RMCIT would get $1.15M in upgrades

The launch of a technology company accelerator in Loveland will result in $1.15 million in capital improvements for Cumberland & Western Resources’ Rocky Mountain Center for Innovation and Technology, according to a draft budget for the project.

Of that amount, $943,000 will be used to make “tenant-space improvements” at the former Agilent Technologies campus, acquired by Kentucky-based Cumberland & Western in late 2011. The budget forecasts an additional $143,000 in spending for furniture, equipment and fixtures.

Those dollars would come from donations from the business community.

Cumberland & Western also would receive almost $722,000 in lease payments over five years for space occupied by tenants of the so-called Stone Soup Accelerator, according to the documents.

The city of Loveland, meanwhile, will sink a separate $675,000 into the technology accelerator. The money from the Council’s Reserve Fund will pay the tech accelerator director’s $150,000 in annual salary and benefits through 2017.

City councilors authorized the funding for the director’s salary at a work session earlier this month. It is hoped the money will help Cumberland & Western revive the empty campus, which the city sold to the development company for $5 million in cash.

Mayor Cecil Gutierrez, who acknowledged he was skeptical about the plan at first, said he decided to back the proposal because he believes that growing local companies is good economic development policy. He also pointed out that the accelerator has support from Loveland business leaders.

As I’ve already reported, Loveland business leaders want to use as much as 40,000 square feet in the Rocky Mountain Center for Innovation and Technology for the technology accelerator. The campus would house established companies, and the accelerator would help them grow. It’s not intended as an incubator for startups.

To launch the accelerator, local business leaders have established a nonprofit called the Loveland Development Fund. They estimate the accelerator will require a total of $3.2 million in funding during the next five years.

The accelerator’s full-time director would work for the city of Loveland’s Economic Development Department, so the city actually isn’t handing over any cash to the accelerator, Loveland City Manager Bill Cahill said.

Instead, others will be expected to do so: The Loveland Development Fund organizers are seeking $1.1 million in donations from local businesses in addition to the funding from the city.

Doug Rutledge, chief operating officer of Loveland engineering firm KL&A Inc., is one of more than 20 businesspeople raising funds for the accelerator. Businesses have expressed interest, though none have donated quite yet.

Rutledge said the prospect of generating additional jobs for generations to come convinced him to become involved.

“I think the motivation is to just have a more vibrant economy in the Northern Colorado area,” he said. “We’ve got kids and grandkids that we feel we have a certain obligation to help with a better future.”

An ad has not been posted for an executive director of the accelerator, but organizers plan to hire one by this summer. Clients would move in sometime in the third quarter, though none have committed to doing so.

“We need to get this program blessed and ready to go before we get into serious negotiations with anybody,” Rutledge said.

It is hoped that companies, mostly from Northern Colorado, would add $1.4 million to the accelerator’s revenue by paying for services and leases at “market rates.” Organizers have not stated a goal for the number of clients, who could come from anywhere, saying that quantity is less important than quality and potential to create local jobs. There’s no time limit for clients to graduate.

The accelerator marks the latest attempt to fill the former Agilent campus with tenants. The campus was once slated to become an Aerospace and Clean Energy Park until the Colorado Association for Manufacturing and Technology backed out of the project. Cumberland & Western was moving in a direction that didn’t fit the project, the association said.

The idea of a Loveland Development Fund isn’t new. The fund is similar to one started in 1958 and disbanded in 2005 that helped bring several businesses to Loveland, including HP and Woodward Inc.

The tech accelerator idea started with Cumberland & Western’s Buddy Steen, who developed a similar accelerator in Bowling Green, Ky., before he joined Cumberland & Western. The center, known as the Western Kentucky University Center for Research and Development, is home to 17 technology companies, according to the university.

“They actually came to us with the concept of the accelerator based on their experience in Bowling Green, Ky.,” Rutledge said. “Having run an accelerator, they feel like it’s an important aspect of what they would like to be able to do to get their lease program off the ground.”

Rutledge said he and Don Marostica, former executive director of the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade, plan to visit the center soon.

Steve Lynn covers technology for the Northern Colorado Business Report. He can be reached at 970-232-3147, slynn@ncbr.com or twitter.com/SteveLynnNCBR.

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