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Posted: June 01, 2009

50 Colorado companies: Fueling the economic fire

These fast-growing businesses are building tomorrow's economy

However many billions the federal government pumps into the economy, one truth rings clear: It will be business that will lift the country out of the doldrums and thrust it forward into the 21st century.

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Here are 50 companies you can expect to help lead the way. These Colorado Companies to Watch are second-stage entrepreneurial enterprises that are investing in people, technology, infrastructure and their communities as they build their businesses.

And what a diverse collection of products and services they produce: craft beer, medicine, information technology, natural foods, pet products, camping equipment, biofuels, military combat simulations, online learning systems. They represent some of the state’s biggest sectors, such as aerospace and biotechnology, and growing upstarts like new energy and sustainable products, and unheralded traditional sectors like manufacturing and agriculture.

“The business environment in Colorado pretty much lends itself to growing second-stage companies,” Gov. Bill Ritter said. “Even in this downturn, we’re still a state that relies very heavily on small business development as an economic driver. We’re a state with a great entrepreneurial spirit.”

From Denver to Durango, Golden to Grand Junction, Cortez to Colorado Springs, Lamar to Lakewood, businesses that are grappling with growth rather than survival are blooming around the state. Companies selected must be privately held, employ six to 99 workers, generate $750,000 to $50 million in sales or a similar range of working capital and be headquartered in Colorado.

From 2004 to 2008, these companies have generated nearly $1.3 billion in revenue and added 1,400 employees – a 200 percent increase in revenue and 163 percent increase in jobs. This year, the companies expect to grow revenue by 44 percent and their work forces by 18 percent.

Colorado Companies to Watch is organized by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade in association with economic development councils throughout the state. The panel of independent judges selected the companies based on such factors as employee or sales growth, entrepreneurial leadership and sustainable competitive advantage.

The program was developed by the Edward Lowe Foundation, which was created in 1985 by the late creator of Kitty Litter and his wife, Darlene, to promote entrepreneurship. The foundation has established “Companies to Watch” programs in Arizona, Indiana, Mississippi and Michigan, which in 2005 became the first state to participate. Colorado’s first class of companies in the program shares at least one important trait with its counterparts in other states.

“All these companies showed double-digit rates of growth on both employees and on revenue so that tells you that these really are indeed companies to watch,” said Penny Lewandowski, director of entrepreneurship development for the Michigan-based Edward Lowe Foundation.

As you’ll find in the pages that follow, many of these companies have been quietly building their businesses.

“What we were finding out with these second-stage companies was they often slide below the radar screen,” Lewandowski said. “They are so busy working on their businesses; they aren’t always typically the ones you see on the awards stage.”
The program focuses not only on traditional measures of success but on such metrics as the impact companies have on their communities and how they have embraced technology. Even in economically distressed places like Michigan – where this year’s awards event had its highest attendance ever – the program is finding dozens of silver linings.

“People get excited because there has been so much negative news – and a lot of that is realistic – but there are so many companies that are still doing so well,” Lewandowski said.

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50 COLORADO COMPANIES TO WATCH

ADVANCED ASSEMBLY
www.aapcb.com
SNAPSHOT: Aurora-based Advanced Assembly specializes in quick-turn, surface mount technology assembly for design engineers who need low volume or prototype printed circuit board assembly. The proprietary assembly process machine-places parts in days rather than weeks.
LEADERSHIP: CEO Lawrence Davis founded the company in 2004.
WORK FORCE: The company had 40 full-time workers in 2008; projected to reach 60 in 2009.
MARKET NICHE: “Advanced Assembly is the only printed circuit board assembly company in the industry that provides services specifically for design engineers needing fast, low-volume or prototype PCB assembly. Until now, engineers had a difficult time finding a reliable partner willing to assemble their small quantities of circuit boards, forcing them to assemble boards themselves.”
SOLUTIONS: Advanced Assembly developed a proprietary technology to quickly assemble just a few boards at a time. Most projects are delivered within a week – more than 80 percent faster than the typical industry turn time of six to eight weeks.
GROWTH CURVE: In 2008, Advanced Assembly doubled its factory and office space, allowing it to add additional high-tech automation equipment and hire new staff. Revenues have grown 489 percent over the past three years, with projections to grow another 22 percent in 2009.

BEST SIGN SYSTEMS INC.
www.bestsigns.com
SNAPSHOT: The Montrose-based company, founded in 1924, is a wholesale manufacturer of interior architectural signage that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It serves primarily new school, hospital, hotel and public institutions for renovations and new construction.
WORK FORCE: President and owner Stephen Savoy leads a team of 59 full-time workers.
MARKET NICHE: “Our company is somewhat economy-proof as we support new construction of infrastructure like schools, hospitals and hotels. We are a national company and can endure regional downturns as we sell in all 50 states.”
GROWTH CURVE: “With our recent acquisitions we are newly branded and positioned to double our growth over the next five years to become a $10 million annual sales company.”
ON THE SAME PAGE: Best shares financial data with managers and employees as a means to have them take ownership in the company’s direction. It offers incentives that are directly tied to performance and profits.
TEAM TALK: Best offers full benefits including 401(k) plans, health, vision, disability and accident insurance. “We pay a competitive wage and are considered one of the best places to work within our community,” Savoy says. “I let my management team run my company, and that empowerment approach is applied throughout my company.”

BIG AGNES 
www.bigagnes.com
SNAPSHOT: Big Agnes produces camping equipment. The Steamboat Springs company, founded in 2000, employs three full-time and 20 part-time workers.
DESIGN DRIVEN: “From the unique sleeping pad sleeve beneath each of our bags to leading lightweight tents to air chamber sleeping pads with synthetic insulation, we continually push the design envelope to create the best products possible for outdoor users.”
UPWARD SLOPE: “Our growth has outpaced that of our industry and competitors, and while we’re driven by sales and growth, Big Agnes strives to lead in all categories of business including environmentally conscious products, industry leadership, employee benefits programs and community support.”
GOING GREEN: The company uses 100 percent wind-generated power in its offices and warehouse. President Bill Gamber has lived off the grid using solar power for more than 15 years and recently installed a wind power system. The company encourages bicycle and car pool commuting and offers paid time off after target commuting days are met.
RECYCLING AND PROFIT: The company is expanding its use of recycled materials to help divert landfill waste. For example, all 2009 tent models feature DAC aluminum poles featuring an environmentally friendly anodizing process.

