Today in New West news: new Delta CEO says SLC key to airline’s future, Corson Distilling Systems Inc. in Boise, and Open Lands seeks $700K for Utah owl preserve.
Tuesday, New Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian told reporters of his plans for the company’s future: adding more international flights, more nonstop flights in the U.S., introducing larger aircraft, speeding up security in Delta’s terminal, and other initiatives. And according to the Salt Lake Tribune, Bastian singled out Salt Lake City as the key to future growth in the West, especially in the Rocky Mountain region:
“West of the Mississippi is where we see the greatest growth opportunities in our business,” Bastian said in an interview Tuesday, when he spent the day in Salt Lake City meeting with numerous employee groups and major Utah customers.
“We’ve grown 60 percent over the past five years” in number of seats sold on flights to and from Salt Lake City, he said. “That’s a very large number. There’s no reason to think we can’t continue to grow and expand here.”
He adds, “It’s a great destination market. And as we rebuild the airport here, there’s going to be even more opportunities down the road” for enhanced operations.
Bastian became CEO of Delta in May after 18 years with the company — including quitting once over dissatisfaction with the direction it was taking, only to be brought back later to help restructure it.
He’s no stranger to Salt Lake City. He owns a condo in Deer Valley. While he loves to ski there, he says he actually prefers coming during the summer to explore and enjoy the mountains.
Bastian says he wants Utahns to view Delta as their hometown airline.
“In 2015, we finished with almost 15 million passengers carried to and through Salt Lake,” he said. “It’s a very important market for us.”
Bastian added he hopes to bring more international flights through SLC and implement innovations similar to those seen at Delta’s main hub in Atlanta, Georgia.
Up in Idaho, Nampa natives Tory (36) and Josh (27) Corson set out in 2012 to open a distillery in Boise, pooling together their collective interests. Tory, using his background as a patent lawyer, caught the distilling bug while advising microbrewers and microdistillers in Montana, while Josh sought to make good on his experience in chemistry and metalworking. According to the Idaho Statesman, while they never got their distillery off the ground, they did find a valuable niche: manufacturing stills:
They had researched the manufacturing side of liquor and found that almost nobody makes stills in the U.S. Most distilleries order their equipment from Germany, Scotland or China, they said, and the wait can be as much as three years.
The Corsons thought they could underprice the competition. They knew the demand was there, as craft distilling is taking off the way craft brewing did five years ago. So they took their freshly built copper-and-steel equipment, made it the gleaming centerpiece of their website and waited as Google searches brought them customers.
BUILT IN A GARAGE
They built their presses and factory equipment with inexpensive Harbor Freight tools, using junkyard parts.
Because the $40,000 startup was funded with cash — and a credit card they have since paid off — Corson Distilling Systems Inc. has no debt and no outside investors, Tory Corson said. The Corson brothers, their mother Kristy Corson, and their fiancées Lacy Hellums and Katherine Pages are the owners, he said.
They hired their first employee in January 2015. Their first order from a man in Michigan was a $30,000 mash tun, a specialized brewing vessel.
Since then, Corson Distilling at 17 N. Phillippi St. has grown to employ about 50 people and had 55 customers as of Sept. 12.
At any given time, there are workers on the floor hammering pieces of copper into shape, stamping sheets of steel and polishing the metal.
This year, they’re on track for $8 million in sales — more than four times their sales last year — with a 50 percent profit margin on equipment.
A still sells from $35,000 for 100 gallons to $170,000 for 2,500 gallons. Full systems range from $125,500 to $447,500.
Corson Distilling keeps money in the state or region whenever possible, buying from Pacific Steel and Recycling, Norco Inc. and McCall Industrial Supply — all either based in the Treasure Valley or with a large presence here.
Finding good employees has, so far, been a challenge they have met. Local welders, College of Western Idaho students and even a CWI instructor have signed on with the company. The pay is $10 to $25 an hour, with commissions for salespeople and bonuses for the crew when a piece of equipment leaves the factory.
Taking a cue from Silicon Valley tech companies such as Google, the brothers buy lunch for employees every day. Corson Distilling covers half the cost of a Blue Cross of Idaho health insurance plan for employees.
Tory Corson also notes that Corson Distilling is adamant about having a diverse workforce. The brothers want to hire women and people of color for all types of positions, he said.
The Statesman adds the Corsons are already looking ahead, outside the distilling market, to cold-brew coffee. Indeed, the brothers are already prepping a prototype of a commercial cold-brew coffee system and making inquiries into possible buyers.
Finally, outside Salt Lake City, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, environmental organization Utah Open Lands is seeking $700,000 by November 7 to acquire 4.6 acres of prime owl habitat across Emigration Creek. The org argues that, while preservation of the plot is mainly for the birds, it’s—well—not just for the birds. From the Tribune:
This spot is important habitat for great horned owls, Northern saw-whet owls, Cooper’s hawks, American kestrels and red tail hawks and is situated by two other preserves around Perkins Flat, totaling 264 acres, according to Wendy Fisher, Open Lands executive director.
“Residents, cyclists, bikers and visitors traveling Emigration Canyon enjoy this scenic meadow,” Fisher said. “Any development will degrade its visual and ecological value. We need community support for this project quickly to meet the seller’s deadline. It’s a small amount of acreage, but the conservation value is tremendous.”
A pair of great horned owls nested here this year, fledging four owlets. The owl meadow is one of many proposed acquisitions Fisher plans to announce in the coming weeks. Open Lands plans to raise money separately for those acquisitions; because of the short time frame for the owl habitat deal, Open Lands will not accept pledges, just donations.
“If we can’t raise the funds in time, 100 percent of the collected money [for the owl habitat] will be returned, and at least we will have tried,” Fisher said. “It is a lot of money and short time frame, but based on strategic location next to land we have already protected and the species we have identified there, we felt we had to try.”
The deadline for closing is Dec. 15. Fisher will also solicit grants from Salt Lake County’s open space fund, the Utah Division of Water Quality and private foundations.