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December 2014 Issue

Cover Story

Quarterly energy report:

By Allen Best

You might wonder whether Colorado’s New Energy Economy should be swapped for a different model. Abound Solar, the Loveland-based manufacturer of thin-film solar panels, flopped into bankruptcy in July, and General Electric put the skids on a new factory in Aurora that was to employ 355 people, also manufacturing thin-film solar. Factories for wind components, so recently the symbol of new-energy triumph in Colorado, have also been buffeted by adversity. Vestas, the Danish company, this year has shed 29 percent of its 1,700 employees at its plants in Windsor, Brighton and Pueblo

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Articles

Top Company winner: LT Environmental

By Lisa Ryckman

CONSULTING & PROFESSIONAL SERVICES LT Environmental LT Environmental wanted to grow, but  the owners were unsure what steps to take. "A company needs to grow, but it needs to grow well," says Tom Murphy, CEO of the Arvada-based environmental engineering firm. So they brought in a business coach, focused on their people and began talking about their values – safety, caring for the client and employees, honesty, fairness, respect, compassion, high-quality work, assuming good and protecting the environment. The company reorganized to be more client-focused, moved its headquarters to increase from 6,000 square feet to 15,500 square feet and started taking bigger risks. The result? Seven new offices around Colorado, a staff that went from 40 people to 95 and an. . .

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Emerging markets

Colorado Cleantech Industry Association Special Section

By Eric Peterson

Nodding to the popular pro-tolerance tailgateadornment, CO-EXist "is no purple bumper sticker," says Sandi Moilanen, director of the OEDIT’s international division. Short for Colorado Export of Innovative and Sustainable Technologies, "It was designed to help Colorado’s cleantech industry." The Governor’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) launched the CO-EXist program in 2010. Funded partially by a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, it has focused specifically on getting Colorado cleantech to buyers in China and Mexico, based in large part on existing trade ties with those countries. "We studied where there was real growth potential," says Moilanen. "We thought we could make a difference in those two markets.". . .

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Filtering out hype to arrive at true value

Colorado Cleantech Industry Association Special Section

By David Lewis

The Gartner Hype Cycle has been around since 1995, when it helped make sense of what became the Internet bubble. You know the Hype Cycle, it’s the pattern of events that follows the invention of a new technology, such as clean technology. The Gartner Hype Cycle "was originally adopted for technology innovations and companies, but it really is equally applicable for green technology," says Josh Green, general partner of Menlo Park, Calif.-based Mohr Davidow Ventures. Greentech has "gone through the classic elements of the hype cycle," Green says. "We went through the hype that created unrealistic expectations of the last seven or eight years and now we have gone down the other side of it, which is what we’re experiencing now, which is the trough of disbelief. The key at. . .

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Top Company winner: Swingle Lawn, Tree & Landscape Care

By Nora Caley

SERVICES Swingle Lawn, Tree & Landscape Care Tom Tolkacz, CEO of Swingle Lawn, Tree & Landscape Care, says things are improving in the landscaping business. "People are generally more confident," he says of the 20,000 or so customers the company has in the Denver and Fort Collins areas. "We have seen an uptick in business through the 2012 season." Last year, customers saved money by ordering lawn fertilization but not tree trimming, for example. Not so this year, as the economy improved and people were eager to get their trees sprayed and new plants installed. In fact, the Christmas season has started, at least for decorations. Swingle’s field workers started installing lights on customers’ homes and businesses in September. "The holiday decorating business. . .

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The Economist: The need for OJT

By Tom Binnings

 When I was about 20 years old, I spent a few months as equipment manager for my father’s unionized construction company. The semi-truck drivers who hauled the heavy equipment were Teamsters. I, being naïve about the protocols of union contracts, became outraged one day when Jimmy, a Teamster driver, refused to move his big rig 50 yards because he was on break. An entire heavy crane crew was sitting idle, costing the company lots of money every minute of delay. After jiving humorously with Jimmy, expecting him to give in, I told him, "Well hell, then I’ll move the damn thing." I knew just enough about driving a big rig 50 yards to be very hazardous to the truck’s health, and possibly Jimmy’s livelihood, if I ended up sending it to the repair shop. After watching me grind a few gears, Jimmy acquiesced and moved the truck. That experience, combined. . .

