OtterBox, Woodward, Water Pik execs bullish on Fort Collins' future

11:19 AM, Jan 1, 2014   |    comments
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FORT COLLINS - Top guns at three of Fort Collins' largest employers expect continued growth for their companies and Northern Colorado this year but say threats could lie ahead in finding qualified workers and quelling both downtown parking woes and issues facing the broader economy.

The leaders at Woodward, Water Pik and OtterBox sat down individually with the Coloradoan to talk about their company's projected growth, the Northern Colorado economy and future challenges.

The three manufacturers employ thousands of workers throughout Northern Colorado and play in vastly different global markets – Woodward in energy and aerospace; Water Pik in personal and oral health care; and OtterBox in smartphone and tablet protection.

Each is affected differently by economic forces but all are bullish on the Northern Colorado economy and forging ahead with their own growth plans.

Betting on growth
OtterBox founder Curt Richardson laughs when he says growth will taper off next year, a slowdown from the explosive expansion the company has seen in the past few years as demand for smartphones and tablets soared. For most companies, 15 percent to 20 percent growth would be cause for celebration, but OtterBox judges itself by different standards.

"It's not a doubling effect like we have had, which is in many ways a good thing," Richardson said. Still, the company plans to roll out several new lines of protective cases for gadgets early this year. "We still expect to see growth, and some of our growth could come through new acquisitions as well as new products and product development."

OtterBox captures about 50 percent of the U.S. market for protective cases for smartphones and tablets, but demand for smartphones is slowing, Richardson said. "It's not the market that it was two or three years ago. It's not, 'wow, what's the next thing – I have to have that new phone.' People aren't acting that way anymore."

Still, manufacturers keep producing new communication devices. A new Samsung watch phone and Apple's latest phone with fingerprint reader have failed to impress Richardson. And the trend toward smaller phones is reversing.

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