When Bryan Hylenski and Mack Maier, the co-founders of Butora USA, outgrew their company’s Longmont, Colo., facility, they considered several options for expansion.
The two rock-climbing buddies started the company after returning from rock climbing in Korea and wanting to keep their hearts in the sport they loved. They teamed up with a Korean rock-climbing shoe designer and started Butora USA as its North American distributor.
“We started in a small closet in my buddy’s garage,” Hylenski said. “We’ve grown four times in the last three years, but we couldn’t grow any more in Longmont because of the high price of real estate and building costs.”
They considered expanding in several states, including Oklahoma and Texas. But they had visited Lander, to rock climb several times, and they knew they liked the close, small-town feel.
Plus, without a state income tax, “Wyoming is a beneficial state for a business to reside in,” Hylenski said.
They researched several funding options and grants to help make the move possible and discovered Wyoming’s Challenge Loan program.
“The Challenge Loan convinced us to move to Wyoming,” Hylenski said.
They were able to finance the purchase of a building in Lander that is big enough for their current and future needs. They moved the company there last November and hired four people right away. In the next 12 to 18 months, they plan to add a resole factory and a small retail area, and will hire another five or so to fill those positions.
“The goal of the Challenge Loan program is to provide access to capital that may not fit into typical bank financing,” said Josh Keefe, the finance manager for the Wyoming Business Council, the state’s economic development agency.
Keefe partners with banks to help extend credit to a company or project; part of the money comes from the bank, and part comes from the state. The state money is disbursed in the form of a loan to the bank, and then the money is returned to the state via loan payments, with interest. That allows the fund to grow and remain self-sustaining.
The partnership provides a benefit to the state by helping businesses grow and improve the economy; it provides a benefit to the partnering bank by sharing risk; and it provides a benefit to the business by blending interest rates and lowering their loan payment amount.
“It’s a resource the state of Wyoming offers businesses that doesn’t cost taxpayers anything beyond the initial investment, and yet it can mean the difference between a company failing or thriving in Wyoming,” Keefe said.
Stig Hallingbye, the senior vice president for Security First Bank, said the Challenge Loan program has allowed the bank to get involved with projects that it might not otherwise. With the Business Council’s participation, the risk to the bank is decreased and the customer’s payments are lowered.
“It’s beneficial to the bank, the customer and it helps the economy,” he said. “It offers exactly what we look for in partnerships. We’ve been very, very happy with the way it has worked.”
Since 1998, the Challenge Loan program has participated in $59.2 million worth of projects and has loaned $26.2 million. It has helped retain or create 635 jobs across the state in that timeframe.
For Butora USA, it meant moving its distribution operations from Colorado to Wyoming, to a town they loved where they could be a part of the community. The company is joining a burgeoning outdoor gear and clothing manufacturing cluster in western Wyoming, alongside companies like Brunton, NoSo, Iksplor and DMOS.
“We wanted to move to a place with a soul,” Hylenski said. “And Lander’s a great little town.”
Other Challenge Loan Success Stories
Marketing company Warehouse Twenty One used a Challenge Loan to build a new facility on the west edge of downtown Cheyenne to expand and add about 20 jobs. That building is sent to be complete in June and has helped spur significant investment in the area.
Engineering, Procurement & Construction, LLC, a company currently headquartered in Colorado, is using a Challenge Loan to relocate its hydrogen fuel cell manufacturing into Wyoming.