BLUE SUN ENERGY 
www.gobluesun.com
SNAPSHOT: Blue Sun Energy, which does business as Blue Sun Biodiesel, markets alternative fuels such as its central brand, Fusion B20. CEO Jeff Probst leads the Golden-based company, which was founded in 2001.
SMALLER CARBON FOOTPRINT: In 2006, Blue Sun’s efforts were validated by a landmark study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory that showed Fusion fuel reduced hydrocarbons by 29 percent, carbon monoxide by 24 percent, particulate matter by 18 percent and nitrogen oxides by 4 percent over conventional diesel fuel.
MARKET FOR ALTERNATIVES: Changes in federal energy regulations should fuel Blue Sun’s growth in the coming years: “Blue Sun Energy holds an enviable position. In a market that competes with a dominant substitute, petroleum diesel, which enjoys powerful political lobbies, deep pockets and the ability to move markets among record profits, Blue Sun knows it’s going to win.”
WALKING THE GREEN: Blue Sun has demonstrated that a green business can succeed, says the company, whose office is based in a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum building. “By remaining a growing company while keeping sustainability as a core value, we have shown other area companies that principles do not need to have an unacceptable cost.”

BOA TECHNOLOGY INC.
www.boatechnology.com
SNAPSHOT: Boa Technology designed the Boa Lacing System, which aims to optimize footwear performance, achieve a more “dialed in” fit, and, ultimately, to make shoelaces obsolete. The system appears on footwear designed for snowboarding, skiing, hiking, running, golfing, cycling, snowmobiling, hunting, and many other activities. The company even makes a specialized shoe for horses.
WORK FORCE: The Denver-based company, led by CEO Gary Hammerslag, was founded in 1999. It employs 31 people and is projected to reach 42 in 2009.
UNLACING HISTORY: “Our award-winning, patented footwear closure system presents a true alternative to a closure system that has existed in some form for thousands of years — shoelaces. As a result, it has been vital for our company to foster an environment that encourages the free flow of creative ideas and exudes the vision with which the company was founded.”
TOUR DE MARKETING: Elite athletes promote Boa’s product without any formal sponsorship agreements. They include X-Games medalists, Tour de France winners and a PGA champion. “At this year’s Tour de France, nearly 40 riders will wear our lacing system.”

BRAXTON TECHNOLOGIES LLC
www.braxtontech.com
SNAPSHOT: The Colorado Springs aerospace and defense company provides command and control systems to government and commercial customers. Braxton products currently control global positioning system launches for satellites and control research and development weapon systems.
WORK FORCE: The company, founded in 1994, employs 58 full-time workers and one part-time worker and expects to add 42 workers in 2009. President Kevin W. O’Neil relocated the company’s headquarters to Colorado Springs and is also spearheading the drive to create an aerospace research and development center there.
OUTLOOK IN SPACE: Braxton’s private investment group ownership provides access to additional capital to expand growth and accelerate acquisitions. Its Colorado-based parent corporation, the O’Neil Group, which acquired Braxton in 2008, owns many other local companies.
INDUSTRY NICHE: Braxton specializes in custom “commercial off the shelf” products, which enhances traditional software development.
COURTING CUSTOMERS: “In today’s tough economic times, Braxton’s product line and methods bring exceptionally high value to those who have seen their budgets shrinking and their critical missions growing.”

BRAXTON TECHNOLOGIES LLC
www.braxtontech.com
SNAPSHOT: The Colorado Springs aerospace and defense company provides command and control systems to government and commercial customers. Braxton products currently control global positioning system launches for satellites and control research and development weapon systems.
WORK FORCE: The company, founded in 1994, employs 58 full-time workers and one part-time worker and expects to add 42 workers in 2009. President Kevin W. O’Neil relocated the company’s headquarters to Colorado Springs and is also spearheading the drive to create an aerospace research and development center there.
OUTLOOK IN SPACE: Braxton’s private investment group ownership provides access to additional capital to expand growth and accelerate acquisitions. Its Colorado-based parent corporation, the O’Neil Group, which acquired Braxton in 2008, owns many other local companies.
INDUSTRY NICHE: Braxton specializes in custom “commercial off the shelf” products, which enhances traditional software development.
COURTING CUSTOMERS: “In today’s tough economic times, Braxton’s product line and methods bring exceptionally high value to those who have seen their budgets shrinking and their critical missions growing.”

CATALYST REPOSITORY SYSTEMS INC.
www.catalystsecure.com
SNAPSHOT: The Denver-based company bills itself as “Google for lawyers” in litigation, helping them to manage documents during legal electronic discovery.
COURTING TECHNOLOGY: The company was founded in 2000 by long-time trial lawyer John Tredennick, who in the mid-’90s realized that lawyers would increasingly need new methods to manage discovery and to work together on complex cases.
CREATING THE SYSTEM: The team began building extranets in 1998. Soon law firms around the country were calling the company.
INDUSTRY NICHE: Catalyst has stood out from competitors because its roots were in technology rather than photocopying. “Over the years, we pioneered the first grid-based systems for speed and scalability and then foreign language capabilities that now support terabytes of data for tech-savvy clients like Apple, Intel, Microsoft and Qualcomm.”
GOOGLE-STYLE GROWTH: “Despite no advertising or even a sales force for the first five years (and an economic collapse around 9/11), the company turned profitable and grew rapidly over the years (1,900 percent the first three and 170 percent in the last two).”
WORK FORCE: The company employed 85 full-time and 10 part-time workers in 2008 and expects to add the equivalent of 16 full-time workers in 2009.

