perfect time to think about expansion is when it’s stagnate.

“To me, it was a great opportunity,” he said. “It’s a great time to do it.”

Scott Boshaw – owner of Ember in Breckenridge – opened his restaurant at the economy’s rock bottom in Dec. 2009. Because he started his business in such a lean period, Boshaw said he doesn’t really know any other way to run it. He said he tries not to dwell on the economy.

“One thing the economy does for you is fine-tune your business,” he said.

Boshaw said he’s currently only concerned about Ember, but would definitely consider expanding his brand if the restaurant could self-sustain.

Todd Gourley of Powder River Construction said his building seasons have been full.

“I’m busier and busier every summer,” he said. “Last summer was the best summer yet.”

Gourley focuses on kitchen and bath remodels, and said he wouldn’t be opposed to taking advantage of extra credit to expand his business. He also owns Powder River Log Cabins, a company he started just last year. The building business hasn’t been quite as busy as his construction company, but he thinks it’s because many people don’t know about it yet. Nevertheless, Gourley is optimistic.

“There’s a lot more business out there,” he said.

Don Sather, owner of BigHorn Materials in Silverthorne, isn’t so optimistic; he says he’s realistic. Sather was in Summit County for the 1980s’ economic recession, which lasted nine years. He said you have to foresee the growth of business before you can expand.

“You don’t entertain debt in a down economy,” he said.

Before the economy tanked, Sather owned seven small businesses, including a paint store in Frisco and an eco-products store in Breckenridge. He had to close three of the seven when the economy hit. He said he would consider reopening his stores if the markets improved and Lowe’s and Home Depot stay away, but until then, he’s taking it one year at a time.

“We’ll keep our fingers crossed,” he said.

The Senate will be debating the small business bill for at least several more days. They are on recess for the week, but will take up the bill again when they return Monday.

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