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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.