COCONA TECHNOLOGY INC.
www.coconafabrics.com
SNAPSHOT: Cocona Technology Inc. invents and markets natural technologies that are used in and on fabrics for the apparel and home furnishings markets. The Boulder-based company, led by president Brad Poorman, was founded in 2002 and employs 22 full-time and two part-time workers.
FABRIC OF SUCCESS: Cocona invents and markets natural technologies that have been adopted by more than 65 brands in North America and Europe. In late 2005, Cocona fabrics were launched using natural technology derived from recycled coconut shells. In late 2008, it introduced Cocona Minerale fabrics, which use volcanic minerals. Both technologies create fast-drying fabrics that protect against ultraviolet rays and manage odors.
BRAND CONSCIOUS: “The Cocona business model is an entrepreneurial version of the Gore-Tex model that focuses on both trade and consumer constituencies.” Cocona fabrics are used by Colorado companies like Pearl Izumi, GoLite, Tehama, Sierra Designs and SkirtSports.
SOMETIMES YOU FEEL LIKE A NUT: “Because coconuts seem to have such a consistent positive connotation, we made the coconut the hero of our print ads visually and with some subtle humor. This consumer campaign has been effective in supporting our brand partners to both retailers and end-users.”

COLORADO MILLS 
www.comills.com
SNAPSHOT: Colorado Mills is an all-natural oilseed processing plant that has kosher and organic certifications. The Lamar-based company processes sunflowers from which the oil is sold primarily into the snack food market. The sunflower meal is used in its feedmill to produce feeds for livestock.
MARKET NICHE: A “natural press” oilseed processor, Colorado Mills competes against the larger solvent extraction processors (such as ADM and Cargill). “In 2002 the sunflower industry introduced mid and high oleic sunflower oils that were much healthier for consumers than traditional vegetable oils. These oils were 0 trans fat and were capable of higher cooking temperatures leading to less absorption and longer cooking life.”
WORK FORCE: CEO Rick Robbins leads a staff of 20 full-time and three part-time workers. The company, which operates a zero-waste plant, was founded in 1999.
COLORADO ADVANTAGE: “Our competitive advantage comes from our location in Southeast Colorado close to sunflower production, reducing farmer-producer shipping costs, as well as having rail service to ship processed product out and specialty organic oilseed in. Our location also serves us well to supply local cow-calf producers with high-quality feed products produced from the sunflower meal.”

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COLORADO YURT CO.
www.coloradoyurt.com
SNAPSHOT: Montrose-based Colorado Yurt Co. manufactures permanent and semi-permanent engineered fabric structures — under 1,000 square feet — including yurts, tents and tepees.
WORK FORCE: Managing partners Daniel and Patricia Kigar direct a team of 26 full-time and six part-time workers. The company was founded in 1976, and its first customer was a public school.
PITCHING A TENT FOR GROWTH: Over the past five years the Colorado Yurt Co. has exported to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Fiji, Greece, France, England, Mexico, Belize and Canada. The Province of Manitoba has 49 Colorado Yurts in its park system. Export sales made up more than 20 percent of gross sales in 2008.
MARKET NICHE: “The company has successfully established new markets in the burgeoning eco-travel and nature-oriented hospitality industries. From organic farms in Idaho to the beach in Baja, Mexico, travelers can stay in our structures and participate in outdoor activities of all kinds.”
MADE IN COLORADO: Employees work in teams, building the entire product under one roof from raw materials. The company makes its products entirely in the state.

COMBAT TRAINING SOLUTIONS INC.
www.combattrainingsolutions.com
SNAPSHOT: Combat Training Solutions Inc. makes explosive device simulators and battlefield special effects for live military training and hands-on situational exercises. The company’s patented technologies are used to improve the skills and life-saving knowledge of military, law enforcement and security organizations.
LEADERSHIP: The Colorado Springs-based company, founded in 2005, is a service-disabled veteran-owned business. CEO Antonio Colón leads a team of 16 full-time and 10 part-time workers. The company expects to add five full-time workers this year.
BUSINESS IS BOOMING: The company recently deployed a 26-man battlefield special effects team to train more than 3,000 National Guard in Fort Chaffee, Ariz. “The team integrated non-pyrotechnic special effects that turned a $20 million mock Afghan village into a full-fledged simulated battleground complete with gunfire, mortar explosions, smoke and the chaos of live urban warfare.”
MARKET NICHE: “CTS has stayed on the forefront of the modeling, simulation and training industry by continually developing new products that simulate current world threats. The company designs, engineers and releases new simulators based upon input from war fighter veterans with recent experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

DANIELSON DESIGNS LTD.
www.danielsondesigns.com
SNAPSHOT: Trinidad-based Danielson Designs creates home decor products, including picture frames and decorative signs.
HOMETOWN ROOTS: The company was founded in 1991 by Annie and Mark Danielson, who moved to Trinidad to raise their family in the old mining town. Since then, Danielson Designs, which employs 85 people, has become one of the largest employers in Las Animas County.
FIGHTING GLOBAL COMPETITION: “We began in 1991 offering high-end, hand-painted home accessories. With the explosion of Asian imports, we had to develop a strategy to lower cost, find the middle market, and raise perceived value.” So the company began incorporating elements of screen printing to replace hand painting and moved to a fully screen-printed product. “The goal was to offer customers the ability to create fully custom product at a unit of one.”
HOMETOWN CHAMPION: The Danielsons say they founded the company to bring jobs to economically depressed Trinidad. As unemployment waned, they turned their attention to quality of life issues, such as giving downtown a boost. “After helping to defeat two gambling initiatives that we felt threatened our town’s survival, we renovated a historic building and opened a retail store on Main Street as an example of how downtown could come to life.”

ECOPRODUCTS INC.
www.ecoproducts.com
SNAPSHOT: EcoProducts makes environmentally friendly food service products, including biodegradable cups, plates, cutlery, straws and food containers all made from renewable resources.
WORK FORCE: The Boulder company employed 48 workers in 2008 and expects to reach 63 in 2009. It was founded in 1990 and is led by president Steve Savage.
GROWTH FOR BIODEGRADABLES: Revenue has more than doubled over the last three years. “The global disposable food service product industry is estimated to be more than $30 billion annually. Biodegradable products are the fastest growing segment in the industry and are estimated to exceed $1 billion by 2008, up from $500 million in 2005.”
GREEN BY DESIGN: “Each year mankind contributes to the toxic load on our planet by sending millions of pounds of paper and plastic takeout containers to the landfill. In fact, most of the packaging used in the food-service trade today is made from either petroleum — a nonrenewable resource, or contains little to no recycled content. At EcoProducts, we believe these solutions are neither sustainable nor represent good packaging design.”
GOING RETAIL: In November 2008, EcoProducts opened Ellie’s Eco Home Store, a 9,700-square-foot environmental products department store in Boulder.

