Location-neutral businesses are booming in Steamboat Springs, Routt County
Thanks to fast broadband, easy traveling logistics and access to a great work/life balance, Steamboat is home to a thriving location-neutral workforce, accounting for nearly 2,000 workers and generating $54 million in annual income. Their occupations range from software techs and salespeople to graphic designers, writers and financial advisors — all of whose business borders extend well beyond Steamboat.
“It’s a vital component of the economy,” says local economic analyst Scott Ford. “They bring in outside dollars, making 20 percent more than town’s median income, and contribute greatly to the local economy.”
Steamboat offers everything these employees need, from high-tech broadband services to competitive direct flight and shipping programs. “People can work from anywhere now,” says Jon Wade, broker/owner of The Steamboat Group. “Once they spend some time here, meet people and learn about the quality of our schools, they realize they could live here and enjoy Steamboat all year long.”
“I have the same career opportunities here as people living in a big city,” adds software developer Aaron Bergemann, who works with team members as far away as Berlin, while still skiing powder days. “We have a great community of location-neutral tech workers here.”
Working out of a 1,500-square-foot office downtown, Philadelphia transplant Jon Albro offers another testament. “We’ve been able to save money on rent; outsource positions; find great, highly educated employees; and our travel is easier because we’re centrally located,” he says of his investment distribution company. “And the lifestyle is an enormous upgrade.”
For many, that’s the true tipping point. Troy Hill, a web developer for Brooklyn-based Democracyworks.org, works out of the Ski Locker co-working space downtown, now under new ownership by Tim Koch. That allows Hill to video-conference when not cross-country skiing a block away. Joining him is Gabe Carretto, a director at an information technology company more than 1,000 miles away in Chicago. “I needed a space away from our condo where I could get some work done,” he says. “It checks all the boxes for what I needed.”
Software consultant Avrom Feinberg runs his services out of Colorado Mountain College’s Entrepreneurial Center, now housed at the Steamboat Airport along with energy food company Honey Stinger. “I can deal with clients on both coasts easily,” he says. “The only drawback is resisting the 30 miles of mountain bike trails out my door.”
Matthew Cutts moved Petroleum Equipment International to Steamboat from Houston five years ago. “Steamboat was best mountain town I found,” he says. “It has a great direct-flight program and offers a great quality of life, hospital, housing and more. And with savings on insurance, city taxes and more affordable banking, my cost of doing business has actually gone down.”
Adds Ford: “Our location-neutral workers are all here enjoying everything Steamboat has to offer, from the convenience of downtown to the outdoors. Our strongest economic asset is being a great place to live.”
- Estimated number of location-neutral workers in Routt County: 1,600
- The fastest-growing industry sector in Routt County’s economy is professional, scientific and technical services.
- According to the 2012 Census, 13% of Routt County residents work from home.
- Broadband speeds are rapidly increasing in the Yampa Valley, with download speeds of more than 100 megabytes per second and upload speeds exceeding 20Mbps.
- The City of Steamboat Springs, Routt County, Steamboat Springs School District, Yampa Valley Electric Association, Yampa Valley Medical Center, and Steamboat Springs Chamber are participating in the non-profit Northwest Colorado Broadband effort aimed at increasing broadband capability, capacities, affordability and redundancy throughout Routt County.
- 4G network is available in the city and parts of Routt County.
- Steamboat Springs has multiple Internet Service Providers, including wireless options.
High-quality broadband service in Steamboat Springs is fueling a rise in location-neutral workers, with several providers collaborating with nonprofit Northwest Colorado Broadband to facilitate abundant, affordable and redundant broadband service for residents and businesses.
NCB is governed by a board of directors including designees from Routt County, the city, the school district, Yampa Valley Electric Association, Steamboat Springs Chamber and Yampa Valley Medical Center, and provides open access to internet service providers to increase competition and facilitate improved service and pricing.
In other broadband news, in fall 2020 YVEA became the first Colorado-based entity to receive a federal ReConnect grant to build better broadband service in rural communities. YVEA will use the $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to supplement $2 million of its own funds to build 209 miles of “middle-mile” internet service to homes and businesses in Moffat, Eagle and Grand counties, as well as south Routt County.
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