Category: Aerospace

Ball Corp. sees 2015 profits decline

BROOMFIELD — Metal food and beverage packaging giant Ball Corp. (NYSE: BLL) saw profit decline by nearly $190 million in 2015, the company disclosed in its fourth-quarter earnings report on Thursday.

Net earnings came in at $280.9 million, or $1.99 per share, down from $470 million, or $3.30 per share in 2014. Revenue, meanwhile, slid from $8.6 billion to $8 billion.

The biggest hits for the Broomfield-based company came in its Metal Food & Household Products Packaging segment, where net income slipped $46.5 million to $107.7 million and revenue declined by $200 million to $1.3 billion. The declines in that segment, company officials said, were due to a “customer shift in North American steel food cans and manufacturing inefficiencies in the United States.”

Ball’s Aerospace and Technologies business, which is based in Boulder, saw earnings decline nearly $12 million to $81.8 million, with revenue declining by more than $124 million to $810.1 million. The company said those declines were due to a greater number of program completions in 2014, though officials noted that the awarding of multiple new programs in late 2015 positions the segment for stronger performance going forward.

For the fourth quarter, Ball’s profit was $55.3 million, or 39 cents per share, down from $76 million, or 54 cents per share the year before. Revenue declined from $2 billion in 2014 to $1.8 billion in 2015.

Ball shares rose 80 cents to close at $66.90 Thursday.

Companies to watch in 2016

Some are planning major expansions or restructuring. Some are poised for explosive growth. Others are facing some daunting challenges. But we expect all of them to be making news next year. Here are our picks for companies to watch in 2016 in the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado.

AEROSPACE

PlanetiQ

Sometime late this year, India will launch two weather satellites developed by Boulder-based startup PlanetiQ, as the result of a 2015 deal with Antrix Corp. Ltd., the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organization. Ten more of the satellites are slated for launch for 2017.

PlanetiQ’s 10-kilogram microsatellites will fly the company’s Pyxis-RO sensor that uses radio occultation to measure global temperature, pressure and water vapor in the atmosphere, and electron density in the ionosphere. PlanetiQ plans to sell the data gathered by the satellites to customers in the meteorology, aviation, shipping, defense, intelligence and agriculture industries. PlanetiQ has 12 employees in Boulder and six in Bethesda, Md. In August, when the company announced its move to Boulder, officials said the firm could add one or two dozen employees over the coming months.

Sierra Nevada

Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Space Systems Division in Louisville will be busy this year after landing a piece of $14 billion in NASA contracts to carry supplies and experiments to the International Space Station aboard a versatile, cargo-only version of its Dream Chaser spacecraft, which has folding wings and an added cargo module attached to the back. It had lost out in 2014 on a NASA contract to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS aboard the original, crewed version of Dream Chaser. The division  also has extended deals with international space agencies including the German Aerospace Center to develop Dream Chaser’s crewed and uncrewed capabilities. It also has supplied satellites for ORBCOMM’s global machine-to-machine communications network. Thanks to a $23.2 million incentive package from the state, the Sparks, Nev.-based company is developing an $88 million campus in Colorado Springs to house its new Sierra Completions Division that will create jet interiors and overhaul aircraft.

AGRIBUSINESS

Agrium Inc.

Canada-based Agrium Inc. in 2015 announced two major investments in Northern Colorado that will play out in 2016.

The producer and distributor of crop nutrients, crop-protection products and seeds will add employees in Loveland at one of its subsidiaries, Crop Production Services Inc., and will open an 18,000-square-foot facility in Greeley for researching and testing new fertilizer products.

A company spokesman said Agrium will bring jobs to Loveland, possibly growing to 700 workers from its current headcount of 400 in the Rangeview Office Campus. The additional workers will be housed in a new office building being built by McWhinney Real Estate Services Inc. that Agrium will lease.

The facility in Greeley will employ about a dozen workers, mostly scientists, who will conduct research to develop substances used for pest control or for soil-fertility management, and on how to ramp up the volume of production of ag products it sells primarily in the United States, Canada, South America, Europe and Australia.

Agribotix LLC

Boulder-based Agribotix LLC likely will continue to grow at a rapid clip as it enters agreements with organizations in low-tech cultures to provide them with high-tech data to improve crop yields.