ELOPE 
www.elope.com
SNAPSHOT: Colorado Springs-based elope designs and manufactures costume accessories such as hats and glasses for holidays such as Halloween, Christmas or St. Patrick’s Day. The company, founded in 1993, develops nearly 200 products a year.
LEADERSHIP: Kevin Johnson, president and creative chief, leads a team of 35 full-time and three part-time workers. The company expects to add several workers in 2009.
FROM SNOW TO GOBLINS: “Our first major test came in our second year in business. We were primarily marketing our hats to the snow sports industry. When there was a year without much snow, sales dropped. We had to think fast and find a new market, which we found in the Halloween industry. We have had double-digit, percentage increases ever since.”
WHIMSY GOES TECH: The company puts UPC codes next to each product in its catalog, which allows customers to scan each item and enter it into their systems. It also uses UPC scanners at trade shows to take orders. “It cut the time to take an order in half and increased order size by over 37 percent. We also use scanners in our warehouse to check that orders being shipped are correct. This has helped us achieve an average accuracy rate of 99.7 percent.”

EVOLVE 
www.evolveprograms.com
SNAPSHOT: Evolve designs and produces customized branded apparel and merchandise. The company extends its clients’ brands through its custom corporate uniform programs for blue chip clients such as DIRECTV, Chipotle and Qwest.
WORK FORCE: The Englewood company, founded in 2002, employs 32 workers and expects to grow to 40 in 2009.
UNIFORM GROWTH: Evolve has experienced double-digit revenue growth every year since its inception, when it was made up of a single worker in a basement operation.
MARKET NICHE: Founder/CEO Joel Wochner reworked how companies order uniforms. “Instead of offering pre-made uniforms from a catalog, Evolve creates its uniforms from scratch, allowing for total customization. For DIRECTV, Evolve created uniforms with reinforced knees and extra-long shirt tails to accommodate techs who often crawl in tight spaces.”
GAME CHANGER: “Our single-source philosophy keeps our supply chain lean and our value high by eliminating middlemen. Our e-commerce platform provides easy ordering, payment, fulfillment and reporting.”
PLANET – PROFIT: “We are committed to the triple bottom line – profitability, sustainable practices and social responsibility. Our unique business model delivers a superior product through a very efficient supply chain.“

FOUR WINDS INTERACTIVE
www.fourwindsinteractive.com
SNAPSHOT: Denver-based Four Winds Interactive develops digital signage software. Features include broad media playback capability, sophisticated data integration and interactivity.
WORK FORCE: The company, led by president David Levin, employed about 52 workers in 2008 and expects to grow to 75 this year. It was founded in 2005.
GROWTH CURVE: Annual gross revenue in 2008 was 25 times what it was in 2005. It doubled its revenue last year.
CUSTOMER BASE: With more than 500 clients, the Four Winds digital signage system is used to power thousands of signs both domestically and internationally. The company’s customers include Courtyard by Marriott and the University of Phoenix. It has become a preferred digital signage provider for Starwood Hotels, Hilton Hotels and other hospitality institutions.
SIGNS OF THE TIMES: GoBoard, an interactive digital concierge that serves as a digital information center for guests, has a planned roll-out of 150 Courtyard hotels by the end of 2009. The University of Phoenix uses the FWi software package to display class schedules and school information.
GOOGLE STAR: Since February 2009, Four Winds Interactive has consistently showed up on page 1 of Google for the search term “digital signage” and has frequently been in the top 5.

GEVO 
www.gevo.com
SNAPSHOT: Gevo is developing biofuels designed to replace petrochemicals like gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. The Englewood-based company was founded in 2005.
LEADERSHIP: CEO Patrick R. Gruber leads a team that included 50 workers in 2008 and is projected to grow to 62 this year. The company’s majority owner is Khosla Ventures LP.
FUEL FOR GROWTH: Gevo expects to have renewable fuels, including gasoline jet and diesel blend stocks, as well as renewable chemicals, such as isobutylene and paraxylene, available in commercial quantities in the first half of 2011.
COLLABORATIVE STRATEGY: “Gevo develops technology utilizing a diverse mixture of resources including the brightest young scientists, seasoned industry veterans and external collaborations from leading universities, government laboratories and Fortune 500 companies.”
CRACKING THE CODE: Gevo says it is succeeding where others have failed over the past 50 years: to find a cost-effective way to produce isobutanol.
AGENT OF CHANGE: “Gevo’s next-generation biofuels will deliver the performance of gasoline without the environmental impact, help to eliminate supply scarcity and reduce our dependency on foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gases and emissions.”

GORDON COMPOSITES INC.
www.gordoncomposites.com
SNAPSHOT: Gordon Composites manufactures high-tech fiber reinforced polymer materials used in automotive and aerospace components, sporting goods and protective armor. The Montrose-based company was founded in 1953.
WORK FORCE: The company, led by CEO Michael Gordon, had 85 workers in 2008 and expects to grow to 99 this year.
MARKET NICHE: Gordon Composites describes itself as a “material science” company. “The foundation of the business was built upon the ability to provide a high-strength fiber reinforced composite material for various sporting goods products where lightweight, strong, high-fatigue life was required.”
EVOLVING WITH THE TIMES: Several years ago, the company recognized that the composites of the future would require recyclable materials that could be manufactured in an environmentally responsible manner.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH: One of the company’s pivotal moments was in 1995 when it moved from San Diego to Montrose, where it opened a 50,000-square-foot plant. “The most noticeable gain was a much improved business-friendly environment in Colorado combined with significant work ethic improvement in the work force.”
TAKING A RISK: In 2004, the company built a second 50,000-square-foot plant to develop Polystrand, the next generation of composite materials targeted for the green marketplace.

