Cortez and Vietnam

Founded: 1974

Privately owned

Employees: 75

U.S. manufacturing tugs at Tom Barney and Osprey, but hands-on management offshore has separated this southwest Colorado brand from the pack

Talk about the perfect location to “test” your product.

Osprey creates innovative, high-performance gear that reflects a love of adventure and their devotion to the outdoors. Then they test their products right outside their front door. Osprey’s headquarters are nestled at the corner of the rugged San Juan Mountains and on the edge of vast sandstone canyon country, a landscape that provides inspiration and a superb testing ground for their packs.

“We are a great example of a privately held company being successful on the Western Slope in Colorado despite some industry trends,” says Tom Barney, chief executive officer of Osprey.

There is simplicity to their formula for growth. “We are the number one pack supplier for REI,” says Barney. “Our formula and part of our secret is that we only do packs, not tents or sleeping bags. We focus on packs and products that are pack related.”

Though Osprey was founded in Colorado and has strong Colorado ties, Barney said they almost failed and had to switch up their manufacturing methodology, but hopes it is not for the long run, “We are the classic example of a manufacturer that almost went out of business and then began to contract out our manufacturing to enable us to become a fast growing company. We do hope to return the manufacturing process to Colorado.”

Once the decision was made to manufacture offshore, the company has spared no effort to ensure success, and building operations and managing nearly 30 employees in Vietnam has been a hands-on effort.

Osprey packs are specifically designed for males and females to use while skiing, hiking, biking, travelling, hydrating, walking and more. “Our customers are interested in outdoor retail specialty products and stores,” says Barney. “They are active and want quality.”

That quality is translating into success for the gear specialists. Osprey is experiencing growth in each product line. “We will be up 18% in 2013 over 2012,” says Barney. “We are a mature brand.”

Osprey is a leader in outdoor gear and that seems to be driven by product innovation as well as customer service. “We are one of those nice, little companies people want to support,” says Barney. “We kind of have that little-engine-that-could attitude.”

Barney has long-term plans to acquire a facility in the area that will eventually offer more jobs and opportunities. “It will include a restaurant and retail area,” says Barney. “We will make a commitment in our area to long-term growth, provide employment opportunities and work with the community.”

“I have worked for a lot of companies,” says Barney. “I have to say that Osprey is the most special company I have ever worked for. We have a nice spirit and are hard working. We are the classic, American entrepreneurial company that a lot of people are looking for. Our customers and retailers support us because of that.”

Challenges: “We would like to return part of manufacturing to Colorado and create new manufacturing systems to be competitive in the United Stated,” says Barney. “We are even looking at gluing or bonding as opposed to sewing and looking into advanced manufacturing with a higher technological component to enable us to return to the state.

Opportunities: “One of our most exciting opportunities is that we have a large sustainability initiative going on within our company,” says Barney. Part of that waste management system in the Cortez headquarters involves recycling, cardboard reuse, recyclable and reused office products, and locally sourced printed materials utilize recycled paper and soy based ink. Osprey also focuses on carbon offsets for travel and sustainable transportation initiatives for team members.

Needs: “In Colorado, particularly in the Southwest, we have a harder time attracting and recruiting for our talent pool,” says Barney. “It isn’t hard to retain them though, as Durango is a killer town.”