Guide for relocation to Steamboat Springs, CO

Location-Neutral Business

Location-neutral business spotlight: Deer Park Road Corp.

tech_DeerPark-Michael-Craig-ScheckmanDeer Park Road Corp., an investment firm that recently had a fund rank in Barron’s Top 100, can be based anywhere it wants to. But founder and president Michael Craig-Scheckman, who started the operation locally in 2003, chose Steamboat for its lifestyle and business infrastructure — including airport proximity and Internet access — that allows it to conduct business at the base of Mount Werner as easily as if it was on Wall Street.

Managing assets valued at more than $1 billion, Deer Park is a multifund investment manager that invests in distressed real estate and asset-backed, fixed-income securities for individual and institutional investors. In 2008, it established the STS Partners Fund, LP — ranked by Barron’s in 2013 as the nation’s seventh-best hedge fund — and in 2010, it launched an additional offshore fund.

Helping it achieve this success are 14 full-time local employees, all blessed to be able to pursue their careers in an outdoor and family-oriented town like Steamboat. Their access to Steamboat’s outdoor amenities also is about to get even better.

In 2014, Deer Park is breaking ground on a new four-floor office building in Wildhorse Meadows at the base of the mountain. Thanks to a new planned unit development process the developer is pursuing, the project will facilitate the construction of location-neutral office space.

“It will be a location-neutral type of campus for people who don’t need a headquarters or can commute electronically,” Wildhorse Chief Financial Officer Brent Pearson says.

The building’s top floor will have a large conference room and gym, below that will be a full trading floor, and the bottom will include a restaurant and coffee shop open to the public.

The new facility will allow all employees to be under the same roof as the company continues to expand.

“We definitely benefit from being close to the ski slopes,” says Chief Operating Officer Brad Craig, adding that the new location will allow visiting clients access to the Wildhorse Meadows gondola. “We’re excited to be able to grow and continue utilizing Steamboat as a great community.”

 

Location-neutral businesses booming

tech_Location-NeutralLDM-GlobalChrisOReillyWhile there are plenty of eagles perched on area cottonwoods above the Yampa River, another type related to employment is nesting in Steamboat Springs even more successfully.

Lone eagle workers in Steamboat bring in a big piece of the economic pie. According to local research group Yampa Valley Data Partners, location-neutral businesses in town account for nearly 1,800 people and generate $54 million in annual income, more than the annual payroll of town’s hospitality industry.

“There’s a thriving entrepreneurial spirit in this valley,” says Jay O’Hare, founder of tech consulting business Altera Marketing Group and business networking group Ignite Steamboat.

Location-neutral employees can work anywhere they choose, provided the infrastructure is there to support them. Steamboat is proving to have everything they need, from high-tech broadband services (download speeds of 100 megabits per second and upload speeds of 20 Mbps are available) and direct flight programs to other small business needs.

But all this aside, it’s lifestyle more than broadband that’s the deciding factor for relocating entrepreneurs.

“Actual broadband capacity doesn’t really attract or repel them,” says local entrepreneur Noreen Moore. “They want a sense of community, good schools and a safe place to raise children.”

Companies fitting this mold are as varied as the outdoor activities town offers. From software techs and salespeople to graphic designers and lone eagles for employers like Oracle, the Yampa Valley is rife with employees and entrepreneurs whose business borders extend beyond Steamboat.

“It’s an increasingly important component of the economy,” says local economic analyst Scott Ford. “Location-neutral businesses are significant to our economy and pay on average 20 percent above our current median income.”

One example is LDM Global, a data processing and computer forensics firm headquartered here but with offices in London, New York, Paris, Sydney and Brussels.  “No one should have to work in a dirty city anymore,” says CEO Chris O’Reilly, who moved his job here in 2009 to raise his three daughters. “There’s no reason I can’t have my data center here and still hire intelligent people.”

Other companies fitting the bill include private labeler and distributor NPW USA, outdoor travel company Iconic Adventures, and leading “experience gift” company Xperience Days.

“We comprise a fairly large sector of the region’s workforce,” says Scott Bideau, another location-neutral worker.

What Steamboat has done best to continue luring this working category, adds Ford, is maintaining its reputation as a great place to live, from its many outdoor amenities to high rankings for its hospitals to schools.

“An increasing number of individuals understand that they don’t need to earn their money just from the valley,” he says. “This is fueling the growth of location-neutral businesses. Our strongest economic asset as a community is being a great place to live. It all seems to come together for us better than it does in a lot of other places. If we focus on being a great place to live, we win.”

— Eugene Buchanan

Ignite steamboat helps location-neutral entrepreneurs

Tech_BusinessIncubatorLocation-neutral entrepreneurs in Steamboat Springs have a support group that’s sizzling with helpful ideas.

Founded in 2009 as a community think tank for entrepreneurs and location-neutral workers to better their businesses, Ignite Steamboat grew out of a collective need for like-minded entrepreneurs in town to have a place to share and support one another. The group now has 348 members.

“More people are aligning themselves with an entrepreneurial or location-neutral ethos,” founder Jay O’Hare says. “The profile of both is on the rise here, and they continue to make up a growing chunk of the economic pie. There’s true value in spreading ideas and connecting people.”

Ignite hosts quarterly events and presentations called Spark Talks that bring business minds into Steamboat to share ideas. Recent presenters include James Altucher, author of “Choose Yourself,” Jenn Lim, chief executive officer of Delivering Happiness, and Jason Calacanis, formerly of www.netscape.com. It also fields inquiries from entrepreneurs looking to relocate and other communities looking to replicate what it has done here.

“One of the things we aim to do is be a voice and advocate for location neutral and entrepreneurs in the community,” O’Hare says.