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Article

Deep Roots

Enduring Businesses That Have Become Mainstays In Their Communities

Heather Stewart

January 1, 2013

“We don’t roast coffee before we get an order,” says Sears. Every batch is custom roasted and shipped directly to the customer. “We aren’t in wide distribution. We don’t want our coffee sitting on a shelf in a warehouse getting old.”

In Utah, Caffe Ibis’s coffee can be found on the campus of USU, in locally owned coffee shops like Juice & Java in Provo, at restaurants like Sage’s Café and High West Distillery, and at premiere resorts, such as the Waldorf Astoria. The company just entered into an agreement with Harmons grocery store as well.

Over the years, Caffe Ibis has become a fixture in Logan. Caffe Ibis was a founding member of the Cache Valley Gardeners Market, which was originally held in the company’s store. “Our sense of community starts in our own backyard,” says Sears.

And while the coffee roaster was at first viewed as an anomaly in the Mormon-dominated valley, “we’ve been here long enough that we’re mainstream now,” she says.

High-tech Hometown
Utah has become a major hub for the composites industry over the past few years, with most of that activity centered around Hill Air Force Base. But a collection of businesses founded by Roland Christensen has been blazing trails in the composites industry since 1985—all from a tiny community in Sanpete County.

Roland Christensen launched ACT (Applied Composite Technology) in 1985; the company produces carbon composite prosthetics. A decade later, he founded Christensen Arms, which manufactures carbon barreled rifles. Medical device company Freedom Innovations came along in 2003—although the Christensen family exited that business in early 2012—and ACT Aerospace was founded in 2004.

These businesses are all centered near Fayette—a small town in Central Utah with a population that numbers in the low hundreds. Roland, a fourth-generation native of Fayette, “felt very much indebted to the people of the area and wanted to bring back opportunities to work,” says his son, Jason Christensen, who serves as president of ACT Aerospace and Christensen Arms.

“When we launched ACT, we launched it with the goal of 1(a), having a profitable business and 1(b), providing employment for the people in the area,” he says. With few job opportunities, local youth leave for employment or education, “but then they have no route back.”

While the location provides an idyllic quality of life, it does make finding skilled workers like accountants or machinists a challenge. However, Christensen says the companies have been able to train local workers for many of the production and technician jobs.

The companies are indeed a mainstay in the community. Christensen Arms employs about 35 workers, while ACT Aerospace employs more than 100. And together, the two companies expect to hire an additional 400 workers in the next six years, says Christensen.

ACT Aerospace anticipates rapid growth as it continues to establish itself in the ultra-competitive aerospace industry. And, with its “aerospace-grade guns,” Christensen Arms has caught the attention of high-end hunters and shooters—particularly since the company recently established a dealer network that is driving name recognition and sales, especially on the East Coast.

Carbon barrels provide a few important advantages over traditional steel barrels, explains Christensen. First, the strong carbon fibers create greater precision by dampening vibrations caused by a bullet traversing and exiting the barrel. Also, the carbon is not warped or otherwise affected by temperature—neither the heat caused by the bullet’s friction nor the ambient temperature. And, because carbon is one-fifth the density of steel, carbon barrels are much lighter than traditional barrels.

“We’re a very nerdy group,” Christensen says, adding that the rural setting shouldn’t reflect on the technical skill of the companies’ workers or the quality of their high-tech, high-performance products.

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