Agribotix, founded in 2013 by Tom McKinnon, designs and manufactures drones that carry a camera and the company’s software system, which collects data to help farmers become more successful. The key selling point is the company’s software that analyzes the data and then provides recommendations on crop management.

It spent much of 2015 securing contracts and entering joint ventures with organizations in Latin America, United Kingdom, East Asia and Australia to provide it services, and it hired Lou Faust to run the company. Faust has more than 30 years of management experience and 10 years on Wall Street as managing director with Salomon Brothers (Citigroup). His expertise is in creating growth strategies, raising capital and leading startups to successful exits.

<b>Natural/Organic: U Baron Group:</b>The company is made up of Izzio’s Artisan Bakery, Etai’s Catering, six Etai’s Bakery Cafes and two full-service restaurants.

Natural/Organic: U Baron Group. The company is made up of Izzio’s Artisan Bakery, Etai’s Catering, six Etai’s Bakery Cafes and two full-service restaurants.
Courtesy U Baron Group

BANKING

Bank of America

Bankers in Boulder and the surrounding area will be waiting to see what impact the second-largest bank in the United States will have on market share when it opens a full-service bank at 1965 28th St. in Boulder later this year.

Announced in 2014, this will be Bank of America’s first full-service bank in Boulder and third in Colorado. It recently opened a full-service bank in Denver and is working on one in Highlands Ranch.

The new bank in Boulder, under construction at the site of a former Wendy’s restaurant, will be approximately 2,850 square feet, with tellers, small-business bankers and mortgage officers and a one-lane, ATM-only drive-through.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America Corp. is the second-largest bank in the United States with assets of $2.15 trillion and deposits of $1.16 trillion, according to Bankrate.com.

New Resource Bank

San Francisco-based New Resource Bank will open a loan-production office in Boulder, where it wants to provide loans to businesses and nonprofits that benefit the community and preserve the planet. Bill Peterson, executive vice president and chief credit officer, said he believes Boulder fits that niche market.

Colorado Division of Banking documents show that New Resource (OTC Pink: NWBN) has applied to open an office at 1877 Broadway, Suite 100, in the Randolph Center, but Peterson said the bank still is working through internal and regulatory issues and isn’t ready to make a “official announcement.”

The bank makes loans to companies and organizations “that benefit our communities and preserve our planet.” Peterson said the bank works with nonprofits, health and wellness companies, and organizations that work to preserve the environment.

Led by president and chief executive Vincent Siciliano, the bank, as of July, had loans totaling $179.6 million – a 2.8 percent increase compared with the same time in 2014.

BIOSCIENCE

Array Biopharma Inc.

Signs are pointing toward a big 2016 for Boulder-based Array (Nasdaq: ARRY) assuming a trio of Phase 3 trials for the company’s cancer drugs binimetinib and encorafenib can return positive results. Array officials are aiming to submit a New Drug Application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for binimetinib in the treatment of NRAS-mutant melanoma in the first half of this year. A regulatory submission for the combination of binimetinib and encorafenib in the treatment of BRAF melanoma also is expected to occur this year.

In December, Array closed a deal with French firm Pierre Fabre to commercialize the two drugs in Europe, Latin America and much of Asia – a pact that gave Array a $30 million payment up front and up to $425 million in milestone payments and royalties.

Clovis Oncology Inc.

Boulder-based Clovis (Nasdaq: CLVS) is likewise pushing toward commercialization this year, albeit amid plenty of turbulence.

The company is aiming to submit a New Drug Application for rucaparib for the treatment of ovarian cancer this year. Clovis also is hoping to receive a decision from the FDA by June on its New Drug Application submitted last summer for rociletinib in the treatment of lung cancer. However, a delay in the rociletinib decision announced in November caused the company’s share price to plunge 70 percent and has spurred lawsuits from shareholders who allege Clovis made false and misleading statements about itself and clinical data regarding one of its cancer drugs.

Heska Corp.

Loveland-based Heska (Nasdaq: HSKA), which sells veterinary diagnostic and specialty products, is coming off of a glowing 2015 that saw the company’s share price more than double.

In November, the company acquired Cuattro Veterinary LLC, giving Heska, which employs about 140 people in Loveland, access to the international market for its blood diagnostic platforms. Profits rose in each of the first three quarters of 2015, including a jump to 20 cents per share in the third quarter of 2015 from 8 cents per share in the same period a year earlier.