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Top Company winner: Pure Brand

By Lisa Ryckman

  MEDIA/ADVERTISING/PR Pure Brand Communications The beliefs that guide Pure Brand Communications reflect a company culture both edgy and cutting edge: Nuture stupidity. Avoid the middle. Don’t insult your audience. Practice judo. Trust your instincts. Know the janitor’s name. "We believe that the best creative ideas often are born from non-linear thinking," says CEO Dan Igoe, who co-founded Pure with Gregg Bergan nine years ago. "We embrace the absurd, and we question the status quo. We think the highest-impact ideas live on the fringe of reality." Pure Brand, which specializes in public relations, media training, advertising, digital/social media and graphic design, started with a plan to be a "big brains, small machine," Igoe says. "There are many. . .

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Top Company winner: Geotech Environmental Equipment

By David Lewis

MANUFACTURING Geotech Environmental Equipment Inc. Geotech Environmental Equipment Inc. won its Top Company 2012 recognition in the manufacturing category, and as we all know any business that manufactures in the United States deserves an award of some kind. "We’re excited there’s still a manufacturing category," jokes CEO Jeff Popiel, who might not be joking. "So when we got the award, I said, ‘Gosh, thanks for having a manufacturing category. We still do this.’ " Denver-based Geotech started 56 years ago, in 1956, so the manufacturer has done a lot of surviving for a long time. To make it, Geotech Environmental needed to be smart and nimble in the beginning, lucky and canny in the middle, and pretty near brilliant throughout. The lucky part happened. . .

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Rundles wrap up: Infinitesimal

By Jeff Rundles

I just discovered that I am part of the 1 percent. No, I am not rich – far from it – but I have discovered there are other ways of being among the 1 percent. Of course, famously this year are The 1 percent – either those people who earn more money on a regular basis than the "other 99 percent," or those people whose wealth is in the top 1 percent of the population, said to be a firming minority with more and more concentration of greenbacks. Heck, I’d take the top 2 percent or 10 percent, but I guess politically it is more expedient to lump the "poor" 99 percent together. Frankly, I see the other 1 percent – those at the very bottom – every day near my downtown office and I feel as far from them as I do from The 1 percent, but then nothing. . .

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Top Company winner: Crocs Inc.

By Lisa Ryckman

CONSUMER BUSINESS Crocs Inc. A lot of people who meet Crocs CEO John McCarvel want to know why he doesn’t wear the product he sells. His answer? "I am wearing the product." Wait – those are Crocs? "You think about Crocs, you think about colorful clogs in 5,000 colors," McCarvel says. "But that’s not really who we are today. In the last three years, we’ve introduced styles in a variety of different areas, from women’s sandals to flip-flops to sneakers. We’ve got shoes for all seasons." It’s no wonder Crocs has been named a 2012 Top Company. Just a few short years ago, the Niwot-based company teetered on the edge of a business abyss: sales tanked, jobs lost, bankruptcy looming. "We became over-distributed, we became known for one. . .

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Top Company winner: Sage Hospitality

By David Lewis

TOURISM/HOSPITALITY Sage Hospitality Resources Sage Hospitality Resources co-founder, President and CEO Walter Isenberg started with the company back in 1984 as COO. This is apropos for a hospitality company, which succeeds when it makes operations as complex as a nuclear submarine’s seem as simple as picking a mint off a pillow. Denver-based Sage Hospitality, with 6,000 employees, manages hotels, invests in them, and owns and manages restaurants. In September the company signed an agreement to manage hotels in Minneapolis and San Diego, bringing its total of hotel properties owned or managed to 59, including 17 in the metro Denver area; in all, the company has owned or managed more than 400 hotels in 40 states. The heart of company assets arguably are Sage’s downtown. . .

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CREED: Key player in cleantech

Colorado Cleantech Industry Association Special Section

By David Lewis

CREED, the Colorado Center for Renewable Energy Economic Development, celebrates its first anniversary this year, but forget any talk about baby steps. CREED already has taken giant steps. One reason for CREED’s rapid progress is its long gestation period. So while the center opened officially a year ago, it was in the works since at least 2007, if not before. We say, "if not before" because CREED also might be said to have come about because of NREL, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which opened operations in 1974 and which began operating as the Solar Energy Research Institute in Golden in 1977. In September 1991 the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) designated the facility a national laboratory and changed its name to NREL. Four years ago, the Alliance for. . .

