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About COBA

The Colorado Outdoor Business Alliance (COBA) is a coalition of Colorado’s leading outdoor recreation businesses and businesses who love the outdoors that recognize the fundamental role public lands play in sustaining Colorado’s emerging economy. Our mission is to unite business leaders from across Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy and emerging industries to conserve and protect access to our public lands. T

Colorado’s world-class economy is founded in the rushing rivers, winding canyons, and stunning vistas of our shared public lands. From the easily accessible Hanging Lake to the secluded backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado’s public lands provide a playground for every interest and our local businesses thrive in helping connect people to nature.

That’s why the Colorado Outdoor Business Alliance (COBA) has set out to strengthen public lands protections by amplifying the presence of business voices. COBA unites outdoor recreation businesses and businesses who love the outdoors around the state to build a consistent, sustained, and notable advocacy presence for this emerging economy.

Together, businesses of all sizes are standing together to safeguard our treasured public lands for generations to come.

COBA and Public Lands

Our public lands are essential to our industries, our way of life, and our bottom line. COBA fights for policies that protect and enhance our outdoor heritage through both state and federal action.

Colorado’s public lands form the backbone of our outdoor recreation economy. (Stats pulled from 2017 OIA Outdoor Rec Economy report)

  • Over 96% of Coloradans have visited public lands within the last year
  • 71% of Colorado residents participate in outdoor recreation each year
  • Over 45 million visits to Colorado’s public lands in 2012 (Colorado Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, 2014), and demand continues to grow
  • $28 billion in consumer spending
  • $2 billion in state and local tax revenue
  • $9.7 billion in wages and salaries each year

 

229,000 direct in-state jobs – nearly four times the combined oil and gas industry (39,000) and mining industry (19,000)

Businesses have played pivotal roles in propelling recent conservation campaigns to success in Colorado and throughout the West. They represent an increasingly critical component of recent conservation wins, such as the permanent protection of Browns Canyon National Monument. COBA capitalizes on these successes, linking business leaders with Conservation Colorado’s organizational expertise to build innovative, sophisticated, stakeholder-driven conservation campaigns. Find answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

Featured COBA Member

Forrest Merithew, Merithew Law, PLLC

Merithew Law’s motto is “We Enjoy Working With Businesses and Entrepreneurs Who Have a Passion For What They Do.” Forrest and his Firm work with a wide array of commercial and creative endeavors, from entity and investment consultation and strategy implementation through contracts, liability analysis and risk management, product development, intellectual property, insurance coverage needs, and other defense and enforcement/collection services. They find that legal services for real-world solutions involve creative problem solving and different scenarios and goals for each client.

Forrest grew up immersed in the Southern Appalachian Blue Ridge mountains in and around Asheville,
NC and has continued his pursuits in business and all things fun and active outdoors on both coasts and
now here in the Rockies.

To learn more about Forrest and Merithew Law, PLLC, check out his LinkedIn Profile and Firm Website.

How did you get introduced to outdoor recreation? What do you like to do outside?

My early toys were sticks, rocks, and dirt. It was rather easy to be outside considering that for a portion
of my youth we lived in a two story log and chink cabin with no electricity or interior plumbing in the
mountains of Southwest Virginia. Early experiences involved roaming the woods and rural roads via two
wheels and two legs, and then skinny dipping in ponds and rivers for cool relief. As I’ve grown up, I’ve
found that I have the problem of enjoying as many different activities as possible, while constantly
pursuing new landscapes and terrain. Even though percentage wise I am mostly on trails and in the
woods via mountain biking, running, or hiking in the summer and snowboarding in the winter, I regularly
paddle and SUP, swim, rock climb, camp, and engage in other activities and sports.

What do Colorado’s public lands mean to you, and why is it important to you to protect them?

Wilderness is my church – it is where I find my center, euphoria, and inspiration. Public Lands are a
great portion of such accessible wilderness and one of the most valuable resources to me, including
clean water, land, air, and functioning ecosystems. Public Lands provide recreation, health, activities,
clean environment, and access locations no matter one’s economic background or abilities. I believe
that such lands should take into account all interests of access by others and find a balance that allows
the diversity of activities, but also sustainably manages and conserves the resources for such continued
use. By protecting public lands, we protect our future generations’ rights to health and similar
experiences that we and our prior folk have enjoyed – whether that be seeing a moose in the wilderness
or having clean water to drink. Further, public lands provide a huge economic benefit to the
communities geographically located around them and much of the outdoor recreation and gear industry
business and economy. These are sustainable economics that will continue to exist and grow as long as
the locations for use exist.