HANDS-ON LABS INC.
www.LabPaq.com
SNAPSHOT: Hands-On Labs designs, develops, produces, and distributes science LabPaqs, which are course-specific science equipment and supplies that allow college and high schools students to conduct science experiments.
LEADERSHIP: CEO Linda G. Jeschofnig leads a team of 14 full-time workers and three part-time workers. The Englewood-based company,
incorporated in 2000, expects to add several workers in 2009.
MARKET NICHE: Labpaqs bases its design and packaging upon green, microscale chemistry technology. “This provides a safe yet effective laboratory experience that uses the same types of chemicals and supplies used on campuses. LabPaqs enjoy a 14-year 100 percent safety record and can be legally shipped anywhere in the world.”
GROWTH CURVE: Average annual sales have increased more than 55 percent since 2000. “Nationwide studies document the past decade’s dramatic growth in online education and anticipate continuing 15 percent to 20 percent annual growth for the next decade.”
CHANGE AGENT: Most of the company’s users are online students. LabPaqs enable them to complete their work without having to attend campus classes and lab sessions. “These students use computers to access, complete and submit course assignments; they communicate electronically with instructors and classmates.”

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HYDRO-X LLC
www.H2Xinc.com
SNAPSHOT: Based in the Southwest Colorado town of Bayfield near Durango, Hydro-X uses pressurized water and a vacuum to expose underground utilities, particularly lines that may be dangerous, delicate or expensive, so that client companies can safely excavate the lines with equipment such as a backhoe.
LEADERSHIP: Michael Clark has been CEO since the company’s inception in 2000.
WORK FORCE: The company has grown steadily, from 24 employees in 2006 to 42 last year to a projected 45 in 2009.
MARKET NICHE: Hydro-X was one of the first U.S. companies to build a business around hydro excavation eight years ago. The company’s client list includes some of the world’s largest corporations, including
ExxonMobil, BP, ConocoPhillips, ChevronTexaco and others. It also has operating agreements with major engineering firms and the largest U.S. general contractors. From the outset, Hydro-X’s only major competitor has been Badger Daylighting, a public company based in Canada. The company expects the hydro excavation industry to grow tenfold in the next five to seven years, from the current $100 million per year to $1 billion, and the firm believes it could well be the future outright leader in the industry.
GROWTH CURVE: Hydro-X projects revenue growth of 45 percent in 2009. Previous years were even more spectacular, with a revenue increase of 85 percent in 2008 and 64 percent in 2007.

INTEGWARE INC.
www.integware.com
SNAPSHOT: Fort Collins-based Integware provides systems-integration services and software products for medical device manufacturers that help them with FDA regulatory compliance. Integware enables these manufacturers to deliver their products more safely to market in less time and at less cost.
LEADERSHIP: Chris Kay has been president and CEO of Integware since April 2004.
BACKGROUND: When the company was purchased 4½ years ago by current president and CEO Chris Kay, it had significant debt and had only nine employees. Since then, Integware has become the enterprise-wide primary PLM (product lifestyle management) services provider for leading medical device companies. Integware has been profitable every year since 2005 and has no external investors or long-term debt. Last year, Integware’s employee turnover was less than 1 percent, similar to past years since Kay purchased the company in 2004.
GROWTH: Integware had 66 full-time employees in 2008 and expects to employ 87 full timers in 2009. Revenues increased 84 percent last year, and the company expects a 30 percent increase in 2009.
PIVOTAL POINT IN HISTORY: In 2004, Integware began focusing exclusively on the medical-device/life sciences market. This proved to be a beneficial strategy as demand for Integware’s services (and later products) has continued to expand – even to this day.

JG MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
www.jgmsinc.com
SNAPSHOT: Based in Grand Junction, JG Management Systems offers program and project management, and engineering design and analysis services to government and private-sector clients nationwide.
LEADERSHIP: CEO Jerome Gonzales founded the company in 2001.
WORK FORCE: JGMS had 39 full-time-equivalent employees in 2008 and is projected to reach 49 in 2009.
MARKET NICHE:  JGMS has increased revenues consistently over the last four years by aggressively pursuing opportunities in both the government and private sector. The company is projecting 13 percent revenue growth in 2009.
INNOVATION: After studying other companies and processes, JGMS developed a rigorous series of bid/no bid criteria that protected the company from chasing opportunities with little or no realistic return. It allowed the company to save thousands of dollars in wasted business development.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: JGMS donates 5 percent of its net income each year to nonprofits and projects, as well as giving each employee 40 paid hours to pursue volunteer work of their choice. The company funded the development of the Riverside Educational Center (REC), which provides qualifying K-12th grade students facing academic and financial challenges a no-cost, after-school tutoring and enrichment program. In only its third year, the program serves more than 100 mostly Latino students.

JUSTIN’S NUT BUTTER
www.justinsnutbutter.com
SNAPSHOT: Justin’s makes organic and natural nut butters available in convenient squeeze packs and 16-ounce jars.
LEADERSHIP: Justin Gold, a vegetarian, founded the Boulder-based company in 2002. Production began in 2005.
WORK FORCE: Beginning with one individual, the company now employs seven sales and marketing staffers and more than 20 at its co-pack manufacturing facility in Louisville .
MARKET NICHE: Justin’s did not invent peanut/nut butter, nor did it invent the squeeze pack. But Justin’s was the first company to put the two together and package organic peanut/nut butter in a squeeze pack. The company cites a proprietary and trade-secret grinding process for locking in fresh taste. Since operations began in 2005 Justin’s has achieved triple-digit growth every year. The company has taken an unconventional approach to retail success. “We don’t buy shelf space, we earn it,” the company says. “Nor do we pay for advertising; we give away samples for people to taste and experience the difference.”
SOLUTIONS: Initially no manufacturer was willing to undertake Justin’s idea of packaging nut butter in squeeze packs, so the company did it itself. Budget restrained, the company found an older-model squeeze pack machine and spent a year of trial-and-error testing. The company continues to use inexpensive and nontraditional peanut/nut butter equipment in its manufacturing process.

