Edwards-based Symbia Logistics is growing nationally while keeping it in the family
EDWARDS — Megan Smith and her family are proving you can run a nationwide business from the Vail Valley, but it can be complicated.
After a grand opening celebration last week for a new facility in Aurora, Smith, the CEO of Edwards-based Symbia Logistics, was stuck in the city for an extra night thanks to a snow storm.
But those moments are rare. And living in the Vail Valley is worth the occasional complication.
Symbia Logistics — a company that specializes in the movement of material through warehouses and other facilities, employs about 1,300 people across several states. The company is also dedicated to growth, acquiring three companies in the fourth quarter of 2018.
While the company has a big staff, it has a relatively small footprint in the valley — about 15,000 square feet in Edwards’ Riverwalk center. That headquarters handles mostly the company’s financial work — actual warehouses are elsewhere.
The company used to have its headquarters in Eagle, but moved a few years ago for both more floor space and a space that can accommodate the amount of technology required to run a far-flung company.
Here for family reasons
With the challenges of both technology and geography, why locate in the Vail Valley?
“Everybody asks us that,” Smith said. “Family has everything to do with why we’re in Edwards.”
The Smiths — led by company founder and Megan’s dad Jim Smith — moved to Colorado in 1996 to the Denver area. The big city wasn’t right, so the Smiths moved to a spot near Idaho Springs. A move to Arrowhead followed soon after.
“This is where we want to live,” Smith said.
The company’s facilities have followed, in a general way.
Symbia was first mostly in the Southeast. The move west brought more facilities in this part of the country. No matter where the facilities are, though, most are a long way from here. That means a lot of travel.
For that, the Eagle County Regional Airport is a handy tool, especially in winter, and as direct flights are added through the rest of the year.
Getting things to and from Edwards is easier than it used to be, thanks to improvements from national delivery companies.
Symbia is using those companies as part of its own growth.
Part of the company’s expansion includes “e-fulfillment” — moving small parcels from vendors to consumers.
Smith said Symbia’s service is different than what’s offered by Amazon, though.
A shot of color
“We provide a more white-glove service,” Smith said. Companies selling upscale products want those items delivered in something besides brown boxes. Symbia can customize that packaging, injecting a shot of color into the usually-drab items that arrive on customers’ doorsteps.
Kastle skis is one of Symbia’s customers, with that firm’s products arriving to customers in ski-shaped boxes.
“We’re definitely going after more sporting goods,” Smith said, adding that the company has been looking for clients at the Outdoor Retailer show.
Custom packaging also works for subscription-based services that ship cosmetics, vitamins and more direct to customers.
Symbia is also about providing literal platforms for larger items. The company manages a nationwide network for the country’s largest manufacturer of wooden pallets.
That company in 2018 built about 2 million pallets — overall, Symbia moved 15 million pallets of goods around the U.S. and Canada last year.
The business is, literally, millions of moving parts that have to get from somewhere to somewhere else.
Without technology, the business itself would be much more difficult. Running it from Edwards would be virtually impossible.
“That’s the beauty of the internet,” Smith said. “It’s changed the complete face of the world… especially from a business perspective.”
The ability to work remotely, whether from Edwards, or Aurora or Atlanta, depends more on internet service than location.
Of course, it also means that working hours are flexible, especially for a boss.
“My working hours are… all the time,” Smith said.
On the other hand, she added, “We all want to live in the mountains, so we make sacrifices. We travel a lot… but we have a big enough team” to cover any gaps.
Smith, who’s also a mother of two, acknowledged she hasn’t been skiing yet this season. But a team member who just moved to the valley from Arizona is discovering the mountain lifestyle.
“Whether it’s stopping at the bookstore after work, or going to restaurants here (in Edwards), it’s just unbeatable,” Smith said. “I can leave the office and be right along the river while I’m on the phone.”
Company officials say every aspect of Vail management is now focused on attaining the company’s goal of achieving a zero net operating footprint by 2030. Vail Resorts calls the plan their “Commitment to Zero,” and defines it a zero net carbon emissions by 2030, zero waste to landfills, and zero operating impact on forests and natural habitat.