January 23, 2020

The Great Golden Business Tour: Spyderco

Our latest stop: Spyderco. These guys, located right here in Golden, are one of the premier knife manufacturers in the country. Very cool folks, family-run business, making a huge diversity of high-end knives. Among their products is a knife custom designed for cutting fishing nets and lines entangled around whales: a long blade, no point or edge on the back, mounted to a long pole, insanely sharp so you can get through the thick rope in one cut. They also regularly send free knives to soldiers serving in combat zones. Check out their factory store sometime (820 Spyderco Way in north Golden).

A machine they use to test the locking mechanism on knives . . . the hammer drops down hard on the back of the knife.

A laser cutting out knife parts from a sheet of steel.

The whale rescue blade.

The Great Golden Business Tour: C.F. Maier

One of our business visits earlier this year – I didn’t have a chance to post about this earlier – was to a Golden-based outfit in the Coors Technology Center called C.F. Maier. C.F. Maier makes just about anything you can imagine so long as it’s made with fiberglass: cell phone antenna tower fixtures, high-end truck camper bodies, aquaculture tanks, pedicabs, recycling containers, playground equipment, park benches, vehicle bodies, trailers, you name it. It’s all high-end, it’s all custom (although they can do larger production runs), and it’s very cool to see their main facility here in Golden (they also have a production facility in Lamar, but they do all the design, R&D, and small production runs here in town).

A pedicab body (C.F. Maier photo).

The production process (C.F. Maier photo).

MasterTech Cooling Towers

MasterTech Services was the destination of another Golden business visit a couple of weeks ago. MasterTech is a major player in the niche market of cooling tower manufacturers. If you’ve got a power plant or a chemical plant or some other industrial facility that needs industrial-strength cooling, these are the guys you call. We got a great primer on the history of cooling towers (it’s actually more interesting than you might guess) and on their construction. Many cooling towers incorporate turbines to move air through the system (and the photo is of a motor designed to rotate a turbine).

This engine powers the turbine blades inside a large cooling tower.

Zapata Engineering


Steve Glueck (the city’s Planning & Development Director) and I visited Zapata Engineering in Golden’s Corporate Center a couple of weeks ago. Zapata covers a lot of ground, including munitions and explosives removal, facilities engineering, environmental services, geophysics, and forensic engineering.

A small thumper truck used for seismic exploration.


It’s a great example of a primary jobs engine in Golden: they employ several dozen professionals (mostly geophysicists), they are part of our engineering and energy core jobs cluster, and they contribute significantly to Golden’s economic health. Some folks might remember Zapata as Blackhawk GeoServices, which was purchased by Zapata in 2005.

Sensors which are spread out on the ground for gathering seismic data.


The view from their back door north across the Golden Valley.

Golden’s Good Economic News

May sales tax in Golden (collected in June) was up 3% (compared to a 6% decline during May of last year). Our year-to-date numbers are up by about the same amount (compared to a 10% decline year-to-date during the same period last year). Downtown Golden saw a substantial increase of more than 7%, and Corporate Center (where Home Depot and Kohls are) and North Golden both saw significant increases as well. Another favorable sign is that spending at restaurants – a good sign of consumer confidence – went up by more than 7%. We seem to be on the road (albeit a slow road) to economic recovery.

Golden's Good Economic News

May sales tax in Golden (collected in June) was up 3% (compared to a 6% decline during May of last year). Our year-to-date numbers are up by about the same amount (compared to a 10% decline year-to-date during the same period last year). Downtown Golden saw a substantial increase of more than 7%, and Corporate Center (where Home Depot and Kohls are) and North Golden both saw significant increases as well. Another favorable sign is that spending at restaurants – a good sign of consumer confidence – went up by more than 7%. We seem to be on the road (albeit a slow road) to economic recovery.

Keeping Golden’s Economy Strong: Primary Employers

There are three pillars to Golden’s long-term economic vitality: a healthy retail and restaurant economy, retaining and attracting good primary jobs, and sustaining our quality of life. Over the past year and a half, Steve Glueck (the city’s Planning and Development Director) and I have spent a lot of time talking with many of Golden’s primary employers and with other economic development experts about why they are here and what their needs will be in the future. We presented a report to City Council (Sustaining Golden’s Job Base – Report and Recommendations 2010-05) summarizing our findings and making recommendations for City Council’s consideration.

I invite you to read the report and welcome your thoughts. Two things I particularly want to highlight: Golden has an astonishing array of exceptionally cool businesses doing exceptionally cool things, and that these businesses provide a critical long-term foundation for our continued economic health. Also, we are mid-way through a thorough evaluation of our entire system of promoting economic vitality in Golden – including our community marketing fund, support for downtown and our other business districts, urban renewal, and job retention and attraction. We will probably consider some significant changes later this year. Stay tuned.

