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Kayak plant options weighed

Vacant building in Oak Creek offered for $575,000

Christine Metz

— An old kayak factory that once housed 35 employees sits empty at the corner of Arthur Avenue in Oak Creek.

It has been empty for three years. The South Routt County Economic Development Council said it does not have the resources to look for a light manufacturer to fill it.

County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said it is hard to attract manufacturers.

Owner Chan Zwanzig has changed his focus from a manufacturer and sees the factory becoming a transfer point for a business working in both Steamboat and Vail.

The future of the once Wave Sport Kayak factory building is in question. Its importance to Oak Creek is not.

David Bonfiglio, who owns Bonfiglio Drug and has sat for years on the economic development council, said before the factory was sold and moved to North Carolina in 1999, it provided solid, good-paying jobs.

“I think it was very important. Those were good solid jobs, high paying jobs with benefits,” Bonfiglio said. “It didn’t hurt as much as when the mines closed. But it hurts. It is not devastating, but it helped solidify a local community.”

Bonfiglio would like to see the return of a light manufacturer. One similar to the kayak factory that he said is not a polluter or noisemaker.

The reason why the factory has not been sold, Realtor Mike Chapman said, is the building’s size. It is 9,600 square feet with the potential to expand to 22,000 feet.

“It’s just too big of a building for most people. The size of the building makes it a sizeable investment. The money per square foot is under $60, which is a tremendous value. You can’t build that building for that.”

But Bonfiglio said it is just as simple as people not knowing the building exists.

He believes it could be perfect for a light manufacturer in someplace as far away as Tennessee, but the owner would have to trip over Oak Creek to find the plant.

And the economic development council, which is made up of volunteers and funded by yearly dues, does not have the money to recruit interested buyers.

“None of us have the resources to do what needs to be done, for someone to come in and put a small manufacturer there,” Bonfiglio said. “There is no word out about it. We are not in the position to find (a manufacturer) to put an ad in the paper, to get out on the Web.”

And even if the word is out there, Stahoviak, who was the Oak Creek town treasurer when the factory arrived in 1990, said it is hard to bring light manufacturers into communities.

“It’s always really difficult to attract any type of new industry. Nationwide there is strong competition and (manufacturers) are offered huge incentives,” she said.

She did say that the building has its benefits. Oak Creek still has a strong work force and the cost of living is not huge in comparison to Steamboat.

But companies would have to weigh that with the cost of the building, moving a light manufacturing business and remodeling the building. For a business that is just starting out, the $575,000 price tag for the factory could be too much.

“I think part of it is running and operating a small business is really a challenge for anybody,” she said.

She still believes the potential is there and if the building was in use, it could spark light industrial and commercial growth in the vacant lots around it.

“Any use would benefit the community. Even a warehouse has the potential for a few jobs and gets the building back in use,” she said.

With a building that has three-phased power, a work bay, drive-through doors, loading docks, office space and storage mezzanines, a light manufacturer is the logical tenant.

But Zwanzig said the national and local economy is moving away from manufacturing.

“We don’t have much hope for a manufacturer,” he said. “If we put money on it, it is going to be a transfer point for Northwest Colorado.”

He sees regional services and construction businesses that are expanding between Vail and Steamboat will find the building in Oak Creek a perfect fit.

Chapman said there has been local business interest and sees the building as a warehouse for services or used by a construction company that works both in Routt and Eagle counties.

Zwanzig said the building was designed to be expandable to 22,000 square feet.


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