Category: Engineering

BizWest 500 highlights largest, fastest-growing companies

Purchase this new publication by clicking BizWest 500. For a preview of the content, here’s the first page.

Welcome to the BizWest 500, an ambitious undertaking that highlights the largest or fastest-growing companies throughout the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado (and the highest-paid executives).

This special edition of BizWest aggregates content that previously had been published over a span of many months, but it also represents a dramatic increase in the data that we publish on the region’s largest private- and public-sector employers.

In these pages, you’ll find:

• The Mercury 100 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the Boulder Valley, along with five profiles of interesting companies on the list.

• The Mercury 100 list of the fastest-growing private companies in Northern Colorado, along with five profiles of interesting companies on the list.

• A list of the Top 25 highest-paid executives of public companies.

• A list of the 50 largest public-sector employers, including municipalities, counties, universities, federal laboratories, etc.

• A vastly expanded list of the region’s largest employers — 200 companies listed, compared with 50 published last year.

• A list of the largest publicly traded companies based in our region. (We’ve stretched this a bit, opting to include a handful of companies that have shifted their headquarters to the Denver area or other nearby cities, but which retain a significant presence in our region.)

All told, these lists represent the largest number of ranked lists we’ve ever published in one issue, outside of our annual Book of Lists publication.

Most companies cited in these lists responded to our surveys. Others are included based on BizWest estimates, reports by economic-development agencies, news accounts or other sources. Data for the public companies and highest-paid executives lists came entirely from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

This endeavor represents many months of work by our staff, especially our chief researcher, Chad Collins. As with any undertaking of this magnitude, errors and omissions are likely. In particular, our lists of the largest private-sector and public-sector employers will continue to be refined and expanded. If you’d like to see your company included — or if you spot a mistake or other omission — please contact Chad at ccollins@bizwestmedia.com.

It should be noted that we’ve opted to include aggregated numbers for some employers, such as major health systems, as well as numbers for some of their constituent institutions, i.e., a hospital within the system.

If you have a suggestion for the BizWest 500 next year, please feel free to contact me at the number below.

Christopher Wood can be reached at 303-630-1942, 970-232-3133 or cwood@bizwestmedia.com.

Engineering firm with Wyoming presence acquires Fort Collins’ Lidstone & Associates

CHEYENNE – An engineering firm with offices in Cheyenne and Sheridan is expanding both its geographical footprint and its expertise with the purchase of a similar company in Fort Collins.

Wenck Associates Inc. completed its acquisition of Lidstone and Associates Inc. in Fort Collins in early July, effectively doubling Wenck’s Rocky Mountain presence with the addition of 15 employees and three part-timers. Wenck is based in Minnesota, but expanded into Wyoming in 2012 when it bought out States West Water Resources. Between its two offices in Wyoming, the company has 15 employees, but the overarching company employs 275.

Jack Meena, principal of Wenck Associates Wyoming, said the firms had already worked together in subconsulting and subcontracting arrangements running both directions over the Wyoming-Colorado border.

“It seemed like an ideal merger,” Meena said, indicating that Lidstone has solid contacts in Colorado to expand the physical footprint easily. But, he said, it also brings specialties in geology and groundwater development that Wenck Wyoming lacked.

Currently, Meena said it’s unclear how much interplay there will be between the firm’s Wyoming and Colorado offices, but said it should be substantial as the fresh merger finds its legs.

“I think we’ll be a joint team,” he said, adding that the arrangement should help out both the offices in Wyoming and Colorado.

Lidstone partially retains the name it has built up, and is now called Lidstone and Associates – A Wenck Company. The merger, a release said, expands its service offerings into air quality; environmental management and regulatory compliance; environmental review and assessment; facility and process engineering; industrial hygiene and safety; natural resources; real estate; site assessments; sustainability; traffic engineering; waste management; and water resources.

Wenck was founded in 1985 and now has 14 offices in six states.

“By combining Wenck resources and expertise with Lidstone, we continue to strengthen our foothold in the western region and our company overall,” a Wenck spokeswoman said. “With strong relationships in Wyoming and Colorado, and private clients extending into the Pacific Northwest, this will serve to further support our strategic geographic expansion in water, mining and civil in this western region.”

