Some companies are bracing for substantial growth, while others face challenges that could make or break their futures. Either way, these businesses in the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado are worth keeping an eye on this year.
By BizWest Staff
Sierra Nevada Corp.
NASA’s decision in September to award the next round of its commercial crew program contracts to Boeing and SpaceX created plenty of uncertainty around SNC’s Dream Chaser spacecraft, which is being developed at the company’s Space Systems division in Louisville. The U.S. Government Accountability Office on Jan. 5 rejected SNC’s appeal of the combined $6.8 billion award. But the company also is vying to be part of about $14 billion in work to be awarded in NASA’s next round of contracts to carry cargo to the International Space Station. Getting a piece of those awards could be a savior for Dream Chaser in the short term as SNC works to market the vehicle to other countries that might not have the infrastructure to send their own astronauts and science into space.
Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp.
The Hubble Space Telescope celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, having launched into low-Earth orbit on April 24, 1990. Ball built one of the original Hubble instruments and also developed corrective optics for the observatory in 1993. NASA’s Kepler K-2 mission, which uses a spacecraft built by Ball, continues to search for Earth-like planets in outer space. But perhaps the most anticipated event for the company this year is the New Horizons encounter with Pluto in July. Along with Boulder’s Southwest Research Institute, Ball helped develop one of the instruments aboard the NASA mission that finally will relay up-close observations of Pluto after launching on its 3 billion-mile journey in 2006. This all comes while Ball continues to build the Joint Polar Satellite System, a polar-orbiting weather satellite being built for NASA and NOAA and slated for launch in 2017.
Advantage Bank, with branches in Loveland, Fort Collins and Greeley, has had two tumultuous years, and 2015 could be the make-or-break year for the community bank.
Officials of Advantage Bancorp have been tight-lipped about the health of the bank that has been, at times, under watch by federal regulators because of a low capital level – a key metric in determining the health of a bank. It also has had to survive a shareholder foreclosing on a $2 million note, and an auction to sell the bank that was called off at the last moment when one of two bidders walked away rather than fight a lawsuit over the auction.
Elevations Credit Union
The Boulder-based credit union, a recent winner of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award that acknowledges performance excellence through innovation, improvement and visionary leadership, is on a roll and expanding. Where it will end up in 2015 bears watching. It opened its first branch in Fort Collins in November and one in Louisville earlier in the year, bringing its total to 12 in Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer and Adams counties. Elevations, led by president and chief executive Gerry Agnes, has plans to open more branches in 2015, including another in Fort Collins. The credit union was founded in Boulder in 1952 with less than $100 in assets and has grown to become a $1.3 billion institution.
Corgenix Medical Corp.
Broomfield-based Corgenix (OTCQB: CONX.OB) caught attention in 2014 for its development of a rapid diagnostic test kit for the Ebola virus as the illness ravaged parts of Africa. But bigger developments could be coming on that front. In June, the company received a three-year, $2.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to help speed the development of the kits. In December, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Paul G. Allen Family Foundation awarded the company grants totaling $818,000 to help fund a clinical trial in Africa. The company has said its roughly 50 employees will remain in Broomfield after the acquisition by Germany-based Orgentec Diagnostika, which was announced in August.
Loveland-based Hach already employs about 1,000 people in the city but could be growing that figure significantly if work begins this year on a planned $25 million expansion of its facility. Hach manufactures instruments and reagents for testing water quality and other liquids, and has been awarded major incentives to locate its new research and development facility in Loveland rather than elsewhere. Last fall, the city of Loveland and Larimer County put together a $1 million incentive package toward the effort. The Colorado Economic Development Commission, meanwhile, awarded $2 million contingent upon the company adding 204 new jobs at the site.
Synergy Resources Corp.
Shares of Synergy (NYSE MKT: SYRG) have stayed afloat despite a downturn in oil prices this year. Shares have dropped less than 15 percent since a 52-week high of $14.11 was reached in June, while other companies’ stocks have lost half of their value during the same period. Synergy has ridden an oil boom that set a statewide record of 64.1 million barrels in 2013 and plans at least $200 million in capital spending next year. Unlike other oil companies in the region, Synergy, whose 2015 fiscal year began Sept. 1, has no plans to change its capital-spending levels, said Jon Kruljac, vice president for capital markets and investor relations. Synergy has 56,600 net acres in the Greater Wattenberg Area, with a total of 1,737 drilling locations in the region.
NGL Water Solutions DJ LLC
NGL has been thrust into the spotlight after a state government investigation linked the company’s injection well to earthquakes that occurred near the Greeley airport in the summer of 2014. The company had used the well to dispose of millions of gallons of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The state is investigating whether NGL violated the terms of its disposal permit. Meanwhile, NGL has asked to boost by 20 percent the amount of water it can inject underground, despite ongoing low-level quake activity captured by a new state monitoring program. State regulators have not made a decision on NGL’s request, said state oil commission Director Matt Lepore.