Tell us about a specific place or time when an outdoor experience had an impact on your professional life or personal outlook.

I had very little winter ski experience growing up in the Southeast and it wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s that some high school surfers, sponsored by the surf shop I worked at in San Diego, took me up to the mountains for a day of impromptu snowboard lessons. I quickly fell in love with it and the opportunity to experience the scope of winter wonderland forest terrain in a similar way to my warm weather activities. Soon after this, I started law school in San Diego and my best law school friends were those that had similar interests, and remain strong relationships to this day because of our shared passion for those activities. Snowboarding also was a strong connection when I met my wife, who was a skier originally from Colorado, and it fostered many trips and shared enjoyment together. Realizing that movement in the outdoors was my happy place and through my many outdoor recreation and gear experiences that I had a forward understanding of the physics of and gear involved in these many activities, I founded Merithew Law with the belief that this background would allow me to provide better representation and services to businesses in the outdoor recreation industry than general practice firms.

Why is now an important time to speak up as a member of the business community?
Through my studies in environmental policy and law, I found myself frustrated with the traditional legal “response” or “reactionary” system required to protect and conserve the outdoors and natural resources. Through work as a professional, I was drawn to the excitement of business enterprises and branding and saw that businesses (through money, lobbying, and economic impact) could actually affect this environmental change at the forefront instead of fighting from behind, similar to my professional experience transitioning commercial litigation to general counsel services. I think it has always been important for businesses to step up with corporate social responsibility, but it is something less done and recognized in our Country until recently. As a business owner myself, I have worked hard
to get to a point where I can pursue my beliefs and passions in causes and social responsibility in addition to making a living. In other words, I’ve gotten involved as soon as I can, which required me to create a business doing what I believed in and working with those whom I desired, and I believe that it is always an important time for such action.

How does showing leadership on the values you care about support the success of your business and brand? What call to action would you give to others in the business community?

There is not necessarily a direct correlation yet, but I have found that if you pursue your passion and connect with those who share similar values, that your days are more rewarding and your structure and network then provide mutual support in different ways. I think it is important for all businesses to realize and take into account the externality costs that they put on society, whether intended or not. Part of running a business should be acknowledging responsibility and management back to society and/or the industry within which you work. Any business should look for involvement opportunities to better one’s community or beliefs, whether it be volunteering, donating, or other similar features with an idea that by working together we can achieve great things and improve the quality of many lives.

What exciting updates for 2017-2018 would you like to share from the world of Merithew Law?

2017 was an amazing year for us – I brought on a partner and we started a new Colorado branch of operations after being located in Asheville by myself for the prior three years. In conjunction with opening a western states branch in Colorado (we are licensed in Colorado, California and North Carolina and work with clients around the Country and World), we also became COBA and 1% for the Planet Members. We wanted to be active in and support matters in which we believe and to be involved with a network of shared value entrepreneurs and businesses. With trade show transitions in the outdoor recreation industry, we look forward to more involvement through access and opportunities related to those shows and surrounding events (and play hopefully). We are actively working on going from becoming members to having active involvement with these organizations and fellow members while celebrating the public lands by getting out and recreating on them!

Previous Featured Member: Peter Downing, Suffer Better

Peter Downing, Suffer Better

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Through experiences ranging from a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa to an educator to a practicing attorney to an ultra-distance runner to a marketing professional to an entrepreneur, Peter has forged a unique perspective and a quiver of potent tools to advance his clients’ business, reputation, image, and profitability.

Some of Peter’s specialties include: Creative marketing solutions and collateral, Strategic CSR and community engagement planning and implementation, High octane branding, Innovative presentations and events, Meaningful relationship building, and Effective communications.

To learn more about Peter and Suffer Better, check out his website!