KMLABS INC.
www.kmlabs.com
SNAPSHOT: Boulder-based KMLabs specializes in manufacturing low-cost, minimal maintenance ultrafast amplifier systems as well as oscillators for applications in chemistry, biology, surgery, physics and engineering.
LEADERSHIP: KMLabs was founded in 1994 by University of Colorado professors Margaret Murnane and Henry Kapteyn, who have international reputations in the development of world-class ultrafast laser systems. Murnane is the company’s CEO: Kapteyn is senior vice president.
WORK FORCE: The company expects to employ 21 people in 2009, roughly the same number it has employed since 2007.
BACKGROUND: Before forming the company, Murnane and Kapteyn published a “how-to” guide  to spread the influence of new ultrafast laser technology. The response of fellow researchers is, in part, what led the two to found KMLabs.
GROWTH: In 2008 the company enjoyed rapid revenue growth due to increased emphasis on sales/marketing and success of delivered products at customer sites.
PIVOTAL DECISION: By 2007 company growth had flattened, and the founders saw the need to initiate more strategic growth with three measures: renewed focus on established products in current research markets; comprehensive company rebranding; and identification of strategic future markets. Results were dramatic and immediate, with 100 percent growth in 12 months.

LITEYE SYSTEMS INC.
www.Liteye.com
SNAPSHOT: Centennial-based Liteye is a world leader in rugged, high-resolution, head mounted displays and view finders used by a broad range of military and commercial customers. Liteye has the only small see-through optics package in the market place, which has given it a sustainable competitive advantage and opened up military markets in the U.S., Europe and Japan.
LEADERSHIP: The company was founded by Kenneth Geyer and Tom Scott in 2000.
WORK FORCE: The company is projected to employ 28 people in 2009, up from 17 a year earlier. In addition, international distribution agreements give the company more than 35 sales engineers marketing Liteye’s products.
NOTABLE APPLICATIONS: Liteye’s technology provides soldiers with a rugged, low-power, high-resolution display in any area they may be deployed, allowing them for the first time to view such things as video from a thermal camera, interact with a computer to access needed information, view and control an unmanned vehicle, pull up medical manuals in a remote cave to save the life of a downed soldier, or use in the targeting of an enemy. Previously, soldiers would be stuck utilizing a large hand-held screen that at night gave away their location and made them an easy target.
GROWTH: The company increased revenues 136 percent in 2008 over the previous year and is projecting another 133 percent increase in 2009.

LOGRHYTHM INC.
www.logrhythm.com
SNAPSHOT: Boulder-based LogRhythm specializes in enterprise-class log and event management solutions used to empower organizations to comply with regulations, secure their networks and optimize their IT operations. Gartner Group, the leading IT industry analyst firm, has designated LogRhythm as “visionary” among peers in the log and security information management market.
LEADERSHIP: Andy Grolnick has been the company’s CEO since 2005. Chris Petersen is co-founder and chief technology officer. The company was founded in 2003.
WORK FORCE: In roughly two years, the company has more than doubled its work force, jumping from 21 in 2007 to 45 last year to a projected 50 in 2009.
COMPANY STRENGTHS: Since 2005, LogRhythm has achieved a compound annual growth rate of 354 percent. LogRhythm has developed an innovative solution that combines two traditionally disparate sets of functionality (log management and security information management). Many regulations mandate the acquisition and use of both categories of functionality. Thus, LogRhythm offers customers compelling value in a single integrated solution. The integrated functionality combined with exceptional ease-of-use and robust design has led LogRhythm to win more than 60 percent of head-to-head product evaluations, most of which include consideration of at least three vendors.

MICROTEK
www.microtek-co.com
SNAPSHOT: Founded in 1959 and based in Westminster, Microtek started out supplying tool kits, test equipment and other technical products to schools. Over time, it expanded its product offerings and by 1990 was providing computers, computer kits and software to customers, including some of the largest educational chains in the country.
LEADERSHIP: Michael Rozek is the company’s CEO and has held the top leadership post since 1984.
WORK FORCE: The company had 20 full-time employees in 2008 and projected a full-time work force of 22 in 2009.
SOLUTIONS: Microtek has grown steadily, even though the computer equipment it sells today costs 50 percent of the 2005 price, by continuing to expand its customer base and product/services offerings.
COMPANY STRENGTHS: In 2008 Microtek saw a need in schools and businesses for affordable, enterprise-class IT support services. The company’s vision was to provide the same level of IT services enjoyed by large corporations to schools and small-to-medium businesses. So Microtek invested in the people, software and infrastructure to start a Managed Services Division, which now employs six full time engineers/ technicians and manages nearly 1,000 computers and 24 servers. Growth of this division continues rapidly as more and more people realize the benefits and savings managed IT services provide.

NAMASTÉ SOLAR
www.namastesolar.com
SNAPSHOT: Based in Boulder, Namasté Solar works in Colorado to propagate the responsible use of solar energy and to pioneer conscientious business practices.
LEADERSHIP: CEO Blake Jones co-founded the company in 2004 along with Heather Leanne Nangle, the company’s co-owner and director of marketing and communications.
WORK FORCE: The company has grown from three full-time employees in 2005 to 57 last year and expects to employ 65 in 2009, with the projected increase to come about as the result of expanding customer demand for photovoltaic systems due to legislation, incentives and education.
GROWTH: The most spectacular growth occurred from 2005 to 2006 when the company went from three employees to 21 and increased revenues 502 percent. Namasté Solar is still growing, with a year-over-year revenue increase of 74 percent in 2008 and a projected increase of 25 percent for this year.
COMPANY STRENGTH: Namasté Solar is 100 percent employee-owned with 36 co-owners and no single stockholder owning a majority stake. Thus, everyone is empowered to think and act like an owner in every aspect of operations. This unique company culture has resulted in Namasté being Colorado’s No. 1 solar company with a 25 percent market share and more in-state installations than any other company.

