Category: Economy & Economic Development

Startup Showcase to feature Jared Polis, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker

BOULDER — U.S. Rep. Jared Polis will mark Thursday’s observance of Startup Day Across America by touring several startup businesses in Northern Colorado and the Boulder Valley. His day will culminate with a joint appearance with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker at a Startup Showcase event in Boulder, where several new companies will display their products and services.

Polis, D-Colo., and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., launched the national observance in 2013 as founders of the Congressional Caucus on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. According to the bipartisan effort’s website, their goal is to give local entrepreneurs around the nation “an opportunity to educate their representatives in government about the challenges they face and discuss how federal policy can support their efforts to test new ideas, create new products and grow their businesses.”

Polis’ day on Thursday will start in Fort Collins with morning visits to Sidekick, a startup that retrofits bicycles with electric power, and Jessup Farm Artisan Village, where patrons can get everything from coffee to a haircut. He’ll be in Loveland at noon to tour Decibullz, which makes custom-fit ear buds.

He’ll move south to Boulder on Thursday afternoon, first visiting ThinkTopic, a tech startup that specializes in research and development.

The Startup Showcase, which Polis and Pritzker will attend, will be held from 2:30 to 4:15 p.m. at Blacklab Sports, 3550 Frontier Ave., Unit D, in Boulder. Startups scheduled to attend and showcase their businesses there include Aleph Objects, Onx Sports, Zybek Sports, Isplack, TreadLite, Ridgelogic, Edntech, Kickfurther, Woot Math, Nice Recovery, Flytedesk and Juiceplus.

At the urging of national organizers of Startup Day Across America, more than 70 members of Congress traveled around their districts and states last year to visit with entrepreneurs, incubators, accelerators and other leaders in the innovation economy.

Those wishing to attend or participate in the showcase in Boulder must register online.

Fort Collins, Longmont to host Colorado Tech Tour stops

The Colorado Technology Association’s second-annual Colorado Tech Tour will include stops in Fort Collins and Longmont next week.

Run in conjunction this year with the Aug. 1-5 Tech Week — so declared by Gov. John Hickenlooper — the Tech Tour started last year as a media tour/storytelling platform to showcase the technology activity occurring in Colorado outside of just the Denver metro area.

The Colorado Tech Tour includes government partners such as the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, the Colorado Workforce Development Center, the Colorado Innovation Network and Go Code Colorado.

“It’s basically for us to advocate and showcase all of the work that’s happening all over the state,” said Amy Regnier, director of marketing and events for the CTA. “We’re going out and telling the stories of tech in the state of Colorado.”

This year’s tech tour will start with a stop in Colorado Springs on Monday, Aug. 1, followed by Frisco/Vail on Tuesday, Grand Junction on Wednesday, Fort Collins on Thursday and Longmont on Friday. Panels of local business leaders will be open to the public at each stop to highlight the tech scenes in each region.

The Aug. 4 panel in Fort Collins will be held from noon to 2 p.m. at Innosphere, 320 E. Vine Drive. Moderated by Innosphere CEO Mike Freeman, the panel is slated to include Derek Haynes, CEO of Scout Marketing; Ashley Colpaart, CEO of The Food Corridor; Mark Kollar, founder of St. Renatus; and Marshal Smith, managing developer at Radial Development Group.

The Aug. 5 panel in Longmont will be held from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Xilinx campus, 1951 S. Fordham St., and be moderated by Longmont Economic Development Partnership vice president Wendi Nafziger. Participants are expected to include Greg Kleese, site director at Micron Technology, and SensorNova founder Jake Galbreath, as well as officials from Xilinx and Zayo Group.

Broomfield-based Pilatus breaks ground on new facility, to add 60 jobs by 2020

BROOMFIELD — Pilatus Business Aircraft Ltd. last week broke ground on a new 118,000-square-foot facility at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport that is expected to accommodate the addition of 60 jobs at the Broomfield-based company by 2020.

The new facility, slated for completion in the spring of 2018, will help Pilatus consolidate its operations at the airport, where it leases 14 different hangars and about 75 percent of the terminal building now. But it will also provide added space as the company brings a new aircraft — the PC-24 twin-engine jet — online next year.

Pilatus Business Aircraft is a wholly owned subsidiary of Swiss company Pilatus Aircraft Ltd., which had sales of about $1.1 billion last year. Founded in 1996, the local subsidiary is responsible for sales, marketing and servicing of Pilatus’ PC-12 single-engine turbo-prop planes in North and South America. The local operations are also responsible for finishing interior and exterior work to customer specifications for about 70 percent of the PC-12s that come off the production line in Switzerland.

