Colorado ski lift company called bright spot in gloomy economy |

Colorado ski lift company called bright spot in gloomy economy

Paul Shockley
Grand Junction, CO Colorado

GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado ” Heralded as a success story in a gloomy economy, a Grand Junction, Colorado firm celebrating a sprawling new facility last week welcomed Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter with a five-piece band and bought lunch for hundreds.

This as Leitner-Poma of America Inc., a ski chairlift- and gondola-maker that recently opened a 92,000 square-foot manufacturing facility near Grand Junction Regional Airport, braces for possible tough business sledding in 2009.

“Certainly, there’s going to be an adjustment,” said Leitner-Poma President Rick Spear. “But we’ve been through busy times and slow times.”

A company that last year produced and sold 13 chairlifts for resorts around the world ” each worth between $4 million and $6 million ” isn’t expecting to hit that mark again this year, several company officials said.

“Ask me again in June,” said Leitner-Poma Sales Manager Tom Clink.

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He noted that there are several factors influencing the ski industry’s willingness to spend.

“We’re still optimistic,” Clink said. “For us, it’s about the snowfall, number of skiers and what sort of financing is available out there.” Clink said.

In the rear of the cavernous preassembly room at the new Leitner-Poma facility, a recently finished chairlift bound for the French Alps sat waiting to be delivered.

The company averages about 10 to 15 lifts sold and delivered each year, Clink said.

Opened for business in Grand Junction in 1981 as Poma of America Inc., the company had been manufacturing at a nine-acre facility where it employed anywhere from 80 to 140 locals.

Just after Christmas, the company started moving to its new investment housed in a 19-acre business park, which includes a separate building for Prinoth (a manufacturer of snowcats also owned by Leitner-Poma).

Grand Junction city leaders on Monday officially renamed the lone street in the business park as “Seeber Drive,” honoring Michael Seeber, the head of Leitner-Poma’s corporate ownership, based in Italy, who attended Monday’s grand opening.

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