Wall Street analysts seem to remain bullish on Heska stock, expecting it to approach $40 per share in the coming year.

ENERGY

Gravity Renewables Inc.

Increased emphasis on renewable-energy projects could send Gravity Renewables Inc. soaring.

The Boulder-based owner and operator of small hydroelectric power plants last year acquired several hydroelectric plants in the Northeast, and signed deals to provide clean hydropower to organizations including St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y.; Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; and others.

As of October, Gravity had more than 34 megawatts of hydroelectric projects operating and under development around the country. The company raised $7 million from private backers, according to a February filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Vestas Wind Systems A/S

The winds of change continue to blow for Vestas Wind Systems A/S, the Danish wind-turbine manufacturer that operates plants in Windsor, Brighton and Pueblo.

Vestas in March announced plans to add 400 production workers to its Windsor facility, including 300 employees and 100 temporary employees. The company followed that up with an August announcement that it would add 350 workers at its Windsor and Brighton plants.

Energy: Vestas In March the company announced plans to add 400 production workers to its Windsor facility, including 300 employees and 100 temporary employees.

Energy: Vestas
In March the company announced plans to add
400 production workers to its Windsor facility, including 300 employees and 100 temporary employees.
Joel Blocker/For BizWest

Fueling the growth have been strong orders from companies such as EDF Renewable Energy, which have prompted the company to add another 100,000 square feet at the Windsor site.

The Broe Group

The first half of 2016 will be telling for a $900 million deal between Encana Corp. and Crestone Peak Resources, a company 95 percent owned by Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and 5 percent by The Broe Group of Denver.

The deal, whereby Encana would sell its Colorado assets to Crestone, originally was expected to close at the end of 2015 but was delayed for up to six months at year-end. Encana’s holdings in the Denver-Julesburg Basin include 51,000 net acres and more than 1,600 wells.

The new venture would operate as a stand-alone business, with Broe assembling a management team for the firm.

<b>Technology: Aleph Objects Inc. </b>The company tripled in revenue in 2015 to $15 million and grew to 100 employees.

Technology: Aleph Objects Inc. The company tripled in revenue in 2015 to $15 million and grew to 100 employees. Courtesy Aleph Objects Inc.

HEALTH CARE

University of Colorado Health

UCHealth was one of the most aggressive health systems in the state in 2015, and that pattern doesn’t look to let up in 2016.

Construction is ongoing at two new UCHealth hospitals in the region: Longs Peak Hospital in Longmont and UCHealth Broomfield Hospital in Broomfield. Those projects followed on the heels of the group’s acquisition of Longmont Clinic at the beginning of 2015.

UCHealth has expanded rapidly since its formation in 2012, through creation of a joint venture4 between Poudre Valley Health System and University of Colorado Hospital. Expansion is under way at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, and a new stand-alone emergency room opened in Fort Collins in October.

Boulder Community Health

More expansion is under way for Boulder Community Health, which relocated its major hospital operations to its expanded campus at Foothills Parkway and Arapahoe Avenue in 2014.

Late last year, BCH sold its Broadway campus to the city of Boulder, with additional operations expected to move to the Foothills area over the coming months. BCH plans to build a 75,000-square-foot, three- to four-story building in the Riverbend business park east of the Foothills campus, along with a parking garage.

Boulder Community represents one of the last remaining independent hospitals in the state and has expressed an intent to remain so, even in the face of increasing competition all around it.

NATURAL/ORGANIC

U Baron Group

With the 2012 sale of the Udi’s brand and the gluten-free part of the company to Boulder Brands, the bread makers and business people of the company, newly named U Baron Group, are back to square one: baking handmade breads made with old-world techniques – gluten included.

The unique mission for Izzio’s Artisan Bakery, U Baron’s 25,000-square-foot facility in Louisville named for master baker Maurizio Negrini, is to produce farmer’s market-style bread and sell it nationally, three ways: a bread that’s 90 percent baked and then frozen and finished by grocers and then bagged using Izzio bags, a take-and-bake variety and sliced sandwich bread.

U Baron is a lot bigger than it was when Etai Baron first set up shop in 1994. There is Etai’s Catering, six Etai’s Bakery Cafes and two full-service restaurants. Two additional European-style bread stands are scheduled to open late next summer – in Aurora and Denver.

