Economy & Economic Development  September 24, 2010

2010 not yet a bounce-back year

The theme of this final installment of the Business Report‘s 15th Anniversary Retrospective was supposed to be Recovery. Back at the end of 2009 when we were planning this series, we thought – hoped? – we’d have some good news to work with by now.

To be sure, there have been some positive signs and omens of late. The wizards in Washington just revealed that the Great Recession ended in December, and Nothern Colorado is pulling out of it better than the rest of the country – but we’re turning that corner in fits and starts. The state added 1,900 jobs between June and July – but lost 25,200 between July 2009 and July 2010.

Obviously signs and omens do not a recovery make – yet. As much as we’d like to have better news to report, we still have to wait until it happens.

While we wait, we could take some lessons in wishful thinking from NCBR stories of years past. In hindsight, we probably shoulda seen it coming.

Dacono Factory Stores

Did anyone really think that a ride in a dog-fighting flight simulator at an outlet store would sell airplanes? Maybe the inline skating rink would sell some Rollerblades, and the three softball fields could help out the sports-equipment retailers, but seriously – a boating lake? With tax-increment financing for the guy who drove the original Castle Rock Outlet deal into the ditch?

Ted Decker of Tucson started talking with Dacono town officials in 1992, and they went so far as to annex the land at the Erie exit off I-25. But the outlet craze had pretty well cooled by January 1996, and Loveland’s fully occupied shops weren’t that far up the road from Southwest Weld County. A year later, ground hadn’t been broken because Decker couldn’t get a phone installed in the construction trailer – and CDOT planned to widen I-25.

Then in 2000 the pesky Arizona Corporation Commission decided to bring charges of unregistered securities dealing against Decker and his Oxford Development Corp., and the lawsuits from investors started piling up.

By June 2001, about $83 million has flowed into the project, the developers has been ordered to pay about $22 million in restitution, and nobody expected to see a dime. The undeveloped land went into foreclosure and the four defendants faced criminal charges in Arizona in 2003.

Enter Tech

It was supposed to be different in the New E-Commerce Economy, and for a while, it seemed like it was. And maybe the websites targeted to the agricultural market would have been more successful if Northern Colorado farms and ranches had had access to the Internet back in 1999.

The meteoric rise and resounding crash of the dot-coms was almost perfectly replicated in the story of a little Loveland-based company. After the resignation of its entire management team in 1999, