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Posted: April 01, 2009

State of the state: April

A snapshot of manufacturing, employment, corporations and the arts in Colorado

Manufacturing: Ski-lift builder opens larger plant in Grand Junction

A ski-lift manufacturer that is diversifying into wind-power generation equipment celebrated the opening of a larger factory in Grand Junction in January. Leitner-Poma of America, owned by Italy-based Leitner Technologies, now occupies a new 90,000-square-foot facility on 18 acres in the Bookcliff Technology Park near Grand Junction Regional Airport. Prinoth, a sister company that makes snow-grooming equipment, moved into a new facility adjacent to Leitner-Poma.
Leitner-Poma, which has been in Grand Junction since the early 1980s, needed a new plant to accommodate manufacturing growth related to the Leitner MiniMetro transit system and Leitwind wind-power generation equipment, said Rick Spear, president of Leitner-Poma of America.

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“Ski lifts aren’t a real growth business. It’s a good business, it’s a steady business, and it’s our bread and butter,” Spear said. But wind power is growing so fast that manufacturers are three to four years behind in filling orders for wind generators. “The demand is outstripping the supply,” Spear said.

Leitner-Poma employs about 80 people in Grand Junction and plans to add 100 more in the next five years, Spear said.
“It’s good to see a company continuing with its expansion plans,” said Ann Driggers, president of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership. Development of the company’s new location was assisted by $900,000 in incentives from the city of Grand Junction, Mesa County and the state of Colorado.
  — Bob Kretschman, Western Slope Correspondent

Employment: CSU grad founds LaidOffCamp for job seekers

In the midst of soaring unemployment, some job seekers are finding unconventional forms of assistance or support. Consider LaidOffCamp – a primarily Internet-promoted support group – which may be just about as unconventional
as it gets.

“It’s a community of everyone who doesn’t have a traditional job,” said LaidOffCamp founder and recent Colorado State University graduate Chris Hutchins. LaidOffCamp organizes conferences for the recently laid-off or those struggling to make ends meet to share experiences, network and, perhaps, find new opportunities.

LaidOffCamp conventions, unlike a job fair, are not designed to simply bring employers and those seeking employment together. Instead, LaidOffCamp is intended to cultivate the resources available to those finding themselves without a regular paycheck from a regular company, Hutchins said.

The first LaidOffCamp meeting was held in San Francisco on March 3 and drew a crowd of more than 400 newly unemployed, startup entrepreneurs, freelancers and some employers. A second event took place in Dallas on March 6, and future meetings are planned for New York, Miami, Chicago, Fort Collins and Denver, Hutchins said.

Hutchins, 24, lost his job in December with the San Francisco office of the Monitor Group, where he worked as a consultant. After tossing around ideas of what could be useful for the recently laid-off over the winter, the result was LaidOffCamp. “It puts together all of these different sessions with elements of a job fair and elements of a startup incubator combined,” Hutchins said.
— Dan Ray

Corporations: DMC and ESM honored at ACG Rocky Mountain Corporate Growth Conference

Going “boom” is a big part of Dynamic Materials Corp. business, quite literally. The Boulder-based company specializes in explosion-welded clad metal plates – and besides detonations being a big part of its manufacturing process, the company has blasted off sales-wise, growing from less than $50 million in 2003 to $233 million in ’08.

CEO Yvon Cariou enthusiastically spoke about DMC at the Association for Corporate Growth’s Rocky Mountain Corporate Growth Conference last month, where it was one of two companies given an ACG Corporate Growth Award. Highlands Ranch-based Education Sales Management was also honored. ColoradoBiz publisher Bart Taylor moderated the awards luncheon.

While ESM can’t claim BOOM as its NASDAQ symbol – or the visceral interest of blowing up stuff – it has its own story of explosive growth, with sales leaping from $14.9 million in 2005 to $32.6 million in 2008. CEO Rick Fort said he hopes the company will break $100 million in sales by 2013. ESM is a customer-contact center for schools, learning centers and universities that helps enroll students and sell educational programs, products and services.
— Mary Butler

The arts: Boulder company premieres film featuring Jesse Ventura

Boulder-based 42 Productions celebrated a series of firsts in February as it rolled out the red carpet for the world premiere of its feature film “Woodshop,” starring former Minnesota governor and pro wrestler Jesse Ventura, at the University of Colorado ATLAS Institute in Boulder.

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"Woodshop," starring former Minnesota governor and pro wrestler Jesse Ventura, is Boulder-based 42 Productions' first script-to-screen feature.

“This production was the best collaboration of my career if not my life,” said Pete Coggan, the film’s writer, director and producer, as well as the founder of 42 Productions, a full-service film and video production company. “Woodshop” is 42 Productions’ first script-to-screen feature. The film is also among the first shot in a new format called digital cinema. The state-of-the-art production facility filmed the entire movie in Boulder last spring.

The former governor of Minnesota plays a tough high school woodshop teacher who hosts Saturday detention for a “Breakfast Club”-esque cast of characters in this comedic drama. Ventura said he was intrigued by the movie because Coggan wrote the script with his role in mind. He was also ecstatic to get back into acting after his foray in politics.
Kevin Shand, of the Colorado Film Commission, said the typical feature film production revenue in Colorado is less than $5 million a year. Colorado, he said, lacks a competitive incentive to lower costs for production companies and attract more filmmakers to the state.

But Shand said he hopes that will change.

“Production companies like 42 Productions have found a good niche and are successful at what they’re doing. They have good actors, good content and great facilities,” Shand said. “Why can’t we have more of that in the state?”
— Patricia Kaowthumrong

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