Soul Sports has obtained a $20,000 economic development grant to relocate its Soul Poles operation a ew miles to Park City, UT, the upscale mountain resort town that is recruiting sustainable businesses to diversify its economy.
The award and Park City's overall emphasis on attracting sustainable businesses demonstrates the growing importance of local economic development grants as a financing option for small outdoor brands.
Soul Poles now operates in a light industrial park a few miles outside the city. The bulk of the grant, or $12,000, will be used to subsidize rent for Soul Pole’s operation in Bonanza Park, a 99-acre area the city is redeveloping to expand affordable housing for resort workers and diversify its economic base, according to an analysis of Soul Sport’s grant application by city staff.
Soul Sports will use $2,500 of grant funds to build a showroom and a workshop where consumers can build their own Soul Pole trekking and ski poles. Another $3,000 will go toward purchasing tools and material for community spaces that can be used to promote entrepreneurship, art, music and other activities being targeted by the city’s Bonanza Park plan.
“With community events and a more centralized location, Soul Sports will act as a hub for sustainability, recreation, art, music and civic engagement in Park City,” according to Park City records.
In exchange, Soul Poles must operate inside city limits for at least three years and cooperate with an analysis of its economic impact. The company is evaluating a building in the Iron Horse neighborhood, which is already home to Podium
Skis, Skis on the Run and Switchback Sports.
Soul Sports was founded by its CEO and Park City native Byron Friedman after 10 years of competing on the World Cup ski circuit as a vehicle for promoting sustainability and social responsibility in the ski industry. The company’s primary business is Soul Poles, which makes hand-crafted bamboo poles and recyclable materials. The pole, which sell for between $125 and $350 at retail, are approximately 25 percent stronger than aluminum, nearly as strong as carbon and present “a classic vintage look with an edge,” according to the company’s website.
“The perfect choice for environmentally conscious skiers, fast-growing bamboo absorbs significantly more carbon dioxide and produces more oxygen than any other plant-curbing the polluting greenhouse gases that are warming the planet and threatening our snow,” according to the website.
The poles include straps and baskets woven from recycled PET plastic and tips made with recycled aluminum. Soul Poles donates 1 percent of “proceeds” to Protect Our Winters (POW) through 1% for the Planet.
The company sponsors eight snowsports athletes, including company co-founder, X Game Gold Medalist and Dew Tour Champion Erik Schlopy.
Soul Sports sales is projecting its sales will grow 30 percent this year as it expands its product line. The company’s growth plans include launching a winter apparel line, launching a mobile build-your-own workshop, and creating an incubator for sustainable manufacturing companies.