NATIONWIDE FABRICATION INC.
LEADERSHIP:
Nationwide Fabrication’s president is Adam Martinez, who founded the company in 1996.
GROWTH: Nationwide Fabrication has experienced growth every year since its inception in 1996. Starting with just two employees at the outset, the company had 52 full-time employees in 2008 and expects to maintain that number this year, working out of a 50,000-square foot facility.
BACKGROUND: President and founder Adam Martinez grew up in the food-service industry, starting out at the age of 12 sweeping the floors and cleaning the restrooms on the weekends for a food-service company his father managed. By 16 he was working in his father’s business, learning the manufacturing side. When his father retired and sold his business in 1989, Martinez worked for the new ownership until 1993.
COMPANY PHILOSOPHY: ”I have always taken the approach that there is no customer too small or too large,” Martinez says. “We have a motto, ‘ETDBW — Easy to Do Business With.’ I believe that all successful companies have this quality.”

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NEWSGATOR TECHNOLOGIES
www.NewsGator.com
SNAPSHOT: Founded in Denver in 2004, NewsGator Technologies helps enterprises and media companies deliver real business value through social computing. A host of industry leaders adopted NewsGator’s enterprise social computing offerings in late 2008, including two of the world’s top three banks, two of the top three U.S. manufacturers of network and communications equipment, four of the top 15 U.S. pharmaceutical companies, and two of the top seven U.S. aerospace and defense companies.
LEADERSHIP: NewsGator’s CEO is J.B. Holston, who throughout his career has found himself at the intersection of people, technology and media, whether harnessing RSS or introducing NBC to the possibilities of profiting in cable television.
MARKET: NewsGator believes all computing is becoming social. With the proliferation of content across the Web – via social networks, blogs and news sites, online video and photo communities – and behind the firewall, it’s critical to connect the right content and contacts with the right people at just the right instant. That’s NewsGator’s niche.
GROWTH: The company believes it is on track for continued growth as enterprise spending on Web 2.0 technologies is predicted to surge over the next five years, growing 43 percent each year to reach $4.6 billion globally by 2013, according to Forrester Research (April 21, 2008).

NOVUS BIOLOGICALS LLC
novusbio.com
SNAPSHOT: Littleton-based Novus Biologicals develops, licenses and markets research materials to scientists in academic, corporate and government laboratories. Since 1996 the company has partnered with leading scientific researchers and third-party providers to develop a portfolio of more than 70,000 products.
LEADERSHIP: Karen Padgett is Novus Biologicals’ president and CEO.
WORK FORCE: Novus Biologicals had 23 employees in 2007 and projected a work force of 27 employees in 2009.
PIVOTAL MOMENT: In 2006, Novus Biologicals was notified by its largest supplier that Novus would no longer be able to carry their products for sale in the United States, as the supplier was opening a U.S. office. At the time, this supplier’s products made up 40 percent of Novus’ revenues. Novus discovered that the supplier was not the original equipment manufacturer for these products. Novus quickly adjusted its business model to directly OEM these products from 80 different manufacturers. Novus not only kept its existing customers in place, but improved its margins and increased sales.
CURRENT CONDITIONS: In 2008, Novus Biologicals’ growth continued despite difficult economic events. To combat stagnation, Novus broadened its product line to include supporting products, which now make up 15 percent of revenues.

NUMERICA CORP
www.numerica.us
SNAPSHOT: Based in Loveland, Numerica integrates information across sensor networks for defense, GIS and chemical-detection solutions. The company was founded in 1996.
LEADERSHIP: Aubrey P. Poore is the company’s CEO and chief scientist. Jeff Poore is vice president and CEO.
WORK FORCE: Numerica Corp. had 37 employees in 2008 and is projected to employ 51 in 2009.
NICHE: Numerica’s business focus is on advanced mathematical algorithms and scientific software for Department of Defense and security surveillance applications. Its proprietary algorithms and software solve information-science problems that few others in the world can address. These innovations have ramifications for national defense programs such as ballistic missile defense, intelligence and surveillance, chemical and biological detection, geographic information systems and other arenas.
GROWTH: Numerica has increased year-over-year revenues at least 24 percent every year since 2006 and projects revenue growth of 84 percent for 2009.
MARKETING STRATEGY: Numerica does not have a sales or marketing department. It focuses on hiring exceptional people to create high-performance teams that deliver gold-standard solutions to some of the nation’s most challenging information science problems. This creates extremely loyal customers who see Numerica as the go-to resource for solutions, fostering repeat business and word-of-mouth third-party promotion.

OPEN SKY WILDERNESS
www.openskywilderness.com
SNAPSHOT: Based in Durango, Open Sky is a holistic wilderness treatment program for adolescents and young adults. Students engage with nature, consume organic whole foods and explore daily meditation and yoga to strengthen relationships, foster growth and develop overall health and wellness. Open Sky broke even within the first seven months of operation and paid out profit shares within the first full calendar year.
LEADERSHIP: CEO Aaron Fernandes founded Open Sky Wilderness in 2006.
GROWTH: Open Sky had 58 full-time employees in 2008 and projected an increase to 63 in 2009. The company increased revenues 32 percent in 2008 and projected a 21 percent increase in 2009.
PIVOTAL POINT IN HISTORY: Founder Aaron Fernandes was approached by an angel investor with the offer of a $1 million investment to start a wilderness therapy program. Eight months into the partnership, Fernandes’ vision came into conflict with the investor’s financial goals, leaving Fernandez with two choices: Find common ground, or decline the money and find another way. In the end, Fernandes was not willing to compromise essential components of his philosophy: green business practices, shared ownership, holistic treatment and extensive family services. Open Sky continues to embrace those values today.

OSKAR BLUES BREWERY
www.oskarblues.com
SNAPSHOT: Oskar Blues Brewery, based in Lyons, became the country’s first microcanning craft brewer in 2002 when it began hand-canning Dale’s Pale Ale on a tabletop machine that sealed one aluminum can at a time. The brewery’s innovative and acclaimed craft beers have made it the fastest-growing brewery in Colorado.
LEADERSHIP: President Dale Katechis founded Oskar Blues Brewery in 1997.
GROWTH: In 2008, Oksar Blues produced more than 20,000 barrels of beer at the company’s new Longmont facility. The product line has increased from one to four microcanned beers, and distribution has expanded from Boulder County to 25 states. Revenues increased 40 percent in 2008 and are projected to grow 43 percent in 2009.
INNOVATION: The move to aluminum cans has been crucial to Oskar Blues’ success: It gave the brewery a unique angle for publicity, and cans are welcome where bottles often are not: the beach, pool, boat, golf course, backcountry. More importantly, cans keep beer especially fresh by fully protecting it from light and oxygen, beer’s two biggest enemies. About 30 craft breweries — many with Oskar Blues’ help — have entered the niche that Oskar Blues created.