What do you like to do outside? How did you get introduced to outdoor recreation?
I like to do about anything outside, but mostly these days my outdoor days are filled with trail running and fly fishing. My dad took me and my 2 brothers fly fishing when I was 11. We camped out in the spectacular Flattops Wilderness Area (wasn’t even a wilderness area back then) for a week of camping and fishing. It was simply glorious. We continued to go back and as I got older I started to run the trails there- never saw a soul. We’ve gone back to this same spot now for over 40 years. It’s hardly changed and is as spectacular as ever.


What do Colorado’s public lands mean to you, and why is it important to you to protect them?
Our public lands ensure that there are places that remain untouched, where wildlife and rivers run free and natural beauty is preserved. Of course, I love just knowing that they are there, pure and simple, but also as a place to go and be away from it all. It’s nice to know that there are places where our giant footprint hasn’t left its mark. There are so many reasons to protect and preserve them – now and into the future: Preserving wildlife and wilderness, ensuring biodiversity and healthy forests, home to clean air and water – the list goes on.

Tell us about a specific place or time when an outdoor experience had an impact on your professional life or personal outlook.
There are many of those, including that very first camp out with my dad. More recently, my Suffer Better Co-founder, Bob Africa, and I ran the Grand Canyon together – over and back. I have never been to a place so awe-inspiring and where I felt so small and insignificant. It is a magnificent and magical place and I can’t imagine the loss if a place like that were to be open to even more development. It is also where we were truly struck by how lucky we are to both be able to do what we do and to have access to places like that. That helped us form a critical part of Suffer Better – the importance of giving back.

Why is now an important time to speak up as a member of the business community?
There is more pressure now than ever on our public lands – the wish to privatize them, mine them, develop them, exploit them, etc. As businesses, especially those who thrive in the outdoor and recreation industry, we have a responsibility to protect these places. And certainly not just for us, but for our kids and theirs…..Our collective voices can – must – help make a difference. If we stand up – together – we’ll be heard.

How does showing leadership on the values you care about support the success of your business and brand? What call to action would you give to others in the business community?
Our tagline for Suffer Better is “give your all and give back” and we believe you should give your all in what you do – not just in training and racing, but in living and working too. That commitment should apply to how we hold ourselves out as a business, committing fully to protect what we believe in and to give back to those in need. We have to walk the talk and live the word, as our community likes to say. We ask our community to “fly the flag” and share that commitment and we must do the same in how we operate.

What exciting updates for 2017 would you like to share from the world of Suffer Better?
We have lots of good things coming for 2017: Our first trail race (in September), new products for our community, new partnerships with like-minded companies, new sponsorships of events and a whole new group of impactful nonprofits to which to donate.

Previous Featured Member: Merrill Lynch; Kate Stephenson

Kate-Stephenson

Kate Stephenson, Merrill Lynch

Kate Stephenson works with small business owners and executives to increase market awareness and business profitability. Additionally, Kate focuses on Impact Investing – investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention of generating measurable social and environmental impact alongside financial return. In other words, Kate’s merges investment strategies with clients’ personal philosophies in order to establish a seamless integration between their values and their investments.

To learn more, about Kate visit her Merrill Lynch profile.

What do you like to do outside? How did you get introduced to outdoor recreation?
-Growing up on family trips exploring the West
-Dad a geologist
-I love being in the mountains and close proximity to nature. Growing up, my dad was a geologist, and we spent family trips exploring the West I saw that Denver really allowed the best of both worlds – city life coupled with access to the wilderness and outdoor activities.

What do Colorado’s public lands mean to you, and why is it important to you to protect them?
-Many of my roles and previous career were in the outdoor space. I saw the beauty of being able to interact with the outdoors through business, but I also saw a lot of waste and misuse.
-Public lands are the foundation to the economy here in Colorado. For the same reason that I moved here, I believe it is a catalyst for many individuals to relocate to Colorado. If these lands are misused or not conserved, the infrastructure that makes Colorado great and a desired place to live will dissipate.

Tell us about a specific place or time when an outdoor experience had an impact on your professional life or personal outlook.
-When I first moved to Colorado, I worked and lived in Breckenridge for a season. I had the opportunity to be outside daily as part of my job. It changed my outlook on how the outdoors influenced my career choices.

Why is now an important time to speak up as a member of the business community?
-It’s a matter of being authentic. I have been in roles prior — specifically marketing — where I was working for or towards something that I did not value at the end of the day. I want my work and life to have an impact on the things that I find of value and I believe that brings authenticity.
-I think every and any time is an important moment to share one’s voice. Right now there is a lot of voices and opinions being broadcast and sometimes the loudest one wins.

