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Here are our top 10 Colorado business stories of 2016

It's all about transportation, oil, food and beverages


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Start to finish, 2016 has been a boom year for Colorado business. The diverse economy is hitting on all cylinders despite tough times for a certain burrito maker and sporting goods retailer. Not all news is good news, of course, but there hasn’t been a shortage of compelling headlines either way. Here are 10 of the most buzzed-about about stories since the year began.

1. The A train to DIA opens

Hiccups aside, this massive milestone for metro Denver's FasTracks build-out links two of the city's biggest developments of the last quarter-century: Union Station and Denver International Airport.

On a good day, you can now chug from LoDo to the airport in just 37 minutes – only to spend three hours getting through the security snarl.

2. Vail Resorts buys Whistler

The largest single-mountain resort in North America (Vail Mountain Resort, 5,289 acres) wasn’t enough. Neither was creating the largest resort in the U.S. (the 7,300-acre Park City-Canyons complex in Utah) in 2015. So Broomfield-based Vail Resorts went one better and bought the biggest resort on the continent: British Columbia’s Whistler Blackcomb (8,171 acres) in August 2016.

3. The oil bust continues

With barrel prices hovering around $40 – down 60 percent from 2014 – Colorado’s oil and gas industry continues to fight a glut in the market, and drilling is down from the Four Corners to the Niobrara Shale. More than 100 U.S. oil-and-gas-companies declared bankruptcy in 2016, including Colorado-based Venoco, Warren Resources and Emerald Oil.

More than 100 U.S. oil-and-gas related companies declared bankruptcy in 2016.

4. Sports Authority declares bankruptcy

The Englewood-headquartered sporting goods giant collapsed under a heavy debt load and shuttered all 463 of its stores, including Denver’s fabled Sportscastle. Now that the Broncos have assumed naming rights to the former Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the question remains:

Whose corporate logo will next grace the BRONCOS’ stadium?

5. Danone buys WhiteWave for $10.4B

This was the big enchilada of natural foods deals for Colorado in 2016. While the French food conglomerate’s acquisition of the Denver-based soy milk titan was the largest, it wasn’t the only big local exit in the space: Pinnacle Foods completed its $975 million buyout of Boulder Brands in January, and Hormel Foods, the parent company of Spam and Skippy, nabbed Boulder-based nut-butter maker Justin’s for $286 million in the spring.

6. The Dream Chaser rebounds

Once hailed as the heir to the Space Shuttle, Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Space Systems’ Dream Chaser project looked like it might come crashing down to earth after it lost out on a NASA contract to provide passenger service to the International Space Station (ISS). After winning a deal in Europe, NASA selected the Colorado-made spacecraft to ferry cargo to the ISS in early 2016, breathing new life into the Dream Chaser. It’s all systems go heading into 2017.

7. Marijuana sales projected to top $1.3 billion for the year

Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana has spawned a billion-dollar industry with a ripple effect in construction, real estate, R&D and tourism. As other states follow in our wake, Colorado has undeniably emerged as the epicenter of the U.S. cannabis sector.

8. Chipotle posts big same-store losses

After defying gravity for a decade, Chipotle hit the first major downturn of its storied existence after a spate of food poisoning incidents starting in 2015. The Denver-based fast-casual giant has responded with freebies and a stated emphasis on transparency, but the company still serves as a punch line on late-night talk shows.

9. The Ski Train returns

After a seven-year absence, Colorado’s one and only Ski Train will once again connect Denver and Winter Park for the 2016-17 season. With the A Line, shredders on the red eye can land at DIA and take just two trains to the slopes.

10. Molson Coors  acquires  MillerCoors

Denver-based Molson Coors Brewing Co. acquired SABMiller plc’s 58 percent stake in MillerCoors LLC, the joint venture formed in the U.S. and Puerto Rico by both companies in 2008. The acquisition, announced in October, makes Molson Coors the world’s third-largest brewer by enterprise value and the sole owner of MillerCoors, which will continue to operate as a separate business unit of Molson Coors and will retain its name and headquarters in Chicago.

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Eric Peterson

Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com

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