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ARCHIVED  July 1, 1997

Longmont diversified

High tech, biotech build on ag traditions

LONGMONT — This city’s economy has remained diverse throughout its history, but the mix has definitely changed.

Some businesses first launched 126 years ago remain today, side by side with the biotech and high-tech businesses that have cropped up in the last 10 years.

“I think we have a very diverse base here, which is one reason why Colorado has done better than some other states,” said Dick Salberg, president of First National Bank of Longmont.

First National’s roots date back 126 years to the founding of the community by colonists from Chicago. Salberg’s father and grandfather were bankers in the community.

“You always want to have development going on,” said Salberg, who also serves as chairman of the Economic Development Association of Longmont. “For me, the economy is anything that produces a paycheck. Longmont was started as an agricultural community. First National Bank was a farmer’s bank. Agriculture was an important factor in those days.

those days.

“We are not just a high-tech community,” he added. “We are a lot of things. Diversity really has helped us in times of adversity.”

Wendi Nafziger, vice president of EDAL said, “We have a very diverse industry base right now, and we want to keep that diversity. We have a targeted industry list for this area, and we are actively looking for new businesses because we always try to replace those businesses which are leaving.”

EDAL’s targeted industry list includes computer peripheral equipment, computer programming services, optical instruments and lenses, commercial physical and biological research, surgical, medical and dental instruments and supplies and corporate headquarters within the finance, insurance and real estate group.

The computer industry has found a receptive home in Longmont and makes up a large part of the economy today. Maxtor Corp. which develops and manufactures hard-disk drives for desktop computers, employs 750 people at its Longmont plant. It is the fifth-largest employer in Longmont and is currently advertising high-tech positions.

“We are hiring people as needed to fill positions,” said Julie Sidel, senior public-relations representative at Maxtor. “We do mostly research and development here, and we are always trying to make better, faster, more-advanced drives, and we build prototypes here.”

Sidel said Longmont is a good location for Maxtor because the company is able to tap into the large pool of highly skilled workers in this area.

“The front range has a large pool of workers that are well-qualified in high-tech engineering and disk drives,” she said.

Circuit-board manufacturers have followed the computer industry, and Longmont has a wide variety of computer-related industries.

“We moved to Longmont because of the friendly business environment and the availability of water when we moved here in 1978,” said Jim Clark, general manager of Centerline Circuits, a company that manufactures circuit boards.

Centerline was started 33 years ago in Boulder by Jack Conway, who still owns the company. The company expanded in 1996, adding a third shift to meet the demand of customers. Centerline is the 27th largest employer in Longmont with just more than 100 employees.

“We expanded because people wanted things faster,” Clark said. “About 60 percent of our customers are located along the Front Range. We supply boards to the telecommunication, medical and industrial instrumentation markets. Competition is fierce, and quality is paramount. We can find experienced workers, but we find it very difficult to find good entry-level people.”

Neodata Services Inc., an integrated direct-marketing services company that offers magazine-subscription and book-production fulfillment, moved a large portion of its company to Longmont in January 1994. Neodata is the third-largest employer in Longmont with more than 1,000 employees.

Corporate headquarters for the company is in Louisville. When the company changed its operation to become more efficient, it looked at Longmont as a site for a new plant.

“We wanted to have a plant in Northern Colorado,” said Jeff Zakem, director of corporate marketing for Neodata. “There were some economies in having the plants centrally located. We found available land, and the Pratt agency was able to build the buildings quickly. Also, we wanted to find a work force.”

Employment fluctuates at Neodata because the work is seasonal. Although the plants in Longmont are at capacity, Zakem says no new buildings are planned.

Unemployment is very low statewide, adding to the economic strength of Longmont and the growing tax base to support the city.

Concepts Direct Inc. has grown so fast that it has purchased 120 acres along Colorado Highway 119 and is building a new 120,000-square-foot building, which will double the size of its current facility in Longmont.

Concepts Direct publishes three gift and personalized-label catalogs and has found that by targeting the gift-buying market, sales jumped 28 percent during the last quarter of 1995. Earnings increased 130 percent for 1996 over 1995. Concepts Direct is the eighth-largest employer in Longmont with 500 employees.

“I am not surprised by our growth,” said J. Michael Wolfe, president and chief operating officer at Concepts Direct. “We really saw this (idea) as great potential for us. We still have great plans for growth.”

Community leaders see Longmont’s growth continuing and the wide diversity of businesses as a stabilizing factor for the economy.

High tech, biotech build on ag traditions

LONGMONT — This city’s economy has remained diverse throughout its history, but the mix has definitely changed.

Some businesses first launched 126 years ago remain today, side by side with the biotech and high-tech businesses that have cropped up in the last 10 years.

“I think we have a very diverse base here, which is one reason why Colorado has done better than some other states,” said Dick Salberg, president of First National Bank of Longmont.

First National’s roots date back 126 years to the founding of the community by colonists from Chicago. Salberg’s father and grandfather…

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