How does showing leadership on the values you care about support the success of your business and brand? What call to action would you give to others in the business community?
-I wanted to put my actions where my thoughts and beliefs are. People can get behind authenticity.
-Colorado’s state legislature is in session from January through May. Now is the time to get involved. Your voice can make a difference. Join COBA, make phone calls, attend hearings. In short, be activists and make your voice heard. Our legislators are accessible, and for the next 5 months, they’ll be making policy decisions that affect Coloradans and Colorado businesses in crucial ways.

What exciting updates for 2017 would you like to share from the world of Merrill Lynch?
-Under the new administration and Congress, we’re likely to see numerous attacks on our public lands over the coming four years. Those attacks at the national level will likely encourage similar activity at the state level. But Coloradans have repeatedly expressed their overwhelming support for public lands and conservation values. A COBA poll from October demonstrated that the vast majority of Colorado’s business community believes public lands are an asset to the state’s economy.

Previous Featured Member: Fourpoints Bar; Kevin & Patrick Webber

Kevin & Patrick Webber, Fourpoints Bar

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Fourpoints Real Food Energy Bar was started by brothers Kevin Webber and Patrick Webber, and friend Steve Shenfish. All three are 2nd generation Colorado natives and avid outdoor enthusiasts. They brought together backgrounds in fitness, nutrition, and culinary arts to develop a true energy bar unlike any other in that fuels you when you need it the most.

More information can be found at www.fourpointsbar.com

What do you like to do outside?
If you play outside, how did you get introduced to outdoor recreation? As Colorado natives growing up in Evergreen, an after school mountain bike, or hike was the norm. Our father was our boy scout troop leader growing up. He not only introduced us to mountaineering, hiking, camping, etc..but taught us the principles of outdoor ethics and environmental stewardship. Our outdoor passions include skiing, mountaineering, backpacking, camping, biking and golf. Any excuse really to be outside, but the mountains are our Valhalla!

What do Colorado’s public lands mean to you, and why is it important to you to protect them?
As the world becomes a smaller place, we crave Colorado’s wide open spaces and have an obligation to protect them so that they may be enjoyed now and by future generations. They are what makes Colorado…Colorado, therefore, worth fighting for.

Tell us about a specific place or time when an outdoor experience had an impact on your professional life or personal outlook.
There are so many, it’s hard to choose just one. Growing up in the mountains teaches you so much on so many different levels, nature has a way of humbling you. I (Patrick) was able to introduce my wife to backpacking for a week on the Colorado trail last summer…that was a life changer for her and us as a couple. You can discover so much about yourself, your partner, and your environment when stripped down to the bare essentials in the wild. As it pertains to business however, high altitude pursuits fueled the need and design of our flagship product (Fourpoints bar) by solving a problem of nutritional demands for the athletic endeavors of mountain sports.

Why is now an important time to speak up as a member of the business community?
In the current climate, everything is becoming more accessible. Social media, technology, interstate migration and population influx all contribute to more people using the lands. It is imperative we take the time to share the importance of outdoor ethics and environmental stewardship. Now more than ever, do we need to protect these lands and ensure its future health. As a business, we have a unique platform to get that message out.

How does showing leadership on the values you care about support the success of your business and brand? What call to action would you give to others in the business community?
Our greatest form of success will come when people look at Fourpoints bars as not only a great product, but a dedicated company and brand that pays it forward, supports individual dreams and aspirations while exercising values that protect our lands, environment, and our way of life here in Colorado. As a Colorado based outdoor company, we believe it is our duty and privilege to be good stewards of our beautiful backyard, and to use that platform to not only educate users, but protect and preserve these lands for present and future generations…we encourage like minded businesses to do the same.

What exciting updates for 2017 would you like to share from the world of Fourpoints Bar?
Fourpoints was just featured in February’s issue of SKI Magazine. We recently launched a partnership with ink! Coffee (another great Colorado grown brand). On the horizon in April is a featured spot in Backpacker Magazine’s Annual Gear Issue and launch in Colorado REI locations.

Interested in being featured? Contact Beau Kiklis, beau@conservationco.org.