Meyer’s Natural Foods

Growth in the demand for natural beef products has propelled Loveland-based Meyer Natural Foods to acquire 4.35 acres of vacant land in the Centerra area from University of Colorado Health and begin construction of a 33,000-square-foot corporate headquarters. The buildings will accommodate the company’s growing natural and organic beef business in the United States, as well as its expanding beef export business.

Meyer’s product lines include Laura’s Lean Beef, Dakota Beef and Meyer Natural Angus. Its variety of steak cuts, including filet mignon, ribeye, New York strip and top sirloin, and ground beef are made from cattle raised on a vegetarian diet free of hormones and antibiotics.

OUTDOORS

My Trail Co.

Can Demetri “Coup” Coupounas rebound from the 2015 demise of GoLite, the Boulder-based outdoor retailer he founded with wife Kim? He’ll try by resurrecting the old product line under the new brand My Trail Co. He’s been looking for investors to help the new company sell products online, with an eye on opening its first retail stores along the Front Range this year.

Coupounas said the new model will be to focus on the core products with which the company did well, such as tents, backpacks and rain gear. and eliminate nonessentials such as casual wear.

My Trail’s plan also will be to open stores in the 1,200-square-foot range rather than the 4,000- and 5,000-square-foot stores that ultimately failed under the GoLite flag. Coupounas has so far raised $292,000 through a direct public offering to try to get the new venture off the ground.

Xero Shoes

Feel the World Inc., which does business as Xero Shoes, is hoping to tap into some of the magic that propelled Niwot-based shoemaker Crocs to international fame. Broomfield-based Xero brought in former Crocs chief executive John McCarvel as chairman of the board and lead investor. McCarvel led Crocs’ growth from $645 billion in revenue in 2009 to $1.2 billion in sales in 2013 before retiring in April 2014. With the move, McCarvel reconnected with Xero chief product officer Dennis Driscoll, whom McCarvel originally brought to Colorado as Crocs’ head of global design.

Xero makes a line of minimalist footwear it dubs “lightweight performance recreation sandals.” It moved from Boulder to Broomfield last year as the company experienced rapid growth.

REAL ESTATE

Brinkman Partners

Wrapping up its 10th year in business, Fort Collins-based Brinkman Partners has established itself as a company to watch in the real estate industry as it expands its services and reach in Northern Colorado, the Boulder Valley and metropolitan Denver.

Founded by brothers Paul and Kevin Brinkman, along with others, the company has grown to more than 100 people working to integrate their expertise across a variety of services including commercial brokerage, construction, development, real estate management and capital markets.

Brinkman’s projects run the gamut of office, multifamily, commercial and retail, breweries, health care and tenant finish.

Element Properties

Scott Holton and Chris Jacobs, co-founders of Element Properties, a real estate development company based in Boulder, are incorporating their respect for the environment and the community in their projects, which range from infill and affordable housing to luxury townhomes and mixed-use places.

This coming year, Element will team with Allison Management and the Michaels Organization in a $63 million project, converting 238 apartment units to Boulder’s affordable-housing stock. Element recently added financial partners to its $100 million S’Park mixed-use project in Boulder at the site of the former Sutherland lumber yard.

Last year, Holton and Jacobs sold Element’s property-management division to Heartwood Properties Inc. to focus on development projects. Heartwood Properties Inc., a property-management and brokerage firm, and Heartwood Capital LLC, an affiliate real estate investment firm, share the same address with Element Properties.

TECHNOLOGY

Aleph Objects Inc.

Loveland-based Aleph, founded in 2011, has quickly entrenched itself as a significant player in Northern Colorado’s tech scene.

The company, which manufactures desktop 3-D printers based on open-source hardware specs and software, tripled in revenue in 2015 to $15 million and grew to 100 employees. Company officials say their plan is to keep scaling up, with multiple hardware and software upgrades on tap for this year.

Early this year, the company announced, it will open a fulfillment center in Australia to help grow the company’s international footprint.

Avago Technologies

Fort Collins’ third-largest primary employer is aiming to grow, thanks in large part to an under-construction $57 million expansion of its Harmony Road facility that will add more than 120,000 square feet of space to the 1.2 million-square-foot building.

