Mercury’s sale

The sale of Mercury Payment Systems, Inc. – now usually just called Mercury – to Cincinnati-based Vantiv Inc., came as a surprise. The firm had been planning to go public and just finished building its new Durango headquarters.

The question that immediately popped up was: What does this mean for Durango? The speculation that followed centered on whether the company, or some part of it, would be moved out of town. Matt Taylor, Mercury’s chief executive officer, told the Herald the company would remain in Durango. But long-time observers of Durango may be skeptical. Too many have seen too many firms come and go.

There was a time Durango had five clothing manufacturers. Their individual circumstances and outcomes varied, but essentially, all fell victim to global economic forces.

This town also had two bicycle manufacturers. One folded; the other was bought out and moved.

For a while, Durango had a homegrown firm focused on high-tech security. It went through a series of ownership changes and, after one sale, moved away.

Years ago, there was a rifle-scope factory here. Details of why it left are sketchy, but it did. And the county is still paying for the cleanup; it was where the jail is now.

There was once an “insectory” in La Plata County, growing insects to control other bugs. It was bought out and moved away.

Not every company moves, at least not right away. Durango Pet food maker Zuke’s was acquired by Purina and is still here – although some local companies that have been bought out over the years were purchased primarily for their brand names.

In any case, the idea that someone would buy a local firm and move it is neither unfamiliar nor abnormal. The same forces that make doing business in Durango a challenge apply doubly to out-of-town executives trying to run a company here.

Given that the future is unknowable, and everything changes over time, implicit in Taylor’s statement that Mercury would stay was “for now.” That the company will be moving into its recently finished headquarters building this week is a hopeful sign for the roughly 400 jobs the company has in Durango. And if “for now” means a decade or so, for most people, that works. With technology and the business climate rapidly changing, that may be all anyone can hope.

However that works out, congratulations to Mercury’s founders and management. Well done.

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