Boulder Valley’s RF engineers getting the message out

Whether you’re a consumer or businessperson frustrated by dropped cellphone connections at crucial moments or a major energy company needing more frequent pressure readings from pipelines and wellheads, radio-frequency technology becomes an invisible but crucial part of your life.

And if you live and work in the Boulder Valley, the answers to those RF woes are being developed in your backyard – by cutting-edge RF, antenna and electromagnetic engineers at companies as big and established as FreeWave Technologies and as young and ambitious as BluFlux.

In fact, it was Louisville-based startup BluFlux that announced on March 3 that it had received a patent for what it says is the world’s first cellphone case that increases antenna signal while reducing the radiation users receive from everyday use of those phones.

According to its founder and chief executive, Ben Wilmhoff, the reason for those dropped calls is all in your head.

“The human head and hands block or absorb as much as 90 percent of the energy radiated by and transmitted to a cellphone” or contribute to a “detuning” effect of the phone’s “overworked” antenna, Wilmhoff said, adding that his band of “RF geeks” have come up with a way to divert that radiation away from the user’s head by routing the signal’s “phase center” through a different, external “flip-out” antenna, “moving where radiation enters and leaves the phone.”

The deployable device can pop out of the protective case whenever the user is about to enter a “dead zone” such as the familiar one atop Davidson Mesa along U.S. Highway 36 southeast of Boulder, Wilmhoff said. That extra oomph – maybe as much as two bars’ worth – also would be helpful deep inside a building or in the Rocky Mountain backcountry.

An accompanying app “can keep track of areas where you frequently lose a signal and then predict a few seconds before you hit it” so the extra antenna can be deployed, Wilmhoff said. “That information can then be shared and crowdsourced.”

BluFlux, which was born in-house at Fort Collins-based smartphone case maker OtterBox and then launched in March 2014 with funding from OtterBox parent Blue Ocean Enterprises, will work with OtterBox and other case manufacturers to incorporate the technology, Wilmhoff said.

“While the immediate benefits of this technology are for handheld mobile devices, there is huge potential application to other industries like connected car technologies and consumer and industrial Internet of Things,” Wilmhoff said. Such devices “are often small and the space reserved for antennas is a tiny fraction of what is really needed for efficient performance. Our technology allows antennas to be installed virtually anywhere on a small device without sacrificing performance or causing negative interaction with the surrounding environment.”

The company’s facility in Louisville has the only RF testing chamber between the Mississippi River and San Diego and is helping companies bring the next generation of wireless, wearable, connected-car, drone, machine-to-machine and Internet of Things devices to market.

The company is investing in development of wearable technology, which Business Insider predicted would be worth $12.6 billion by 2018. In late February, BluFlux hired Eric Roth as new director of product development. In 2000, he co-developed the first wearable Web-connected activity monitor, the SportBrain iStepX pedometer.

According to many analysts, the Internet of Things – communication between devices – is expected to see at least tenfold growth between now and 2020. Riding that crest is Boulder-based FreeWave, which for 23 years has been designing, manufacturing and delivering machine-to-machine communications solutions.

Its WavePoint high-speed wireless networking platform securely communicates industrial data over long distances to enable M2M, broadband and SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system applications. Its WaveContact product family expanded its wireless I/O solutions for industrial M2M and IoT applications in remote and hazardous locations such as Antarctica or the North Slope of Alaska.

“It’s used in more than a million devices,” said Glenn Longley, FreeWave’s senior product manager for I/O and software, “from getting oil and gas sensor data back from the field to small to midsized aerial vehicles used for soldier training – and in agriculture, for moving soil pH data from tractors and combines.

“A lot of our customers don’t want their sensor data going out over the public domain,” Longley said. “That’s where FreeWave comes in.”

The challenge that will drive further innovation, Longley said, is that customers want the highest speed of data at long distances. “There will be a continued drive to connect more data points more frequently,” he said. “People used to get encrypted readings once a day, then twice a day, then hourly. Some customers want to get it every minute.”

Dallas Heltzell can be reached at 970-232-3149, 303-630-1962 or dheltzell@bizwestmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DallasHeltzell.