Avago Technologies (Nasdaq: AVGO), a maker of semiconductors for the cellular and other industries, is co-headquartered in Singapore and San Jose, Calif., but its largest employment presence is in Fort Collins, where it has an estimated 1,300 employees already.

Avago stock has nearly doubled over the past 18 months, fueled in part by the $37 billion acquisition of competitor Broadcom, a deal that is expected to close in February and make Avago a roughly $14 billion-per-year company.

SolidFire Inc.

Hard-charging enterprise storage provider SolidFire figures to keep surging in 2016, although under which flag? California-based NetApp (Nasdaq: NTAP) announced in December plans to acquire Boulder-based SolidFire for $870 million, and it remains to be seen whether SolidFire will maintain its branding or be rolled into the NetApp line.

SolidFire officials have said the plan is still for the company to move into ritzy new downtown Boulder redevelopment PearlWest, where the company leased 62,000 square feet of space last year. But that move now could bring along with it some employees from NetApp, which has an office in east Boulder.

While SolidFire officials, before the acquisition announcement, had said they expected to grow to more than 500 employees in Boulder in coming years, the pace of that growth now depends largely on NetApp’s plans.

Christopher Wood, Dallas Heltzell, Joshua Lindenstein and Doug Storum contributed to this report.

Lagging Asian truck market cuts into Woodward earnings

FORT COLLINS — Woodward Inc. officials on Tuesday cited weakness in the natural-gas truck market in Asia, foreign currency exchange rates and overall economic pressure in China as the main reasons for a 41 percent slide in first-quarter earnings compared with last fiscal year.

The Fort Collins-based company (Nasdaq: WWD) reported its earnings for the first quarter of its 2016 fiscal year, a period ending Dec. 31, after markets closed Tuesday afternoon.

Net income for the quarter came in at $26 million, or 40 cents per diluted share, down from $44 million, or 66 cents per diluted share a year earlier. Revenue slipped 9 percent to $445 million.

Woodward makes components and control-system solutions geared toward energy efficiency for the aerospace and industrial industries.

A 5 percent increase in sales in Woodward’s aerospace segment, thanks to growth in defense sales and the commercial aftermarket, helped somewhat offset a 24 percent decline in industrial segment revenue, company officials said in the earnings report.

Woodward officials said company guidance for fiscal year 2016 remains unchanged, with sales still expected to increase by 1 percent to 2 percent for the full year.

Woodward shares rose a penny to $44.95 in Tuesday trading.

“We delivered a solid first quarter from an operational perspective, as both segments performed in line with our expectations despite the challenging macro-economic backdrop,” Woodward CEO Thomas Gendron said in the report.

Hiring likely soon at Sierra Nevada Space Systems thanks to NASA contract

LOUISVILLE — More jobs are likely to be added soon at Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Space Systems division in Louisville, officials said Friday, now that the company won a NASA contract this week to provide cargo delivery, return and disposal services for the International Space Station with an unmanned version of its Dream Chaser spacecraft.

“We do expect to expand the workforce gradually as we determine what NASA’s schedule is,” said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president for space systems, in a conference call on Friday morning. “Some of those people will begin to come on shortly.”

He added that the contract also is likely to mean more hiring at Sierra Nevada’s partners on the Dream Chaser spacecraft project, including Colorado facilities of Lockheed Martin and United Launch Alliance.

SNC’s Louisville facility had laid off about 90 employees from the Dream Chaser program in September 2014 after the company lost a $6.8 billion total contract for the craft, which would have shuttled astronauts to the space station. The company responded to that disappointment, however, by developing a more versatile, unmanned cargo-only version of Dream Chaser with folding wings and an added unpressurized cargo module attached to the back.

“This is a huge win for us emotionally,” Sirangelo said. “It’s been a long road. It wasn’t necessarily the end of the world if we didn’t win. We were looking at working with other clients, but with this contract, we can make the commitment to build the vehicle. It is a big deal. In some ways, it’s like getting an anchor tenant in a shopping mall.”

Sirangelo hinted that some of those laid-off workers in Louisville could be recalled, noting that the timing of any hiring depended on what NASA wants and when. But he emphasized that the Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract to transport pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the space station through 2024 guarantees Sierra Nevada a minimum of six flights — “and the operative word is minimum. We can build as many of the vehicles as demand is needed.”