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Top Company winner: Delta Disaster Services

By Nora Caley

REAL ESTATE/CONSTRUCTION/CONTRACTING Delta Disaster Services When Michael Mastous moved to Colorado, he thought it would be the perfect place to start a disaster restoration business. "I didn’t know anyone, and I didn’t have any contacts," says Mastous, who is originally from Wisconsin. "My goal was to do business in the most challenging environment." One of the challenges was that there was tremendous competition. Mastous says when he founded Delta Disaster Services six years ago, there were 180 operators who had the word "restoration" somewhere in their description. Many of them would only occasionally repair damaged floors and walls after a fire or flood, as a side business. "A lot of competitors are general contractors who back into it," Mastous says. "There are. . .

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Top Company winner: DCP Midstream

By Lisa Ryckman

ENERGY/NATURAL RESOURCES DCP Midstream DCP Midstream is determined to get bigger. It is just as determined to get better. Chairman and CEO Thomas O’Connor knows that those two processes don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. He recognizes the challenge – and welcomes it. "When you set a goal of being excellent every day, as well as dialing up growth as significantly as we have, it will stress an organization," he says. "The biggest challenge is building an organization with the experience to figure out how to break the challenges into manageable pieces, and most importantly, believes in the goals we’ve set and the vision of what the company will look like if we’re successful." The 83-year-old company, jointly owned by Spectra Energy and. . .

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Top Company winner: Spectra Logic

By Nora Caley

TECHNOLOGY Spectra Logic Spectra Logic makes products that help companies store tremendous amounts of data. To explain how much data, Molly Rector, who is chief marketing officer for the Boulder-based company, points to this year’s Summer Olympics. "NBC is a huge customer of ours," says Rector, who is also executive vice president of product management and worldwide marketing for Spectra Logic. "They have digitally stored everything that happened in the London Olympics, every event, by every camera angle." That’s a lot of hours, and if NBC wants to query and retrieve a clip of one person during a particular race, the TV network can do it thanks to Spectra’s products. Spectra Logic designs and manufactures data protection products such as tape and disk-based. . .

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Best in class: Top Company winners

Adapting to a changing world

By Mike Taylor

To get an idea of the passion that Top Company winners bring to their work, consider the sentiments of Jeff Popiel, the CEO of Geotech Enviromental Equipment. His Denver-based company manufactures more than 60 categories of products ranging from circuit boards to extruded tubing and was the 2012 Top Company winner in the Manufacturing category. "If we’re going to get out of this economic recession or funk or whatever you want to call it, we can’t just walk around giving each other backrubs and pedicures," Popiel exhorted in an interview with ColoradoBiz TV. "We’ve got to make stuff!" Of course, there are many other needs to fill in the market besides "making stuff," but Popiel’s spirited belief in his company and its role in an economic turnaround is an affirmation that any enterprise can draw inspiration from. No less inspiring is the turnaround story. . .

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Top Company winner: Zayo Group

By David Lewis

TELECOM Zayo Group Zayo Group may be the most precocious 5-year-old you will ever know. Founded in 2005, Zayo Group already has annual revenue approaching $1 billion. Zayo revenue is growing at an annual rate of 12 percent, while EBITDA is growing 20 percent annually. Just as important, Zayo Group owns 68,500 route miles of fiber network, and almost 4.9 million fiber miles; Zayo has 10,000 buildings on its network, 500 carrier hotels and data centers, and 2,500 cell towers. Clearly, the company has racked up some serious numbers in a seriously short span of time. "The market will need a ton more bandwidth every year, and you’ve got to have fiber in the ground to provide bandwidth," says CEO Dan Caruso. You will recall that around a decade back, the fiber. . .