Pilatus, 11900 Airport Way, employs about 80 people in Broomfield now, and aims to ramp up to 140 once the new facility is at full production, said Tom Aniello, vice president of marketing for the local firm.

Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport lies along the border of Broomfield and Jefferson counties, and is owned and operated by Jefferson County.

Pilatus’ new facility will be on the west side of the airport near Simms Street and Colorado Highway 128 on Jefferson County land. Pilatus will lease the land from the airport, and own the building. The company has not disclosed the cost of the new building.

Tectonic Management Group of Wheat Ridge is managing design and construction services for the new facility.

“Pilatus has enjoyed steady growth in the business aviation market in our 20 years at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, and we are delighted to have the confidence to expand our operations and employment here in Jefferson County,” Pilatus Business Aircraft president and CEO Thomas Bosshard said in a prepared statement.

German firm Sartorius acquires Broomfield-based ViroCyt

BROOMFIELD — Life-science startup ViroCyt LLC announced on Friday that the company has been acquired by Germany-based Sartorius, an international provider of pharmaceutical and laboratory tools.

Sartorius paid $16 million for Broomfield-based ViroCyt in the cash deal.

ViroCyt president and CEO Robert Kline said in an interview Friday that the company will maintain its branding and continue to operate as a standalone company for the foreseeable future. He said all 12 employees, including him, will be retained.

Formed in late 2012 as a spinoff of Boulder-based InDevR, ViroCyt develops instrumentation and reagents that allow for the quantification of virus particles in a given sample in just minutes. The company is projected to achieve more than $3 million in sales this year.

“We’ve really been able to fine-tune and improve our technology to the point that I think it’s a really good solution for a number of opportunities and applications in the biotech world,” Kline said. “But as a small company we don’t have the reach to get to all of the opportunities. … (The acquisition) is a great opportunity to accelerate the scaling of our business.”

ViroCyt, which initially was based in Denver, launched with $3 million in venture capital, led by High Country Venture in Boulder. The company last year added another $3.5 million round. The company moved to Boulder in late 2013 before moving again to Broomfield last November to accommodate growth.

Eight of ViroCyt’s employees are based at the company’s headquarters at 100 Technology Drive in Broomfield, with the rest spread throughout the country. Kline said the acquisition by Sartorius should mean more hiring locally.

“The whole idea behind the partnership is to grow the business, so over time we will be adding resources,” Kline said.

Report cites $50M-worth of unfilled software jobs in Boulder

BOULDER — Software companies in the Boulder area are struggling to find qualified applicants to fill open jobs even though they’re offering some of the highest wages in the country and operating in an area with the U.S.’ fifth-highest concentration of software developers, according to a new report.

According to the report released Friday from ACT, The App Association, about 460 software-development jobs are unfilled in Boulder, with an average salary of $110,000 — about twice the average overall salary in the area.

The report, titled “Six-Figure Tech Salaries: Creating the Next Developer Workforce,” is online.

Software developers contribute more than $600 million in annual income to the Boulder-area economy, the report found.

“Boulder has one of the highest concentrations of software developers in the country, but there aren’t enough to meet demand,” said Jonathan Godfrey, vice president for public affairs at ACT, The App Association. “This means that about $50 million in annual income is left on the table by companies unable to hire developers.

“The problem is that we aren’t teaching students the necessary skills from an early age,” he said. “Barely one in eight high schools teach AP (advanced placement) computer science across the country, which leaves many students unable to pursue it at the college level and qualify for these lucrative jobs.”

Prospects for Boulder students are slightly better than the national average, the report said, with 20 percent of high schools offering AP computer science. That still leaves the vast majority of local students without access to the course.

“To meet the needs of the global, high-tech economy, we must provide all students with access to a top-quality education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, no matter their zip code,” said U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo. “In Colorado, high-tech businesses are constantly scouting out skilled workers for good-paying jobs with room for promotion.”

Interactive maps in the online report show where software developer jobs are, how much they pay, and where to find openings. It also reveals which locations teach AP computer science and where computer science education needs are the greatest. Users can zoom in and out to see data by region, state, city, or congressional district.