OSPREY PACKS INC.
www.ospreypacks.com
SNAPSHOT: Founded in 1974, Cortez-based Osprey Packs designs, manufactures and markets technical backpacks and travel gear. It has been named one of REI’s top 12 suppliers (out of 2,400) for the past three years and last year was REI’s Vendor Partner of the Year.
LEADERSHIP: Tom Barney has been Osprey’s CEO since 2001.
PIVOTAL MOMENT IN HISTORY: As a manufacturer, Osprey faced the challenge of rising labor and insurance costs, a declining sewing labor pool in Southwest Colorado and a limited domestic supply chain of technical fabrics and pack materials. So in 2001 and 2002, production of Osprey Packs moved to Vietnam, while efforts at home were focused on perfecting design and testing processes, and strengthening sales and marketing. This tough decision has resulted in wins across the board for Osprey and its partners. Sales increased 14-fold, and Osprey was able to remain an independent company and significant employer in Southwest Colorado rather than a division of a larger outdoor firm.
GROWTH: While Osprey expects this year to be a challenging one for outdoor specialty retailers, the company managed to increase sales 15 percent in 2008. Osprey has enjoyed significant sales growth during the past five years, including revenue increases of 58 percent in 2006 and 44 percent in 2007.

OTTERBOX 
www.otterbox.com
SNAPSHOT: Based in Fort Collins, Otterbox designs and manufactures protective cases for handheld devices. Otterbox’s three series of cases protect electronics in any environment, from the waterproof Armor Series, the drop-and-scratchproof Defender Series and the recently launched skin-like Impact Series.
LEADERSHIP: Otterbox CEO Curt Richardson founded the company in 1996. He started out making waterproof and crushproof boxes for outdoor enthusiasts but soon narrowed his focus to the handheld-device market.
GROWTH: Otterbox grew from 31 employees to 62 during 2008 and expects to employ 78 full-timers in 2009. Revenues soared 74 percent last year and are projected to jump another 87 percent in 2009.
PIVOTAL POINT IN HISTORY: In 2007, OtterBox introduced the Defender Series case line, a slimmer design than the company’s original fully waterproof Armor Series. While the bulkier Armor Series offered unmatched protection against the elements, they were serving only a small niche market. The Defender Series appeals to a larger market but still offers trusted OtterBox protection against drops, dirt and scratches without alienating the company’s loyal core customer. This new, broadened market gave OtterBox leverage to formulate strategic relationships with several original equipment manufacturers and wireless carriers including RIM, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile.

PANGEA ORGANICS
www.pangeaorganics.com
SNAPSHOT: Boulder-based Pangea Organics is the largest cold-processed, organic bar-soap manufacturer in the United States. The company also produces a full line of organic body and skin care: facial cleanser, facial scrub, facial mask, facial toners, facial creams, massage and body oils, shower gels, liquid hand soaps and lip balms.
LEADERSHIP: CEO Joshua Onysko founded the company in 2000.
COMPANY STRENGTHS: Pangea has never strayed from its vision to create what the company calls Ecocentric Bodycare. Founder Joshua Onysko saw the selling of the highest quality organic, personal care products as a means to a greater end – that end being social sustainability. A generous portion of Pangea’s profits fund The Pangea Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to researching and teaching all aspects of sustainable living and business practices. Pangea products are never made using petrochemicals, parabens, genetically modified organisms or other synthetic or harmful ingredients. All Pangea products begin to break down within 48 hours of use.
GROWTH: Pangea’s sales have skyrocketed since 2006 when revenues increased a whopping 841 percent for that year. Sales increased more than 100 percent in each of the next two years and are projected to climb another 22 percent in 2009.

PRECISION PHOTONICS CORP.
www.precisionphotonics.com
SNAPSHOT: Boulder-based Precision Photonics was founded by scientists-turned-engineers who develop, manufacture and sell precision optical components, coatings and assemblies. The company provides high-performance laser optics and coatings to the telecommunications, defense, aerospace, biomedical and semiconductor industries.
LEADERSHIP: Christopher J. Myatt is CEO of Precision Photonics, founded in 2000.
COMPANY CALLING CARD: Precision Photonics’ strength is technical execution. The company’s products range from mirrors that can reflect ultra-intense lasers without burning up, to ultra-precise controls for telecommunications lasers, to ultra-sensitive detectors of single molecules for medical diagnostics.
PIVOTAL POINT: The tech downturn from 2001-2004 prompted Precision Photonics to search for other applications of its technology. A meeting with the head of infectious diseases at the University of Colorado Medical School revealed a key application: low-cost, ultra-sensitive detection for HIV in low-resource settings. Since then, Precision Photonics has won more than $5 million in funding from the National Institutes of Heath and the U.S. government, built a prototype system, and begun clinical testing of the technology. The company will soon send a delegation to South Africa and Mozambique to establish clinical HIV testing sites.
GROWTH: Revenues have increased by double digits every year since 2005 and are projected to increase 17 percent in 2009.

PRIMUS METALS INC.
www.primusmetals.com
SNAPSHOT: Lakewood-based Primus Metals manufactures precision components for the aerospace, medical and energy industries.
LEADERSHIP: Randall Brodsky is president, and Ira Lehrman is chief operating officer
WORK FORCE: The company had 45 employees in 2007 and expects to have 65 in 2009.
STRENGTH: Primus’ growth has been “fueled by providing exceptional customer service along with exceptional product quality. We have reinvested our profits into further developing our customer service and manufacturing capabilities. Primus has become a top-tier manufacturer for medium and large production runs of highly complex components. By constantly developing more technical experience and tools every year, Primus has been able to focus, build and maintain relationships with customers in specific industries.”
TECHNOLOGY: Primus implemented Enterprise Resource Planning software and underwent

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