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State of the state: Tourism

Glenwood's dilemma

By Eric Peterson

The "Most Fun Town in America" according to Rand McNally, Glenwood Springs has just about all of the pieces in place. In town, there’s the landmark Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, the largest in the U.S., and above it, the ever-expanding Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, which opened the country’s highest-altitude roller coaster (7,160 feet above sea level) above town this summer. Then you have the Colorado River running through adjacent Glenwood Canyon, complete with whitewater rafting, bike trails, and natural beauty to spare, as well as historic hotels, mom-and-pop motels, and a roster of increasingly good restaurants. And, of course, Doc Holliday’s grave. But there is one notably missing ingredient in the perfect Colorado-tourist-town formula here: a. . .

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Top Company winner: IMA Financial

By David Lewis

FINANCIAL SERVICES IMA Financial Group Denver-based IMA Financial Group won Top Company 2012 honors by scoring the business equivalent of a triple crown. Rivals for Colorado’s most competitive business honor, Top Company 2012 must evince their best-in-class supremacy in three critical categories: financial performance, wholehearted community involvement, and outstanding achievement in innovation, operations, marketing or other key accomplishments. IMA’s financial performance: Company revenue is up 16 percent the first eight months of this year, says IMA Financial Group Chairman and CEO Robert Cohen, and up an average of 11 percent for the past 10 years. The decade cited includes some year’s sales up 20 percent, some up three percent to four percent, but all of. . .

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State of the state: Agriculture

Branding effort under way for Rocky Ford melons

By Allen Best

Instead of a bland Tiger or a ho-hum Mustang, Rocky Ford High School is home to the Meloneers, a nod to the area’s production of watermelons, pumpkins and cantaloupes. Especially cantaloupes. Rocky Ford cantaloupes are among Colorado’s best-known brands. A Colorado Department of Agriculture survey last spring found that 80 percent of Colorado shoppers between ages 25 and 65 were aware of Rocky Ford cantaloupes. Sweetness and flavor of the gourds is enhanced by greater intensity of sunlight at Rocky Ford, 4,200 feet in elevation, relative to other cantaloupe-growing regions. Diurnal temperature swings also enhance sweetness. Daytime temperatures routinely climb above 100, dropping 30 to 40 degrees at night. And it rains little, providing a less fertile. . .

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Tech transfer on the rise

Colorado Cleantech Industry Association Special Section

By Eric Peterson

Colorado’s universities are playing an increasingly active role in laying the groundwork for the state’s startup community, with an especially keen focus on cleantech. Trent Yang, director of CU Cleantech, works with the CU Technology Transfer Office to help spin off startups and license cleantech developed at CU. "The university is a fairly significant driver of economic growth," says Yang, citing companies like Sundrop Fuels and OPX Biotechnologies as recent success stories. "We help identify great technologies that can be useful in industry." Beyond catalyzing tech transfer, Yang wants to boost entrepreneurialism among students. Last year saw the inaugural CU Cleantech New Venture Challenge, a $100,000 business-plan competition, and the 2013 event is on the. . .

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Last year’s winners: Where are they now?

Colorado Cleantech Industry Association Special Section

By David Lewis

Time marches on, and last year we marked it by recognizing a handful of companies, institutions and individuals as contributors of the year in Cleantech. So one year after last year’s winners won their moment in the sun, we decided to catch up with what a few of them have been doing the past year. What progress have they made? What challenges do they face?   Last year’s Breakout Cleantech Company of the Year, OPX Biotechnologies Inc., has as chief spokesman Charles R. "Chas" Eggert, president and CEO of OPX and chairman of the Colorado Cleantech Industry Association. Boulder-based OPX Biotechnologies engineers microbes to create bio-chemicals that are cost-competitive with traditional petroleum-based products. Last year the company raised $41.2 million in private equity financing in order to speed commercialization of industrial-scale production of its first. . .

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Colorado cool stuff: Beetlekill bowls, fantasy plushies, hotels book

By Eric Peterson

MIND TO SPIRIT PATHWAYS COLORADO BEETLEKILL BOWLS Wife-and-husband team Cynthia Hoffman Phillips and Joe Phillips work together in a trio of businesses: a forestry firm (Mountain High Contracts), a wood products company (Mind to Spirit Pathways Colorado), and a Tibetan yak operation (Mystic T Ranch). When Mountain High fells beetlekill, the couple turns the wood into everything from fencing to mulch, and Mind to Spirit takes leftovers and turns it to décor of all kinds. "We’re utilizing every bit of the tree," Cynthia says. The catalog ranges from candleholders to furniture to custom signs as well as feed bags upcycled into totes; ornamental spalted wood bowls are a specialty. "Spalting is basically decomposition of the wood," Joe says. "It gives it some really. . .