A few of the recommendations that City Council agreed to move forward on now:

  • Send a letter of welcome from the mayor to all new businesses in town.
  • Review our land use codes in Golden’s three business parks to make sure they don’t create any unintended obstacles.
  • Do a better job of promoting within Golden – educating Golden’s residents – to the many, many amazing businesses that call this town home.

I’ve blogged about some of our business visits, if you’d like to learn more about some of Golden’s amazing companies:

Keeping Golden's Economy Strong: Primary Employers

There are three pillars to Golden’s long-term economic vitality: a healthy retail and restaurant economy, retaining and attracting good primary jobs, and sustaining our quality of life. Over the past year and a half, Steve Glueck (the city’s Planning and Development Director) and I have spent a lot of time talking with many of Golden’s primary employers and with other economic development experts about why they are here and what their needs will be in the future. We presented a report to City Council (Sustaining Golden’s Job Base – Report and Recommendations 2010-05) summarizing our findings and making recommendations for City Council’s consideration.

I invite you to read the report and welcome your thoughts. Two things I particularly want to highlight: Golden has an astonishing array of exceptionally cool businesses doing exceptionally cool things, and that these businesses provide a critical long-term foundation for our continued economic health. Also, we are mid-way through a thorough evaluation of our entire system of promoting economic vitality in Golden – including our community marketing fund, support for downtown and our other business districts, urban renewal, and job retention and attraction. We will probably consider some significant changes later this year. Stay tuned.

A few of the recommendations that City Council agreed to move forward on now:

  • Send a letter of welcome from the mayor to all new businesses in town.
  • Review our land use codes in Golden’s three business parks to make sure they don’t create any unintended obstacles.
  • Do a better job of promoting within Golden – educating Golden’s residents – to the many, many amazing businesses that call this town home.

I’ve blogged about some of our business visits, if you’d like to learn more about some of Golden’s amazing companies:

The Great Golden Business Tour: Epilog Laser

Steve Glueck, our Planning and Development Director, and I visited with Golden’s Epilog Laser a couple of weeks ago at their Coors Technology Business Park location. These guys are super cool: they were the very first to manufacture a small-format laser engraving system, and at the vanguard of the industry. As they say, Epilog lasers are “100% designed, engineered, manufactured, and serviced from our world headquarters in Golden, CO.” And they are very slick. The lasers look something like large photocopiers, and you control them through off-the-shelf software, set up your design, and hit the ‘print’ button. I won’t pretend to understand the mechanics or the chemistry, but it involves creating a laser by using electricity to excite carbon dioxide gas. The unit precisely controls the laser, engraving really crisp (and sometimes incredibly) detailed markings into all sorts of surfaces. I know I’m being repetitive when I point out that these folks are yet another amazing Golden business – creating good jobs and contributing the community – but it’s true.

In the beginning . . .

The lasers look something like a cross between toner cartridges and fluorescent light tubes.

The case for one of their laser units out on the manufacturing floor.

PMC Hydraulics: A Key Vestas Wind Turbines Supplier

City Councilor Bob Vermuelen, Chris Ball (the chair of our Economic Development Commission), the city’s Planning and Development Director Steve Glueck, and I spent some time visiting with two Golden-area employers on Friday.  Our first stop (which I wrote about in the previous blog post) was Yeti Cycles.  Our second stop on Friday’s Golden business tour was PMC Hydraulics, a new Golden employer in the Coors Technology Business Park manufacturing hydraulic components for the Denver region’s new Vestas wind turbine factory.  PMC is part of a large Danish company that manufactures hydraulic components for a wide range of industries.  They are in the process now of building out their manufacturing space, which we had a chance to tour.  The components themselves are pretty slick, playing critical roles like managing the degree of tilt of the turbine blades (requiring an extraordinary amount of hydraulic pressure, as you can imagine, given the force of the wind and the weight of the blades).  It’s a pretty slick system, how they are laying out the manufacturing lines and the diagnostics/testing stations, but even more impressive is the just-in-time logistics and operations management.  Vestas expects a very specific, very steady production rate, with very little inventory on hand, and their suppliers – like PMC – have to meet those expectations, along with extremely high quality and failure standards.  Here’s one photo, and if you are interested you’ll find a few more of the PMC facility on my Facebook page as well.  The Denver Post also ran a nice story about the new facility.

The PMC manufacturing space, with some of the layout established and a few key instruments installed. It will be fun to see the facility after its build out and running at full capacity.

Like all of the primary employers I’ve been able to visit over the past year or two, both Yeti Cycles and PMC provide good jobs for Golden and regional residents and both make significant contributions to the city’s tax base. Yeti helps maintain Golden’s position as a key mountain biking destination and PMC helps do the same with Golden’s reputation as a center of renewable energy technology. And they both also help draw significant numbers of visitors to Golden, helping to sustain our hotels and restaurants.