Category: Sectors

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.

Array BioPharma submits melanoma drug for FDA approval

BOULDER — Array BioPharma (Nasdaq: ARRY) this week submitted a New Drug Application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the use of drug candidate binimetinib in the treatment of NRAS-mutant melanoma.

The submission is the first for Boulder-based Array, which has several drugs in the development stage. It comes on the heels of positive Phase 3 trial results for binimetinib that were released earlier this month.

Array shares spiked as high as $3.82 Friday morning from Thursday’s close of $3.56 before gradually settling back to $3.62 by mid-afternoon trading.

If granted, FDA approval of the first NDA could mark just the beginning for binimetinib. The drug is being examined in a pair of other Phase 3 trials. One is looking at the use of binimetinib in combination with Array drug encorafenib in the treatment of BRAF-mutant melanoma. Another is looking at the combination of both of those drugs, along with Merck drug Erbitux, in the treatment of colorectal cancer.

Another Array drug, selumetinib, is licensed by AstraZeneca, which is conducting Phase 3 trials looking at the drug in the treatment of lung cancer and thyroid cancer.

Lightning Hybrids scores big order from early customer

LOVELAND – One of the earliest adopters of Loveland-based Lightning Hybrids LLC’s hybrid conversion systems for medium- and heavy-duty fleet vehicles has doubled down with an order for 32 more units.

The new order from Kiessling Transit, a Massachusetts company that provides shuttle service for health-care transport, follows an order of 35 units in mid-2015. Kiessling was also one of the first companies to do a pilot run of Lightning Hybrid’s systems on its buses back in 2013.

Lightning Hybrids makes an “energy recovery system” that can both be installed on new vehicles and retrofitted onto existing vehicles. The ERS applies a hydraulic system to the driveline of a vehicle to regenerate braking energy. Pumps and a lightweight accumulator brake the vehicle, store the energy, and then use the stored energy to apply power to the wheels. The system has helped Kiessling increase fuel efficiency by 25 percent on its Ford E-450 passenger buses.

In addition to decreased fuel costs, Lightning Hybrids also touts its systems, which sell for between $16,000 and $30,000 each, as being able to extend brake life and provide better low-end torque.

Hickenlooper dubs Aug. 1-5 Tech Week in Colorado

DENVER – Gov. John Hickenlooper has proclaimed the week of Aug. 1-5 as Tech Week in Colorado to highlight the entrepreneurs and companies that are helping transform the state into a major tech hub.

Tech and “tech-enabled” businesses around the state are being encouraged to host events during the week – ranging from happy hours to demonstrations to pitch contests to tours.

Those events can be submitted for promotion through www.coloradotechweek.org. Businesses can also submit stories on the site of how Colorado has helped grow their companies.

In addition, the Colorado Technology Association will host its second annual Colorado Tech Tour, stopping in five regions over five days for events and stops at local businesses.

“We know technology underpins much of Colorado’s economic progress today, and will increasingly do so in the future,” Hickenlooper said in a news release. “Tech week is a catalyst for showcasing the real impact of technology in our lives, and in helping make Colorado one of the nation’s premier technology-inspired hubs.”

More information on Tech Week and the Tech Tour can be attained by contacting the CTA at 303-592-4070 or colotech@coloradotechnology.org.

Clovis Oncology shares surge on competitor’s positive trial results

BOULDER — Shares of Boulder biopharmaceutical firm Clovis Oncology Inc., which has seen its stock price take a beating over the past seven months, climbed in value by 22 percent Wednesday thanks to some positive trial results of a competitor.

Clovis shares (Nasdaq: CLVS) closed at $15.06 Wednesday, up from $12.36 on Tuesday, though that’s still well below the stock’s 52-week high of $116.75.

Tesaro Inc. (Nasdaq: TSRO) saw its own shares more than double Wednesday after posting positive results from a Phase 3 trial for its ovarian cancer drug niraparib.

Kennen MacKay, a biotech analyst for Credit-Suisse, said the results were significant for Clovis because its own ovarian cancer drug, rucaparib, uses the same mechanism of action in attacking cancer as niraparib. Both drugs are poly polymerase (PARP) inhibitors.

MacKay said that, initially, people in the industry thought that PARP inhibitors would work mainly for a narrow percentage of cancer patients with BRCA gene mutations. But the niraparib phase 3 trial showed strong results not only for BRCA patients but also in patients without the BRCA mutation, a development that potentially expands the market for PARP inhibitor drugs.

“The data from Tesaro today showed that it can actually work in a much broader population of patients,” MacKay said.

Rather than good results for a competitor having a negative impact on Clovis’ stock, which can often be the case in the biotech world, the potential broadening of the PARP inhibitor market from the Tesaro results had the opposite effect Wednesday.

Clovis officials could not comment on Wednesday’s developments because the company is in a quiet period related to its New Drug Application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for rucaparib.

