Basalt won’t lose largest employer |

Basalt won’t lose largest employer

BASALT – Basalt’s largest private-sector employer has no intention of moving out of town despite some recent firings and restructuring, according to the company founder and chairman of the board of directors.

Total Merchant Service continues to employ close to 200 workers in Basalt and leases about 24,000 square feet of space in the Riverside Plaza building, said Ed Freedman, who founded the company in Philadelphia in 1996 with his brother Matt. They relocated the business to Basalt in 1997 and have been in “constant expansion,” Freedman said.

The company supplies the infrastructure and customer-service expertise that businesses need to process credit-card purchases.

Total Merchant Services first rented a 600-square-foot space in Elk Run and then grew into 10,000 square feet in the Riverside Plaza building in 2002. It added 4,000 square feet a year later and then paid an insurance company to leave 6,000 square feet of adjacent space in 2005. Total Merchant Services snagged another 4,000 square feet in the fall of 2007, tapping its expansion possibilities in Basalt.

The company maintained its growth despite the recession, Freedman said. Credit-card use has spiked, and consumer spending has bounced back, he said.

The company put land in Glenwood Springs under contract for purchase in 2007 and aimed to build a 70,000-square-foot facility there, but the plan fell through. Instead, Total Merchant Services has expanded in Portland, Ore., and in Woodland Hills, Calif. Many of the high-tech positions the company requires have been established in California, Freedman said, and the upper management also is stationed there.

In addition, the company employs about 35 people in its facility in Portland.

Total Merchant Service hired a new chief executive officer in January. That led to the elimination of some upper-management positions in Basalt, Freedman said. The new managers also fired some employees that Freedman described as “dead weight” that couldn’t match the performance of workers available at other sites.

All told, between 10 and 15 people have been fired from positions in Basalt this year, Freedman said. That has probably fueled the inaccurate perception that the company is leaving Basalt.

“The Roaring Fork Valley, Basalt, is not facing a threat,” Freedman said. “Individuals (who don’t perform) are facing a threat.”

The Basalt office remains what Freedman labeled the core business for Total Merchant Services. There are some redundant services in Woodland Hills and Portland, but that’s by design, he said. The company continues to fill openings in Basalt.

“We are hiring. We are expanding. We are growing,” Freedman said. “Our expectation is to stay in the valley.”

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