According to the report, nearly a quarter-million job openings for software developers remain unfilled across the country. It contended that location doesn’t matter because 89 percent of software engineers work outside California’s Silicon Valley and four out of five top-grossing U.S. app companies are from outside that area as well.

Meanwhile, it said, barely one in eight high schools offer AP computer science courses.

The Washington, D.C.-based ACT, The App Association represents more than 5,000 app makers and connected device companies in the mobile economy.

Manufacturing CEOs: Finding skilled talent presents challenges

FORT COLLINS — Leaders of manufacturing firms in Northern Colorado face challenges in maintaining a skilled workforce, providing quality health care for their workers and figuring out how to best handle employees who might partake in the use of recreational marijuana.

They also say costs associated with new and changing regulations issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration through the Department of Labor erode the bottom line, often affecting their ability to hire needed workers.

“We are growing quickly,” said Todd Whitbeck, chief financial officer of Water Pik Inc. in Fort Collins, who said he has about 15 to 20 job openings.

“Electrical and hydraulic engineers are hard to find here,” he said. “We’ve had to hire engineers in China.”

Entry-level employees with basic skills are also hard to find, said most of the executives who participated in BizWest’s CEO Roundtable on manufacturing Tuesday morning in Fort Collins.

Steve Anderson, president and chief executive of Forney Industries Inc. in Fort Collins, said there is a gap between baby boomers and millennials for welders and the trades in general.

Anderson is trying to fill that gap by offering scholarships to students to attend Front Range Community College’s trade classes.

“We’ve had some success working with Front Range as well as Colorado State University’s supply-chain management forum,” Anderson said. The forum provides partner companies with the opportunity to interact with CSU supply-chain faculty, supply-chain students and other company partners.

Dean Herl, general manager of Greeley-based Noffsinger Manufacturing Co. Inc., a maker of equipment for the agriculture industry, said it is difficult to find young qualified workers.
“The average age of our tech workers is 56. We will see turnover there. Instead of hiring someone with 10 years of experience, we have dropped that to five years of experience,” he said.

With a shallow talent pool, Anderson said an emerging trend is that blue-collar workers will demand higher wages. Tim Reeser, president and co-founder of Lightning Hybrids in Loveland, said he’s having to pay machinists more than engineers.

Terry Precht, CEO and president of Vergent Products in Loveland that designs and manufactures products for its clients, said he sees a shortage of electrical engineers.

“We want a candidate that has a two-year degree in electronics that has received a hands-on education,” Precht said. “For skilled assembly, a two-year degree is worth its weight in gold.”

Fort Collins-based trailer manufacturer Maxey Cos. merged with Pennsylvania-based MGS Inc. in 2014. Carl Maxey said as his company has ramped up assembly lines to two shifts during the past 18 months in Fort Collins, finding workers with the needed skills is a problem.

“We’ve tried to transfer employees from Pennsylvania to Colorado, but housing becomes a problem with the higher cost of homes here,” Maxey said. “We’ve had to take on the responsibility to train people.”

Garth Rummery, owner of Tharp Cabinet Co. in Loveland, also is training his own people.

“We look for good people who have a good personality, work hard and are team players. We have enough core knowledge to be able to train them ourselves.”

Marcia Coulson, president of Denver-based Eldon James Corp. that is planning a facility in Fort Collins, said her company looks for people with a strong work ethic and are able to pass a drug test.

Recreational marijuana

“Our employees need to be thinking,” Coulson said. “One employee could be responsible for a million-dollars-worth of equipment. “They need all their senses,” referring to people who may come to work with a THC hangover or take a “smoke” break.

Maxey said the problem is that the state has not issued guidelines on what constitutes too much THC, the mind-altering ingredient in marijuana.

“It’s not defined. … And as employers, we cannot afford the risk of injury.” He said when an employer sends someone home because of alcohol use, “it is never challenged.”

Lisa Clay, CEO of her family business, Advance Tank & Construction Co. in Wellington, hires welders from across the country for projects her firm has across the United States. But she has more difficulty hiring in Colorado, where recreational use of marijuana is legal.

“I don’t have a choice. I say right up front, ‘don’t waste my time, can you pass a drug test?’ I’m waiting for someone to quantify the level of THC that is safe.”

Reeser said the state has done a poor job on educating about the effects of marijuana. “It is not as harmless as we are led to believe,” he said.

Health care

Most manufacturers in the room Tuesday lamented the direction health-care is taking but are even more wary of Amendment 69 that will be voted on in November.

