Former Telluride Express owners fight third-party complaint filed after age-discrimination suit

Telluride Express vans sit parked at an on-site location. (Montrose Daily Press file photo) 

CO West Transportation is exploring a restructuring and potential opportunity to have its headquarters in Montrose, newly appointed Ogilvie Family Limited Partnership (OFLP) President Garrett Brafford said in an interview.

The potential move comes as OFLP announced Brafford as its new president last month. OFLP owns CO West Transportation, which is the home of Alpine Express, Go Alpine, Bustang Outrider and Montrose-based Telluride Express (Montrose-Telluride).

Brafford, who served as director of operations and finance for the Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association, and is also founder and CEO of Catapult Consulting, which later acquired Telluride Consulting, a real estate consultant, is expected to lead management of OLFP’s investments like commercial and real estate warehouse management, light commercial development and other portfolio assets.

“We’re moving down that path,” Brafford said of potentially headquartering CO West Transportation in Montrose. “We need to have some conversations with the city and make sure that this is going to work. But there’s such a good labor pool in Montrose that we’re able to rely on — some of the hardest working employees that we’ve hired, so that’s been great to see.”

Brafford said CO West Transportation has already put into practice shuffling Montrose drivers to different markets, such as Gunnison and Crested Butte (Alpine Express).

A restructuring wouldn’t take drivers out of those markets — there still would be a presence in those communities, with vehicles on-site — but the majority of the company’s labor force would be in Montrose. That includes centralized accounting departments and backup reservation and dispatch agents, to set a “good foundation for growth,” Brafford said.

The goal is to potentially add 50 jobs in the next year, and close to 100 jobs over the next two to three years, all of which would be local, Montrose hires. The total includes a mix of drivers and office jobs.

“That’s where we’ve been most successful, to date, in our hiring efforts,” Brafford said of Montrose. “It comes down to people’s ability and the hardworking nature of the community. We’re hiring in a lot of different markets, right now, and Montrose, by far, the workers here, we get the best response out of them.”

A chief priority for Brafford is growing CO West Transportation. Although the company is looking to expand into California before winter — details are not yet finalized — the current focus for the company, and Telluride Express, is hiring, Brafford said.

There’s been a challenge with hiring as of late, Brafford said, similar to that of other industries currently struggling to hire employees. CO West Transportation has allowed for flexibility while prioritizing its work culture — allowing people to choose their schedules, flexible hours or weekends only — for its employees. A potential compensation package has been discussed, but is more of a three-year plan.

The difficulty in finding employees isn’t the only hindrance to the company. Due to the computer chip shortage that has slowed automotive production globally, the company has purchased vehicles from as far as Maine and Florida, Brafford said, to keep up with operations, which is expanding. The company has been handling additional volume over the past six months.

The addition of vehicles coincides with Brafford’s mission to add more drivers over the next few years, which he says could help reduce the number of cars on the road. More shuttles means — potentially — more routes, and more routes means more drivers.

“One of our top priorities as a company is safety,” Brafford said. “We have to be safe. That comes down to people trusting us to be safe.

“...Reducing the number of cars on the road ultimately reduces the number of accidents, reduces costs to the state and keeps people safer.”

Helping with housing challenges is also on Brafford’s radar. When Brafford moved to the area, he himself struggled to find a housing option that suited his interests.

“As far as workforce housing goes, it is something that we are looking at very closely as part of our recruitment and retention strategy,” Brafford said. “We’re looking at everything from potential master leases, multi-family projects that we control to potentially new development partnering with developers to achieve some additional housing in some of our markets.”

Brafford added due to the company’s relationship with dealers, it’s been able to acquire Transit 350 shuttles. The company has considered adding more 22-passenger vehicles to its portfolio, as well, due to the natural growth of operations. It currently has 2,935 seats across the total fleet, and is aiming to expand to 5,000 seats over the next three years. 

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that CO West Transportation already has 22-passenger vehicles within its portfolio. The article previously said the company was considering adding 22-passenger vehicles to its portfolio. 

A previous version of this story said Garrett Brafford was founder and CEO of Telluride Consulting. Brafford is founder and CEO of Catapult Consulting, which later acquired Telluride Consulting. 

Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press

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