One distinction between Niraparib and rucaparib, MacKay said, is that the Phase 3 results Tesaro reported were for the maintenance phase of treatment for ovarian cancer. That’s an earlier line of treatment than is being examined in Clovis’ Ariel II phase 3 trial, on which the current NDA submittal is based. But Clovis also has an Ariel III phase 3 trial looking at the maintenance phase of treatment that should report results next year.

While being first to market is key in the oncology market, MacKay said, Clovis would still have the opportunity with its Ariel III trial to post better maintenance data than Tesaro and compete with the company in the space.

“Tesaro has set a pretty high bar for this data,” MacKay said.

Successfully going to market with rucaparib would be a major boost for Clovis, which earlier this year pulled the plug on lung-cancer drug candidate rociletinib after receiving notice that it was unlikely to receive approval from the FDA. Clovis’ stock plunged last November from nearly $100 per share to $30 per share after the FDA indicated that data submitted with an NDA for rociletinib was insufficient.

Longmont-based UQM Technologies to sell controlling stake to Hong Kong group

LONGMONT — Electric-motor maker UQM Technologies Inc. (NYSE: UQM) announced on Tuesday that it has struck a deal to sell a controlling stake in the company to a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Hybrid Kinetic Group Limited for $48 million in cash.

The deal will help Longmont-based UQM, which will continue to operate as a standalone company, continue to gain a foothold in China, where it expects much of its future business to come from. Last fall, the company announced a 10-year supply contract with Chinese firm ITL Efficiency Corp. that could provide $400 million in revenue for UQM over the life of the deal.

In a regulatory filing made Tuesday, UQM officials said the company’s headquarters will remain in Longmont for at least three years following the close of the transaction, as will primary research and development efforts. But UQM chief financial officer David Rosenthal said in an interview Wednesday that company officials anticipate maintaining the local headquarters, R&D and manufacturing for the Americas and other parts of the world besides China well into the future, adding that he expects the new deal with HKG to be a job creator locally.

UQM employs 50 people, all at its 130,000-square-foot facility at 4120 Specialty Place, which is technically in an unincorporated portion of Weld County.

While some of the new cash infusion will be used to build a 30,000 to 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in China by 2018, the money will also be used to expand UQM’s global presence in other parts of the world.

“We expect that we’re going to be adding more manufacturing and engineering talent here in Colorado,” Rosenthal said.

UQM current management will remain in place at least through their existing employment contracts that terminate on June 30, 2017. UQM’s board, meanwhile, will expand to nine directors, including five nominated by the buyer, UQM’s CEO and three of UQM’s four current independent directors.

The deal, expected to close within four to six months, is subject to approval of both companies’ boards, as well as various regulatory approvals, including by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United Sates for the controlling investment by a foreign-controlled entity. Two-thirds of UQM common stockholders must also approve the deal.

Under terms of the deal, HKG subsidiary American Compass Inc., will buy 66.5 million newly issued shares of UQM common stock for 72 cents per share, a 6.4 percent premium over the average trading price for the 90 days ending Monday. That will amount to 58 percent of UQM’s common stock, or about 54 percent on a fully diluted basis.

UQM shareholders will continue to hold their shares in the company, and UQM stock will continue to trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

In early trading Wednesday morning, UQM shares shot up as high as 83 cents per share, from Tuesday’s close of 62 cents. But they’d lost all of those gains by late in the trading day.

UQM’s product is a multi-faceted electric propulsion system — targeted mostly at light-duty trucks, vans and heavy-duty transit buses — that includes motors, inverters and software. The company reported revenue of $5.3 million and a net loss of $6.9 million for its fiscal year that ended March 31.

While a majority of UQM’s business today comes from the United States, Rosenthal noted that China is the world’s largest market for electric vehicles. He said the company has known for years that to be successful it would have to have a presence in China, and also that it would be difficult to do that without help.

Rosenthal said UQM officials have been seeking some sort of strategic partner for a couple of years, eyeing three main criteria for a partner, those being: capital, the infrastructure to help build a manufacturing plant in China, and connections in China to help UQM gain access to a customer base there.

“It has been a very long and thoughtful process,” Rosenthal said.

While the overarching focus of seeking such a deal was to gain a foothold in China, UQM had also made a commitment to ITL to start manufacturing in China by 2018.

“This gives us a path to do that,” Rosenthal said.

He said the first place proceeds from the sale will be deployed is in building and equipping the China plant, which will take roughly $10 million. He said money will also go toward expanding R&D efforts on new-product development and on expanding marketing activities in new places around the world.

He said the company has plenty of room to grow at its Longmont facility.

Founded in 1967 as Unique Mobility Inc., the company is a veteran of the EV industry that has been through several iterations of itself.