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Sports biz: Collectively speaking, baseball rules

By Stewart Schley

Being a sports fan demands patience. Not just with your team’s performance in down years (that means you, Rockies guy), but with the pull-your-hair-out frustration surrounding labor negotiations that often result in truncated or abandoned seasons. Such is the case now – at least of this writing – with the National Hockey League, which promised us only six years ago, at the conclusion of a player lockout, that its new collective bargaining agreement would bring about a new "partnership" with players. Instead, with the expiration of that CBA in September, hockey had fallen into tatters again, testing the allegiance of long-time fans. For loyalists, the latest jilt is every bit as heart-wrenching as a relationship gone sour, and just as likely to leave a permanent scar. Hockey’s sad state closely trailed the National Football League, which appeared to be on the. . .

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Cleantech’s “bridge fuel”

Colorado Cleantech Industry Association Special Section

By David Lewis

Cleantech and natural gas. If reading that sentence makes your blood pressure rise, just hang in and read on. Because sometimes things work out. If they do this time, the two energy sources could go together like peas in a pod. "There is a handful of ways that you can look at natural gas as fitting into the clean technology space," says Tom Dougherty, attorney with Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons LLP and leader of the firm’s Energy and Infrastructure Practice Area. "The simplest one is just looking at natural gas as a lower-emission source for energy, so on the electricity side you have zero emission sources at one end – solar, wind, nuclear – and everything goes up from there. If you look at fossil fuel sources the traditional sources of coal, oil and natural. . .

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Executive edge: Richard Martinez

Bank CEO infuses youth with entrepreneurial spirit

By Lynn Bronikowski

Richard Martinez grew up in Pueblo, the son of a steel worker who witnessed first-hand the ups and downs of the steel industry – long layoffs, strikes and several injuries to his father. "Even after being injured he’d continue to return to work, and work very hard," said Martinez, president and CEO of Denver-based Young Americans Bank, which this year marks its 25th anniversary. "My parents had a value of hard work but also had a value that education was No. 1 in their priorities." Martinez’s parents operated on a cash basis, struggled from paycheck to paycheck and rarely discussed finances. "Money was always a mystery to me. I always knew I wanted to do something with money, so banking was at the top of my list," said Martinez, who majored in. . .

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Top Company winner: Ping Identity

By Nora Caley

SOFTWARE Ping Identity Ping Identity provides cloud security solutions for customers ranging from nonprofits to governments to Fortune 100 companies. The products help secure hundreds of millions of employees, customers, consumers and partners. The Denver-based company has more than 800 clients worldwide, and it recently celebrated its 10th year in business. "We rang the gong," says Andre Durand, CEO and founder. "People could hear it in the office, and through WebEx in our other offices." The company uses the gong to celebrate wins, and there have been plenty of wins lately. Ping Identity has grown to 275 employees, doubling its employee base in a year, and is still hiring. There are sales offices in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Japan, a recently opened office in. . .

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Top Company winner: OpenWorld Learning

By Nora Caley

NONPROFIT OpenWorld Learning There are plenty of after-school programs available for elementary and middle school students, but OpenWorld Learning tries to offer something different. The Denver-based company uses digital technology to provide Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs to students in seven Denver Public Schools. The programs take place from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., when the schools’ computer labs would otherwise sit empty. "Mom and dad can work a few more hours, while we liven up those computer labs in low-income areas," says Dean Abrams, CEO of OpenWorld Learning. The curriculum received the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Seal of Alignment for Proficiency with the National Educational Technology. . .