Steve Lindsey, the Space Systems division’s senior director of programs who has flown on five space shuttle missions, said the contract for an uncrewed Dream Chaser is by no means a death knell for the version that can carry humans to and from the space station and, in fact, can help Sierra Nevada sell that version for future contracts.

“The crewed variant has 85 percent commonality with the cargoed version,” he said. “All of the things we do on the cargoed version, we’ll use on the crewed version. This contract will demonstrate its capabilities, get some heritage behind it.”

“Within a few short years, the world will once again see a United States winged vehicle launch and return from space to a runway landing,” Sirangelo said. “We wanted to thank our more than 30 industry, university, international and NASA center partners for helping us make history and open up the next generation of spaceflight.”

The craft’s first flight, carried into orbit aboard an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., will likely be in the second half of 2019, he said. Although the Dream Chaser generally would land near the launch site, Sirangelo said, “it can land at any airport that can take a 737. That’s part of our emotional contract — bringing the space program to the people.”

Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser wins piece of NASA cargo-supply contracts

LOUISVILLE — Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Louisville-based Space Systems Division, which lost out on a huge NASA contract nearly a year and a half ago, this time around landed one.

The company late Thursday announced that it has received a contract from NASA to provide at least six cargo delivery, return and disposal services to and from the International Space Station, using its reusable Dream Chaser spacecraft.

Sierra Nevada, headquartered in Sparks, Nev., competed with four aerospace industry giants for NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract to transport pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the space station through 2024.

Dream Chaser’s future had been in doubt in September 2014 when NASA snubbed Sierra Nevada and awarded $6.8 billion in contracts to Boeing Corp. and Space Exploration Technologies to build the next spacecraft that will send astronauts into orbit from American soil. But Sierra Nevada rebounded, unveiling a more versatile, unmanned cargo-only version of  Dream Chaser with folding wings and an added cargo module attached to the back.

NASA also issued cargo contracts to Orbital ATK of Dulles, Va., and SpaceX of Hawthorne, Calif., to continue building on their initial resupply partnerships.

“Few would have imagined back in 2010 when President Barack Obama pledged that NASA would work ‘with a growing array of private companies competing to make getting to space easier and more affordable,’ that less than six years later we’d be able to say commercial carriers have transported 35,000 pounds of space cargo (and counting!) to the International Space Station – or that we’d be so firmly on track to return launches of American astronauts to the ISS from American soil on American commercial carriers. But that is exactly what is happening,” said NASA administrator Charles Bolden. “Today’s announcement is a big deal that will move the president’s vision further into the future.”

The contracts guarantee a minimum of six cargo resupply missions from each provider and include funding ISS integration, flight-support equipment, special tasks and studies, and NASA requirement changes.

A dollar figure for Sierra Nevada’s contract was not available by BizWest’s deadline, but the  maximum potential value of all contracts is $14 billion from 2016 through 2024. NASA said it would order missions as needed, and the total prices paid under the contract will depend on which mission types are ordered.

Ball Aerospace to build radiometer for NASA

BOULDER — Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. has been selected by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate to build and test a complete radiometric instrument on a Cubesat, a class of miniature satellite, for a space mission under the In-Space Validation of Earth Science Technologies (InVEST) program, the Boulder-based company announced this week.

Work will begin on the Compact Infrared Radiometer in Space (CIRiS) in February, with launch anticipated early in 2018, followed by three months of operations in orbit.

The radiometer developed by Ball Aerospace, a division of Broomfield-based Ball Corp. (NYSE: BLL), is one of four projects to receive funding from the latest round of the InVEST program in support of NASA’s Earth Science Division. Instruments such as CIRiS aboard relatively inexpensive Cubesats could help return significant scientific research and land-use management data for NASA.

“Validating advanced technologies on micro-spacecraft for our customers is an innovative way to introduce new architectures and complete important science goals,” said Jim Oschmann, vice president and general manager for Ball’s Civil Space business unit.

David Osterman, principal investigator for Ball’s CIRiS unit, said potential future applications of Cubesats with the CIRiS design include studies of the hydrological cycle, urban climate and extreme storms; measurements to improve climate modeling; and support to land-use management through vegetation monitoring and water-absorption mapping.

Ball Aerospace supports missions for national agencies such as the Department of Defense, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other U.S. government and commercial entities. The company develops and manufactures spacecraft, advanced instruments and sensors, components, data-exploitation systems and RF solutions for strategic, tactical and scientific applications.

