Sweet success stories

Evidence shows a recipe for business growth exists in S.W. Colo.

Zuke’s, a maker of all-natural dog and cat food treats, is among a handful of La Plata County companies that has learned to thrive in a slow economy. From left, Job, Nika, Trek, Molly and Sawyer eagerly await another Zuke’s treat. Enlarge photo

SARAH FRIEDMAN/Herald

Zuke’s, a maker of all-natural dog and cat food treats, is among a handful of La Plata County companies that has learned to thrive in a slow economy. From left, Job, Nika, Trek, Molly and Sawyer eagerly await another Zuke’s treat.

When the Region 9 Economic Development group recently surveyed businesses in the region, owners said they felt their greatest achievement was either growth or survival.

It’s not surprising in today’s economic climate. But it is a sentiment to be taken seriously, local economic development officials said.

It’s important and helpful to check in with and understand the efforts behind those companies that have found their way to success despite current economic obstacles.

That’s because with every struggling business’ job loss, much more is lost to the community, said Laura Lewis Marchino, assistant director of the Region 9 economic development alliance, at a recent local business professionals economic summit in Ignacio.

For instance, one job eliminated in the tourism industry often can mean another part-time job lost elsewhere, Marchino said.

The secondary job loss might be in a local grocery store, where the now unemployed person can no longer afford to shop. Or it could be in the hair salon or with the cleaning company that the laid-off employee can no longer afford to use.

But the converse, she said, also is true. For every job gained, further movement is added to the local economy.

It’s what Joe Keck, director of the Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center, described during the summit as a “cascading” of local dollars circulating within the community.

Fortunately, economic development folks say, some local businesses in La Plata County are more than just eking by. They’re thriving – despite the economic downturn that still plagues the nation, the state and the region.

Some businesses are reaping the benefits of smart business practices through the downturn, and they are seeing growth rather than retraction.

Some local companies growing in a slow-go economy include:

b Stoneage Inc., a manufacturing firm in Bodo Park that sells high-pressure water tools to businesses around the world.

b Ska Brewing Co., a local brewery whose recent growth has allowed them to expand canning operations.

b Mercury Payment Systems, a company providing payment-processing services to businesses around the nation.

b Durango Soda Company, the specialty soda maker whose products, including Zuberfizz, are now available in 42 states.

b Zukes, a company that makes natural dog and cat food and treats for pet owners around the world.

For Marchino and others on the economic-development scene, those businesses and others like them are proof that the recipes and ingredients for success can be found in La Plata County.

They’re also playing a big role in keeping the cash “cascading” through the community that helps to keep others outside of those industries employed.

The associated stories show a few of the people, companies and success stories found in La Plata County.

Ska Brewing Co. is among a group of micro brewers in La Plata County that have discovered a slow economy is no reason to sing the blues. Here Cody Looman, part of the packing crew at Ska, helps guide cans into the rinse cage before beer is added at the brewery. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Herald

Ska Brewing Co. is among a group of micro brewers in La Plata County that have discovered a slow economy is no reason to sing the blues. Here Cody Looman, part of the packing crew at Ska, helps guide cans into the rinse cage before beer is added at the brewery.

Durango Soda Company is enjoying growth during an economic period hostile to many businesses. Here, co-owner Dan Aggeler checks levels of Coco Fizz last week at Durango Soda Company in Bodo Park. Enlarge photo

LINDSAY EPPICH/Herald

Durango Soda Company is enjoying growth during an economic period hostile to many businesses. Here, co-owner Dan Aggeler checks levels of Coco Fizz last week at Durango Soda Company in Bodo Park.