The amendment to the state constitution would create ColoradoCare, a payment system designed to finance health care for Colorado residents partly through an approximately $25 billion increase in state taxes that would be paid by businesses and employees.

“This will have bad consequences,” Clay said. “It wasn’t good for Vermont or Massachusetts; so why would it be good for Colorado? We (as a company) might have to cut jobs or move out of state.”

Reeser conjectured that in the system will have a lot of waste and offer poor service.

Participants in Tuesday’s CEO Roundtable included: Steve Anderson, president/CEO, Forney Industries; Lisa Clay, CEO, Advance Tank & Construction Co.; Marcia Coulson, president, Eldon James Corp.; Dean Herl, general manager, Noffsinger Manufacturing Co. Inc.; Carl Maxey, president, Maxey Cos.; Terry Precht, CEO/president, Vergent Products; Tim Reeser, president/co-founder, Lightning Hybrids Inc.; Garth Rummery, owner, Tharp Cabinet Co.; Todd Whitbeck, chief financial officer, Water Pik Inc. Moderator: Christopher Wood, co-publisher/editor, BizWest Media.  Sponsors: Luis Ramirez, David Fritzler and Luis Gutierrez, BBVA Compass; Jim Sampson and Russ Henniger, Hub International Insurance Services; Brian Rooney, Kreg Brown and Mike Grell, EKS&H LLLP. 

Boulder-based SAS Manufacturing opens plant in Englewood

BOULDER — SAS Manufacturing LLC, a 10-year-old Boulder-based manufacturing company that serves aerospace and other industries, has opened a facility in Englewood equipped with 3-D printers and automated milling machines.

SAS Manufacturing, a subsidiary of Special Aerospace Services LLC, bought the 12,500-square-foot building at 3737 S. Inca St. in 2015 from C&C Manufacturing, a nearly half-century-old business, and began upgrading the equipment and processes to meet the standards of clients in aerospace, aviation, energy, defense and the U.S. government.

The facility soon will offer clients a 24/7 online platform to view the status of manufacturing projects in real time, company officials said.

“Advanced manufacturing in the 21st century requires integrating the latest automated equipment into a production process that is open and transparent to the client,” said Heather Bulk, president and chief executive of SAS Manufacturing. “Our platform interface will give clients instant access to job status, material tracing and supplier certification data at every step of the process.”

The company in August is expecting delivery of a monoBLOCK 5-axis milling machine from DMG MORI, which it describes as “one of the most precise computerized numerical-control metal-fabrication devices in the world.” Subtractive metal milling remains an essential manufacturing process in aerospace and other sectors where source material traceability is critical.

By late summer, SAS Manufacturing expects to be able to handle projects related to rapid prototyping and 3-D printing, design and precision machining, assembly and component testing at the facility.

“The SAS team can take a client’s concept from design and prototyping to testing and production in a few weeks,” Bulk said. “That same process used to take months with a third-party manufacturing shop involved.”

Special Aerospace Services LLC has offices at 3005 30th St. in Boulder, and its engineers work onsite with clients. It and its subsidiary employ about 60 people.

Flatiron Park warehouse gets new life in Boulder

Real Deals - Flatiron ParkBOULDER — Construction is under way on a 60,000-square-foot renovation of an old warehouse in Flatiron Park in east Boulder that, when completed, will house employees of Penton’s New Hope Network and Sovrn Holdings, two companies already in Boulder.

The building at 5541 Central Ave., owned by Goff Capital Partners LP, will be called The Loading Dock. Designer OZ Architecture is reusing the former warehouse and a loading dock that will serve as an elevated boardwalk that connects to the indoor office.

New Hope Network, which provides services to businesses in the healthy-lifestyle products industry, will move from its downtown headquarters at 1401 Pearl St. and occupy 30,000 square feet. Tech firm Sovrn Holdings, which helps publishers grow their businesses on the web, will move from 1750 29th St. and will occupy 30,000 square feet. Both firms will be leasing space.

The renovation is incorporating cross-laminated timber, which is made from engineered wood panels laminated together in alternating directions and has the look of heavy, old-growth lumber. Using cross-laminated timber offers waste reduction and environmental benefits because it is sourced using sustainable forestry practices and the boards are precisely pre-cut, which creates less material waste. The pieces arrive organized and numbered, allowing the building to be assembled on site. The primary structure of The Loading Dock will be erected in about a day.