BizWest seeks nominations for ‘Deals of the Year’

BizWest is seeking nominations for the inaugural “Deals of the Year,” honoring the top deals in a variety of industries for 2015. Deals can be mergers, acquisitions, construction projects, leases, sales, venture-capital funding, expansions, etc. Deals will be evaluated by the BizWest editorial team, with consideration given to impact, complexity and size of the deal, both in terms of dollar volume and — when appropriate — square footage.

“We’re very excited to bring this new concept to readers of BizWest,” said Christopher Wood, publisher and editor. “The Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado have produced some amazing deals in many different sectors. We look forward to highlighting those transactions, delving into their impacts, and relating what’s next.”

Nominations may be submitted for the BizWest region of Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer and Weld counties. BizWest reserves the right to shift a nomination from one category to another, or to add or eliminate industry categories at its discretion.

Finalists will be announced in mid-January, with finalists and winners featured in a special edition of BizWest in early February, which will also feature the players behind the deals, and a look at how the deal came together.

Nominations may be submitted online.

PlanetiQ inks deal with Indian company to launch satellites

BOULDER — Officials for startup PlanetiQ, which over the summer moved its headquarters from Maryland to Boulder, announced on Thursday that they have reached a deal with the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organization for the launch of two weather satellites that will eventually be part of a constellation of 12.

Terms of the deal with Antrix Corp. Ltd. were not announced.

The launch is scheduled to take place in the fourth quarter of 2016 aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. The other 10 satellites are slated for launch for 2017.

The aim of the satellites is to improve weather-modeling capabilities for a broad range of users. PlanetiQ’s 10-kilogram microsatellites will fly the company’s Pyxis-RO sensor that uses radio occultation to provide high-precision measurements of global temperature, pressure and water vapor in the atmosphere, and electron density in the ionosphere. PlanetiQ plans to sell the data gathered by the satellites to customers in the meteorology, aviation, shipping, defense, intelligence and agriculture industries.

PlanetiQ earlier this year inked a deal with Blue Canyon Technologies in Boulder to build the 12 satellites. Both companies are housed at 2425 55th St.

PlanetiQ, founded in 2012, has 12 employees in Boulder and six in Bethesda, Md. In August, when the company announced its move to Boulder, officials said the firm could add one or two dozen employees over the coming months. A spokesman for the company said Thursday that PlanetiQ hopes to begin that hiring surge soon.

Sierra Nevada Corp. delivers 11 satellites for launch

LOUISVILLE — Sierra Nevada Corp., announced this week that the company has delivered 11 satellites made at its Space Systems Division in Louisville to a launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The satellites were made for ORBCOMM as part of its Generation 2 (OG2) satellite constellation. The satellites will be incorporated into ORBCOMM’s global machine-to-machine communications network that helps provide tracking, monitoring and control services for remote and mobile equipment for industries including transportation and distribution, heavy equipment, oil and gas, maritime and government.

ORBCOMM launched the first six SNC-made OG2 satellites into orbit last year.

The latest 11 satellites are set to launch in the middle of this month aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. SNC designed and manufactured the satellites. In addition, SNC will support launch, in-orbit testing and deployment of the satellites from its Louisville facility.

Colorado crucial to aerospace industry’s reach for the stars

BOULDER — The Air Force presence may be responsible for bringing much of the aerospace industry to Colorado, but not the most important piece when it comes to private-sector employment.

“It was really more of a fluke,” said Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. spokeswoman Roz Brown. “Our company was founded a year before NASA” when Ed Ball came to the Boulder area looking for a new glass technology to augment the company’s canning jars.

The glass-technology acquisition didn’t work out for Ball, but it did lead to an association with scientists and engineers working for the University of Colorado’s Upper Air Laboratory, who were becoming successful enough producing instruments and other devices for studying the sun and the ionosphere that the university encouraged them to make a decision between working in the public or private sector – something that probably would not occur today.

Ball Aerospace will celebrate its 60th anniversary next spring with approximately 2,700 local employees – 15,000 worldwide – and a host of accomplishments in satellite and instrumentation production that have included the Kepler planet-hunting telescope, the close-up cameras that took the pictures of Pluto for the New Horizon mission this summer, and most famously the mirrors for follow-on telescope for Hubble.

