Major growth, 3 different names, same OCC insurance agency after 70 years
The current firm is ALINK Insurance Services, which principally sells auto, home, life and business policies. Between 2012 and 2015, the independent agency took over from Don Bates Insurance, after Bates decided to retire.
Bates had seen the other side of that coin in the late 1950s, when the former Colorado College hockey player eased into full management of the small agency that Jack Nelson had started during World War II.
According to Bates, Nelson had been a Westsider since the World War I era, and either he or close family members had also owned at different times a Whippet car dealership, a slot-machine-repair business and a laundry (Nelson Wet Wash) that was a predecessor to Sno-White.
Bates was a key part of Old Colorado City's revitalization in the 1970s and '80s. He worked with Wes Colbrunn, Dave Hughes and others to form the Old Colorado City Development Company, which acted as a “screening committee,” as Bates phrased it, for business owners seeking private, government- guaranteed loans to upgrade their properties.
The loan program especially incentivized individual entrepreneurs. “And to this day, if you stop and think about it, we don't have any chain operations for about six blocks, which is absolutely amazing,” Bates said.
He himself expanded the building space at 2409 W. Colorado, including the storefront, which was originally just 12 feet wide.
If ALINK co-founder/ President Bill Syddall has his way, the insurance tradition at that address will continue for years to come. One of the elements he's adopted from the Bates saga is the motto, “Here today, here tomorrow.” As Syddall (pronounced sih-dell) pledged, “My commitment to Mr. Bates was that we'll be here for another 50 years.”
Premium volume is how progress is typically measured for insurance companies. For Nelson's agency, the volume was about $30,000 a year, Bates said. By the time he passed the baton to ALINK, that number had risen to more than $6 million. It has doubled in the five-plus years since then, Syddall said, thanks to the “steady growth of our client base on all fronts.”
Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, Syddall has spent most of his career in business administration, including leadership roles with First Data and American Express. Work involving First Data's intergrated payment system brought him to Colorado (the town of Parker) in 2001.
Transitioning into the insurance field, he helped launched ALINK through a partnership in 2009 with ET Investments, which specializes in title companies in Colorado and other states.
Over time, Syddall earned licenses in property, casualty, health and life, along with a long-term care certification status.
Originally, ALINK was in Aurora. Now Old Colorado City is the main office (other locations are in Parker and Greeley) and has 12 of the 15 employees. Of these, Syddall said, three previously worked for Bates. Initially, there were more, but they have since retired or moved from the area, he added.
The ALINK/Bates connection dates back to 2011. Initially, it was part of Syddall's effort to learn the industry, which included shadowing “quality agencies” for periods of time, while taking “a lot of notes,” as he explained it.
Then one day in 2012 Bates told Syddall that he was ready to retire, as well as to sell the agency and building. He just wanted to keep the business' traditionally personalized feel, even as ALINK sought to expand around the state.
“At that point, we started sharpening our pencils,” Syddall said. The transition took about three years. “Don became our senior advisor, and slowly, methodically, he weaned himself out.”
Syddall's commitment to Old Colorado City is evident in the company's major interior investment, which renovated the 3,400 square feet of space at 2409 W. Colorado, digitized the Bates agency's paper documents (a chore that took 18 months) and positioned the office for future growth.
Married with five children, Syddall also serves on the board (and is currently vice president) of the Old Colorado City Foundation, which plans events to raise money for improvements to Bancroft Park and the historic shopping district.
In a piece of historic trivia, the old roll-up desk that was on display for office visitors during the Bates years did not go to ALINK. Bates had inherited it from Nelson, and before that it had belonged to Jimmy Burns, builder of the legendary 1912 Burns Theater (since demolished) in downtown Colorado Springs. Bates said he donated the desk to the Pioneers Museum.
Westside Pioneer article