A VHS tape titled “Discover Cortez” led Osprey founder, Mike Pfotenhauer, to Colorado.
As a young entrepreneur in Santa Cruz, California in the late 1980s, Pfotenhauer was looking to expand in an area that had skilled sewing labor and an environment to test out the backpacks for Osprey’s headquarters. Before a road trip through the western United States, that’s when the VHS tape from the Cortez Chamber of Commerce arrived in his mailbox.
Without knowing the area, Pfotenhauer opened up shop in nearby Dolores in 1990 where he hired a team of women sewers from a Navajo reservation to construct the Osprey Packs. By 1994, Osprey expanded to Cortez, where the headquarters is located today.
“We’re in Cortez because now because of its location. We have very close access to deep desert canyons for product testing, and just as easy high alpine,” said Rob BonDurant, Osprey’s VP of Product and Marketing. “For a company that is making products for activities, such as skiing, mountain biking, and backpacking. Cortez is about as a perfect location as you can get.”
Today, Osprey Packs are put to the test in Colorado. At any given point there are four or five different prototypes employees test when they are mountain biking, climbing or skiing.
“We love the fact we’re discovering new places every weekend, that’s what makes Osprey a fun place to work,” BonDurant said. “You don’t necessarily have to be outdoor minded to work here, but chances are you’re off on an adventure. The Monday morning watercooler chatter isn’t about politics, it’s who went where and why.”
For more than forty years, Pfotenhauer has been involved in every key breakthrough at Osprey. With a full design facility at his house, he has sewing facilities and 3D printers to bring his ideas to life.
Osprey has grown to 86 employees in Cortez, and anticipates adding ten new positions a year. Osprey has gone through three to five years of explosive growth more than doubling the business consecutively. Because of the rapid growth, Osprey is currently building a new world headquarters in Cortez, about one mile away from the current location. The multi-million dollar facility will be Osprey’s headquarters for the next fifteen to twenty years with the intention of keeping the company in Cortez long-term.
“Our goal as a company is to remain in Cortez; this is going to be our headquarters. We want to bring some element of labor back into the U.S.”
“We’re lucky to be able get our jobs done in a remote area in the state, but without any sacrifice to our lifestyle and business potential.”