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Posted: May 01, 2012

Best places: A to C

What's happening from Aurora to Commerce City

Nora Caley

Aurora

Aurora, the third-most populous city in the state and larger than Denver in land area, focuses on existing industry clusters and economic generators like Buckley Air Force Base and Anschutz Medical Campus, an efficient development review process, and available space as the prime reasons to move in.

A plan laden with incentives – and concerns that it may "cannibalize" the surrounding market – has been in the works for Nashville, Tenn.-based Gaylord Entertainment Co. to build a 1,500-room hotel and 400,000-square-foot conference center on 85 acres in Aurora near DIA. The city reportedly has pledged up to $300 million in incentives for the Western-themed complex, which has an estimated construction cost of $824 million.

One recent win for Aurora was the GE PrimeStar Solar plant, projected to employ 355 highly skilled workers and bring $317 million of capital investment to the city. The company manufactures thin film photovoltaic modules. Wendy Mitchell, president and CEO of the Aurora Economic Development Council says the city also implemented the New Jobs Reward Program last year to provide tax rebates to small businesses that are expanding and hiring. (See the Executive Edge profile on Mitchell on page 12 of this issue.)

More information: www.auroraedc.com

Boulder

Boulder has been aptly dubbed the nation’s "epicenter of the natural products industry" because of the notable startups in that space that have blossomed in this college town. The Boulder Economic Council focuses on primary employers in aerospace, biosciences, cleantech, information technology/software, natural and organic products, and outdoor recreation.

The City of Boulder offers a flexible rebate incentive program for permit and development review fees and sales and use taxes on fixed assets. Earlier this year Biodesix Inc., a molecular diagnostics company, relocated its corporate headquarters from Broomfield to Boulder. Clif Harald, executive director of the Boulder Economic Council, says Boulder’s city manager approved a $60,000 flexible rebate for Biodesix in March.

More information:
www.BoulderEconomicCouncil.org.

Brighton

The Brighton Economic Development Corporation places ads in the industry trade magazines Site Selection and Trade & Industry Development, and attends trade shows such as the International Council of Shopping Centers and the American Wind Energy Association.

Over the past two years, Brighton has invested $40 million in infrastructure and $16 million in capital projects. There are also incentives, but Shane Oliphant, BEDC’s vice president of operations and retail development, says the important selling point for Brighton is location, and that it’s a 15 minute drive to DIA and a 20-minute drive to downtown Denver.

More information: www.brightonedc.org.

Castle Rock

Last year, Money magazine ranked Castle Rock No. 19 among the nation’s "100 Best Places to Live in America," based on job growth, home affordability, school quality, health care and other criteria. The city’s $5 million economic development performance fund offers incentives to companies that create primary jobs. There’s also a 10-days-or-it’s-free permitting process. Frank Gray, president and CEO of Castle Rock Economic Development Council, says the EDC has helped some small businesses grow. Smarter Chaos, a three-person IT company, wanted to move out of the proverbial founder’s basement, so the EDC gave the company $11,000 in incentives.

"They could pay the first month’s rent, plus they could go to the bank and say, ‘We have $11,000,’ so they got a line of credit," Gray says. In one year the company grew to eight employees.

Gray says the only obstacle the city faces is a lack of empty commercial space. "We have a vacancy rate under four percent," he says. Centura Adventist Hospital is building a facility, a $120 million project that Gray says will add 200 jobs.

More information: www.castlerockedc.com.

Centennial

When it was incorporated as a city in 2001, Centennial’s population of more than 100,000 made it the largest incorporation in U.S. history. Centennial’s high-profile new business win was the home furnishings retailer IKEA, which reportedly was given incentives totaling about $18 million to open the 415,000-square-foot store.

"While the incentive package has been widely covered, we believe that working together to find innovative solutions was incredibly important to the project’s success," says Corri Spiegel, economic development manager for the City of Centennial. The city offers sales tax reimbursement, construction use tax reimbursement, reduction in fees, and other incentives to companies that meet requirements such as creating 50 new jobs at a pay rate of 66 percent of median income for the city. Other selling points are the city’s proximity to Interstates 25 and 225, light rail and the Centennial Airport.

More information: www.centennialcolorado.com.

Clear Creek

Clear Creek Economic Development Corp. is located in Georgetown. CCEDC focuses on small to medium-sized businesses in Clear Creek and Gilpin counties. Those were two of the original 17 counties created by the Colorado legislature in 1861, and they are the only two counties in the state to have endured with their original boundaries unchanged.

CCEDC’s services include counseling, site selection and administration of four different loan programs. The area from U.S. Highway 40 from Berthoud Pass to the I-70 Junction, east on I-70 to the twin tunnels is an Enterprise Zone, so tax credits and other incentives are available.

More information: www.clearcreekedc.org.

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs is the second most populous city in the state with about 416,000 residents. Its target industries are sports (it is home to the U.S. Olympic Training Center), IT/data storage, aerospace/defense, medical device/bioscience, cleantech and health information technology.

"We use email marketing, industry-specific webinars, participate in trade shows that support our target industries, familiarization tours for site selection consultants, and make visits to companies and consultants in their locations," says Tammy J. Fields, vice president, business attraction, for the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC. Bal Seal Engineering Inc. plans to build a $45 million, 137,000-square-foot manufacturing plant, and Entegris Inc. plans to open an advanced technology manufacturing facility.

Money magazine named Colorado Springs the No. 1 Best Big City in the publication’s "Best Places to Live" in 2006, and Outside magazine ranked it No. 1 on its list of "America’s Best Cities" in 2009.

More information: www.coloradosprings.org.

Commerce City

A ballot measure in 2007 to change the name of Commerce City to something more appealing failed when voters nixed it by a 2-to-1 margin.

More recently, Commerce City has announced several business expansions expected to bring 150 jobs and more than $30 million in capital improvements.

Cummins Rocky Mountain, which manufactures diesel engines, will expand its campus to house a training center, back-office shared services center, and a potential manufacturing facility. UE Compression, which designs and fabricates custom gas compression systems, is building a 100,000-square-foot building to house its manufacturing and business operations. Precast Concepts, which makes decorative concrete paving slabs, recently expanded its space. The companies received rebates of building permit fees, plan check fees, and sales and use tax.

More information: www.c3gov.com/incentives.

Nora Caley is a freelance writer specializing in business and food topics. She can be reached at noracaley@comcast.net.

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