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Cleantech 2.0: Pragmatic and capital-efficient

Colorado Cleantech Industry Association Special Section

By David Lewis

While the popular media and one presidential candidate actively berate cleantech, a Colorado fund remains strongly confident in a strong future for cleantech. Aravaipa Ventures’ Founder and Managing Director Robert Fenwick-Smith calmly states, "Like all young industries, cleantech is growing from an idealistic spendthrift youth to a pragmatic and capital constrained adulthood. And for the investors who bought into the original hype, these are painful days." Fenwick-Smith argues, "The first phase of cleantech investing has been mainly characterized by large coastal venture capital firms taking big bets on game-changing billion-dollar technologies. This is understandable as most of these VCs have IT backgrounds where game-changing bets provided superb returns, and these firms. . .

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Snapshots in sustainable design

Area architects inspire urban migration with aim of ‘elegant density’

By Eric Peterson

A virtuous cycle keeps residential construction on the front end of sustainability. Best practices emerge and get embedded in industry-standard checklists before they quickly migrate into the building code. A home built in 2012 is considerably more green than one built in 2002, and light-years beyond the homes of decades before the turn of the millennium. Architects and designers are on the front lines of the push for more sustainable lifestyles, balancing cost and carbon and a whole host of other data points in their quest for a future of net-zero energy homes. The question is not merely "How green do you want to be?" The question isn’t one home builders or home buyers can answer on their own. Rather, it’s a complex query based on economies of scale, adoption rates and production efficiencies. Looking beyond environmental sustainability and carbon neutrality,. . .

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Business as usual: Developer pedals beyond walk score

By Mike Taylor

The "walk score" has gained ground as a metric in real estate, with a dwelling’s proximity to restaurants, bars, movies, grocers and other destinations more important than square footage for many. The Nichols Partnership may want to introduce a "bike score" as the Denver developer nears completion of a 61-unit, high-end apartment project in Denver’s City Park West neighborhood that sounds like a heaven for cycling enthusiasts. "We’re calling the project ‘Cruise,’ as in cruiser bikes," says Dan Schuetz, project manager for Nichols who happens to be an elite road racer. "It’s in kind of a dense, walkable, urban location. We’d like to kind of celebrate that lifestyle by encouraging people to ride around on bikes. Cruiser bikes are kind of synonymous with urban fun, and that’s kind of what we’re selling in the project." Actually. . .

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Top Company winner: Donor Alliance

By Lisa Ryckman

HEALTH CARE Donor Alliance When Tyler lost his own life, he saved five others. His parents, Larry and Debbie, learned about the man who received Tyler’s heart from letters forwarded through Donor Alliance, the nonprofit organ procurement organization serving Colorado and Wyoming. Facilitating correspondence between transplant recipients and donor families is just one way Donor Alliance helps people heal from devastating loss, and it’s just one piece of the organization’s complex and emotionally charged mission. "Every day, when the phone rings, it means someone has died or is near death, and we take that and try to turn it into something positive," CEO Sue Dunn says. "Our mission is why people choose to work here, and it’s why they stay." That. . .

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Top Company winner: Junior Achievement

By David Lewis

NONPROFIT Junior Achievement-Rocky Mountain Junior Achievement-Rocky Mountain Inc. does what it can to fill an almost infinite space, the gap between what our schools teach and what goes on in the real world. By "real world" we mean the place where the jobs are, variously known as business, the private sector, free enterprise, and so on. Junior Achievement teaches school kids from kindergarten through high school about economic concepts, financial literacy, critical thinking and teamwork. These subjects are not taught in many schools, public and private. Junior Achievement-Rocky Mountain does much to fill the abyss. JA-Rocky Mountain annually brings more than 3,200 business volunteers into classrooms throughout Metro Denver, Northern Colorado and Wyoming. Denver- and Fort. . .

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Tech startup: NextGreatPlace Inc.

By Eric Peterson

INITIAL LIGHT BULB In 2002, Tom Filippini co-founded luxury vacation club Exclusive Resorts when he was 27. A decade later, he’s launched another travel-oriented startup in NextGreatPlace. In 2010, after leaving Exclusive Resorts and before taking his family on vacation to Belize, Filippini took a "solo reconnaissance" mission to make sure everything was as advertised. "What I found was really eye-opening," he says. "There were places that were being blatantly oversold. The trip could have been a disaster." So, later in 2010 Filippini started NextGreatPlace with Erik Mitisek to help people sort through the information (and misinformation). The website beta started in 2011, and the website launched this May. Today the company has 15 employees. IN A. . .

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