Largest employer in Basalt eyeing a move downvalley
Basalt’s biggest private-sector employer is outgrowing its downtown space and plans to relocate to Glenwood Springs, according to a company executive.Total Merchant Services intends to make the move within two or three years, said chief operating officer Matt Freedman. The company has land under contract in Glenwood Springs and plans to build a new headquarters of up to 70,000 square feet there, he said.The company employs 150 people, and is adding 50 full- and part-time positions this month. It has exhausted its expansion options in Basalt, Freedman said.Freedman and his brother, Ed, founded Total Merchant Services in Philadelphia in 1996. The firm supplies the machines that businesses use to process credit cards, and it provides technical support for clients.The Freedmans relocated their fledgling business to Basalt in September 1997 after embracing the Rocky Mountain lifestyle. They started in a 600-square-foot space in Elk Run and have been on a steep growth curve ever since.They rented 10,000 square feet in the Riverside Plaza building in Basalt in 2002 and added 4,000 square feet a year later. They paid an insurance company to relocate from 6,000 square feet of adjacent space in 2005 – boosting their site to 20,000 square feet total. They are expanding again this month. Freedman said they will gain another 4,000 square feet in the Riverside Plaza.But 24,000 square feet won’t be enough to handle the booming business: “We’re still in a really high growth mode,” he said.In less than three years, the company has tripled its revenue, profits and customers, according to Freedman. It now has more than 90,000 businesses as clients.The size of site they need is difficult to find in Basalt, and land costs are significantly lower farther downvalley. In addition, Freedman said, many of Total Merchant Services’ employees commute to Basalt from Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Silt and Rifle, so relocating downvalley appeals to them. Only a few employees live in the Basalt area, he said.Total Merchant Services generally has avoided the worker shortage afflicting many businesses throughout the region. Freedman credits his company’s health care policy. It covers 100 percent of medical and dental premiums for its employees, he said. A spouse or child can be added – and completely covered – after two years. An entire family is fully covered after five years.He also said the business is attractive because workers can attain skills they can use anywhere in the country. Plus, there is room for advancement.The economic impact on Basalt from the relocation of the business will be tough to gauge, said Town Manager Bill Efting and Mayor Leroy Duroux. Basalt undoubtedly benefits from the company’s employees hitting coffee shops in mornings and dining at lunch, they said.Total Merchant Services also provides an alternative to the retail and restaurant jobs that dominate a resort market. But the town officials noted that most workers are commuting from out of town, so the relocation will not affect that many Basalt residents.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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