Broomfield-based Ball Corp. (NYSE: BLL), the original company, still does food packaging but also contributes to the aerospace industry in a smaller fashion, and employs 1,865 people in Colorado and 14,500 worldwide.

Ball itself is a primary reason that Colorado ranks No. 2 in the nation, behind Florida, for private-sector aerospace employment, according to the Colorado Office of Economic Development. Figures vary according to sources, but the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. estimated in January that Colorado had about 163,000 total aerospace workers in 2014, with 25,110 direct private-sector employees and an additional 109,680 in space-related work, as well as about 28,000 military personnel.

The state’s primary military commands include the Air Force Space Command, the Army Space Command, North American Aerospace Defense Command in Cheyenne Mountain and USNORTHCOMM , as well as the Air Force Academy and Buckley Air Force Base.

But the density of aerospace contractors based in Colorado, including Ball, Boeing, ITT Exelis, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Sierra Nevada Corp. and United Launch Alliance, also are providing a critical mass for the industry. Many of these are based in Northern Colorado, including Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Dream Chaser space transportation system, which is based in Louisville.

An educated workforce is an important element for Northrop Grumman’s Boulder presence, said operations manager Harvey Burkett, since software support for programs such as infrared early warning systems is the name of the game here. Surprisingly, the 300 Northrop employees here often share both space and work with one of Northrop’s main competitors, Lockheed Martin.

“We’re competitors or teammates, depending on the program,” Burkett said. “We both live in fear of Google,” which has promised to hire about 1,000 software engineers in its new Boulder campus.

Many other of the estimated 400 aerospace firms located here have become firmly cemented in Colorado, such as Longmont’s ABSL Space Products, the leading provider of lithium-ion batteries for space flights. The company, then held by a British firm, first established a one-man sales office here in 2005 as a means to get into the U.S. market, but gradually centered all of its space battery design, manufacturing, testing, program management and sales efforts for the Americas in Longmont.

ABSL, with about 50 local employees, has provided batteries for more than 120 space missions and recently was purchased by the American firm EnerSys, a leading provider of stored energy solutions for industrial applications. However, there seems little chance of it moving from Colorado, since company information noted that Colorado was chosen over sites in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., because of the density of existing and potential clients located here.

Most company officials contacted pointed to that density – along with an educated employee base, support by state institutions and access to great university programs – as a strong reason to stay in Colorado. Certainly CU’s space programs and engineering resources compete with the best universities in the nation, but often overlooked are training program for technicians, such as those being provided by Metro State University.

ABSL is not alone in this market. Solid Power, a spinoff company from CU research, has established a 7,000 square-foot facility in Louisville’s Colorado Technology Center. While solid-state batteries, which have no volatile or flammable liquid components, are largely being vetted for aerospace uses today, they could become strong competition by providing energy-dense solutions.

Certainly Colorado has its share of emerging technologies, but corporate officials also pointed to the strong base of local subcontractors, such as software and hardware engineering firms, as well as precision machine shops, as state strengths. Ball Aerospace even has a Small Business Office to facilitate subcontractors working with its program, which maintains a “Highly Successful” overall rating by the Defense Contract Management Agency.

Not all businesses are spinoffs from large government contracts and space missions. Some businesses, such as Ball, are created by people who just happen to be in Colorado when they decide to create a new business niche.

That’s certainly the case with Paravion Technology Inc. and its sister company, Century Helicopters Inc., which are based in Fort Collins and Loveland, said general manager Michael Hansen. In 1970, his father, Larry Hansen, started a helicopter-based aerial spraying business, but quickly saw the need for a helicopter maintenance shop.

“Century supports helicopter maintenance and modifications for about 15 states from North Dakota to Arizona,” Hansen said. Century clients include civilian operations, but also a number of fleets from police agencies and hospitals, with about 15 full-time employees.

Paravion, which employs about 21 people, grew from some of the direct needs of those clients, largely creating products that support the installation of surveillance equipment, from cameras for natural resource and wildfire monitoring, ground-surveillance radar and video cameras.

“The nature of our business is a lot of civilian work, which is governed by the FAA,” Hansen said. But the staff of Paravion and Century serve as support for either business when the need arises.

“Most of our staff can help out in either business when we have a real need,” he said.