The company had grown to about 100 employees in 2013 when it took a major hit from the bankruptcy of California-based electric-car manufacturer CODA Auto. UQM had contracted to build thousands of propulsion systems for CODA’s passenger cars, ramping up and spending heavily on inventory. CODA’s collapse subsequently has led to tough times for UQM in recent years as the company has tried to recover.

JustRight Surgical gains additional FDA approval

LOUISVILLE — JustRight Surgical LLC in Louisville said Tuesday it has received additional clearance from the FDA for one of its electrosurgical devices, making it the first instrument cleared for use specifically for surgeries involving pediatric patients.

The JustRight Surgical Vessel Sealing System already had FDA approval and is being used in surgeries on adults and children. But questions have been posed on the safety of bulkier tools using high power to create the heat to cauterize tissue in children.

Company spokeswoman Patti Hoag explained that doctors have the choice to use whatever device they want to seal vessels in adults and children, and the FDA approved electrosurgical devices 15 years ago.

This clearance, she said, says Just Right’s vessel-sealing device is safe to use in extremely tight or small spaces found in teens, children, infants and neonates.  The new, low-power vessel-sealing technology was found to permanently fuse vessels while using significantly less energy.

“This additional clearance will allow us to market the device as being safe for pediatric surgery,” Hoag said.

Russ Lindemann, president and chief executive of JustRight Surgical, said pediatric surgeons have been requesting “right-sized” surgical instruments and technologies for years.

“This validates the truly unique technical advancements made by our development team. … We are the only surgical-device manufacturer to focus solely on pediatrics. Now, surgeons and hospitals are recognizing the value we bring to caring for the smallest of patients.”

JustRight Surgical’s instruments are being used for general and thoracic procedures in more than 100 children’s hospitals in the United States and Europe. JustRight Surgical has the only 5-millimeter stapler using the classic titanium wire staple in a clinically accepted “B” shape along with the 3- millimeter vessel sealer.

Louisville-based GHX acquires Omaha software firm

LOUISVILLE — Health-care supply chain company Global Health Exchange LLC in Louisville said Tuesday it has acquired Omaha, Neb.-based H-Card LLC that provides automated payment-management software and services to health-care providers and suppliers in the United States.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition, GHX’s second in 19 months, expands the company’s financial-products portfolio.

H-Card LLC, which uses the brand Hap-X, will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary.

The combined product offering gives GHX the ability to provide customers both software and services within the health-care supply chain.

The Hap-X payment exchange enables providers and suppliers to align payment, remittance and reconciliation information together to create operational efficiencies for both providers and suppliers.

“Hap-X is a great addition to the GHX family,” said Bruce Johnson, GHX’s president and chief executive. “This is an acquisition our customers have been asking us to complete in order to help them solve the payment-management challenges that are adding costs to health care.”

GHX offers cloud-based supply-chain management technology and services. GHX has an electronic trading exchange that delivers procurement and accounts payable automation, contract and inventory management, vendor credentialing and management, business intelligence, and other supply chain-related tools and services. About 4,000 hospitals and 18,000 provider facilities are clients of GHX.

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. 

Sierra Nevada in talks with United Nations about Dream Chaser missions

LOUISVILLE — Sierra Nevada Corp. may get yet another chance to chase its dream.

The Sparks, Nev.-based company, which has a space systems division in Louisville, announced on Tuesday that it is talking with an agency of the United Nations about using its Dream Chaser reusable orbital spacecraft to host payloads from U.N. member countries.

Sierra Nevada had lost out on one big contract with NASA in 2014 for use of the Dream Chaser, but won one with the space agency in January. The new memorandum of understanding with the U.N.’s Office for Outer Space Affairs would define one or more low-orbital missions for the company’s flexible space utility vehicle and transportation system.

Under the agreement, the U.N. agency and Sierra Nevada will work with member countries to develop an interface control document and payload hosting guide to allow payloads developed by participating countries to be hosted and operated on a dedicated mission, providing those countries affordable access to space, according to an SNC media statement.

Sierra Nevada “is honored to partner with UNOOSA under our Dream Chaser Global Initiative to offer access to space to a wide range of countries, from those with well-defined space programs and objectives, to developing countries who would like the social and economic benefits of a space program without the time and financial burden of developing the necessary infrastructure,” said Mark Sirangelo, vice president of Sierra Nevada’s Space Systems business area, in a prepared statement. “Our vison, in partnership with the U.N., is to provide U.N. member countries affordable access to space and a range of multi-mission opportunities using the Dream Chaser spacecraft to host a wide range of payloads. Countries will be able to customize their participation level commensurate with the maturity of their space capabilities and national desires, while engaging their universities, industrial companies and government laboratories, and most importantly, their people.

“We offer a complete turnkey solution for participants, providing not only the spacecraft, but all aspects of flight including mission planning and operations.”

The company in January received a contract from NASA to provide at least six cargo-delivery, return and disposal services to and from the International Space Station, using the Dream Chaser. It 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.