Englewood-based Centura has emerged as a player in Northern Colorado’s and Boulder Valley’s health-care industry with a recently announced affiliation with Longmont United Hospital, adding to the region’s competitive medical landscape. Centura has 16 hospitals, including Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville; and six senior-living communities. It also has opened wellness centers in Dacono, Westminster and Thornton. Centura will join a growing cadre of health-care providers when it stops hiring tobacco users next year.
DaVita Healthcare Partners Inc.
DaVita (NYSE: DVA) in Denver paid a $389 million settlement to the U.S. Justice Department in a whistleblower lawsuit that accused the company of violating the False Claims Act. The company paid illegal kickbacks to physicians who referred patients to dialysis centers in Longmont and Boulder in which physicians had an ownership stake. DaVita, whose stock steadily crept above $75 in December from $60 a year ago, also faces other whistleblower lawsuits in federal courts in Atlanta and Texas. The lawsuits allege that DaVita defrauded taxpayers when the company pursued reimbursement for overused dialysis medications.
NATURAL AND ORGANIC PRODUCTS
Noosa Yoghurt LLC
Bellvue-based Noosa should wrap up a major expansion at its headquarters early this year as the five-year-old company continues to boom. Boston-based investment firm Advent International purchased a majority stake in Noosa in the fall, which should only amplify the growth. “I look for them to double or triple their sales over the next few years and be the next big thing,” said Bill Capsalis, president of the board for Naturally Boulder, a trade group devoted to the natural and organic food industry in Boulder and along the Front Range. Of course, 2015 won’t come without some hurdles for Noosa. Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage recently announced that it would be dropping Noosa’s products from its store shelves as it adopts stricter requirements for its dairy suppliers.
WhiteWave Foods Co.
While Noosa is making waves as an up-and-comer, Capsalis said he believes WhiteWave (NYSE: WWAV) could become an acquisition target for a large food company as the Broomfield-based operation continues to grow and make key acquisitions of its own. Revenue hit $857 million in the third quarter of 2014, up 34 percent from the previous year. “They just have a lot of reach in the sort of nonconventional dairy shelf right now,” Capsalis said. “I think that is something some of the bigger food companies are paying attention to all of a sudden.”
Loveland-based real estate developer McWhinney is entering 2015 with a pile of plans stacked high on its drawing board. McWhinney, headed by brothers Chad and Troy McWhinney, will be partnering on several high-profile projects including a hotel in downtown Fort Collins, a redevelopment of Denver’s historic Windsor Dairy Block and a 250-apartment project in its 935-acre North Park development in Broomfield. McWhinney and Sage Hospitality, with financial support from local investors, including Bohemian Cos., will build the 85,000-square-foot hotel at the former Armadillo restaurant site on Walnut Street in Fort Collins. In Denver, it will team with Sage Hospitality to develop Z Block, located on Wazee Street between 18th and 19th streets, that will have office and retail space, plus a hotel. In Broomfield, North Park will continue to grow with housing adding to its retail and medical space.
The Boulder-based homebuilder is poised to make good on plans to oversee the building of nearly 600 homes on 126 acres at West Grange, one of the largest new residential developments in southwest Longmont. Located on the southeast corner of Nelson Road and 75th Street, West Grange backs up to hundreds of acres of Boulder County open space. Current plans call for about a 50/50 mix of single-family and multifamily homes. The first of four planned phases for the project, 90 single-family and duplex homes, will be built on 28 acres. Markel is partnering with Phoenix-based Meritage Homes, which has been active in the Northern Colorado region.
Bandwidth infrastructure provider Zayo Group LLC was the area’s budding star ripe for an initial public offering when 2014 began, and made good on those expectations with a successful IPO in October. For 2015, Boulder IT security firm LogRhythm could fill that role. As cyber-security breaches become commonplace, LogRhythm’s software platform helps businesses detect and respond to such threats more quickly and accurately. “I think enterprise software security continues to accelerate,” Colorado Technology Association president Erik Mitisek said. LogRhythm pulled in a $40 million funding round in July, and CEO Andy Grolnick has said he expects that to be the company’s last round before an IPO.
Loveland-based startup Decibullz has been riding a fast track to growth seemingly since its inception in 2012, with no signs of slowing down in 2015. The company makes custom molded earphones designed to stay in place during physical activity. Decibullz, founded by gymnastics coach Kyle Kirkpatrick, won the $250,000 top prize at the Colorado State University Blue Ocean Enterprise Challenge. That money reportedly is being used to develop and patent a multitude of new products, including higher-end and Bluetooth-compatible models that could hit the market this year.