“The look of CLT has captured our imagination because of its inherent beauty and authenticity, as well as the opportunity to provide a built solution that is sustainable and high performing,” said Amanda Johnson, associate principal at OZ Architecture, which has offices in Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs.

Joe Anastasi, lead designer on the project and associate at OZ, said the design concept is based on both connection and authenticity.

“We wanted to connect to the existing warehouse and outdoor environment architecturally, but more importantly, we had the opportunity to connect to this local fabric in a transformative way,” he said. “The potential for future development in this office park, the community, Colorado and even nationally required a distinctive solution that highlights an honest use of materials, one that exposed the beautiful structure and unique connections and details.”

To help reinforce this physical connection, a large CLT roof element cantilevers over the main entry and informal gathering deck space highlighted by string lighting above.

The project also is incorporating photovoltaic roof panels, and energy-saving mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.

Boulder-based Quinlan Construction Inc. is the general contractor for the project.

Doug Storum can be reached at 303-630-1951, 970-416-7369 or

Hickenlooper’s Brazil trip includes stop at Level 3 data center

BROOMFIELD – As part of his four-day trip to Brazil this week, Gov. John Hickenlooper made a stop at Broomfield-based Level 3 Communications’ data center in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Wednesday.

Hickenlooper traveled to Brazil as part of a delegation of 54 Colorado business, academic and civic leaders attending the 2016 Biennial Summit to Brazil to help showcase Colorado’s business environment to foreign investors.

Hickenlooper toured Level 3’s toured Level 3’s data center, network operations center and distributed denial of service scrubbing center in Sao Paulo to learn more about the company’s cybersecurity services.

Level 3 owns 17 data centers in Latin America, including three in Brazil. The Sao Paulo scrubbing center, opened earlier this year, mitigates against cyber attacks to help customers recover from malicious activity. It’s Level 3’s ninth such center worldwide.

“Seeing firsthand Level 3’s data center gave me great insight into how they identify, research and detect malicious cyber activity,” Hickenlooper said in a prepared statement. “It also reinforced how the efforts we have underway in the state of Colorado will help protect global businesses of all sizes against increasing cyber threats.”

Hickenlooper’s trip continues today and Friday and includes a tour of Projac, Latin America’s largest audio-visual production center, and a visit to Espaco NAVE, a startup incubator.

Pfizer plans shutdown of Boulder plant by 2019

BOULDER — Officials for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) on Wednesday told Boulder employees that the company would be closing down its local manufacturing facility by 2019 and eliminating the 100-plus jobs there.

The 50,000-square-foot facility at 4876 Sterling Drive came under Pfizer control following the company’s $16 billion acquisition of Hospira last year.

Pfizer spokeswoman Joan Campion said no layoffs have occurred at the site, yet. She said that the exact timing of the layoffs isn’t yet clear, but noted that they will occur in phases over the next three years. She said Boulder employees would be considered for manufacturing jobs elsewhere within Pfizer. The company operates 63 plants globally, though the Boulder site is Pfizer’s only facility in Colorado.

Campion said the decision to cease Boulder operations follows an analysis of Pfizer’s and Hospira’s combined manufacturing capabilities that determined there is “underutilized capacity” within the company’s network.

The Boulder facility makes various active pharmaceutical ingredients, including paclitaxel, tromethamine and irenotecan. The APIs are then shipped to other production sites to be used in high-potency sterile injectable products treating a range of conditions. Campion said production of the drugs made in Boulder will be transferred to other sites.

“The recommendation to exit the site is not a reflection of the work performed at Boulder, but rather is based on a number of factors, including the existing capacity within Pfizer’s manufacturing network and the efficiency of consolidating manufacturing to fewer locations,” Campion said.

The closure is a blow for Boulder’s bioscience sector, which last month saw Clovis Oncology announce that it would eliminate 35 percent of its jobs by the end of the year.

But Clif Harald, executive director of the Boulder Economic Council, said he’s hopeful that many of the affected Pfizer employees will be able to land locally. He noted that some 125 bioscience companies account for roughly 4,700 jobs in Boulder County, and that the Boulder-Denver region as a whole is seen as a bioscience hub thanks largely to the University of Colorado campuses. While there have been layoffs and exits from the sector locally, AstraZeneca is in the process of ramping up operations at a former Amgen site in east Boulder.

“It’s always painful to know people are losing their jobs,” Harald said. “But we’re pretty confident that with the growth in other companies those people will be able to find other opportunities, if not in Boulder, then nearby.”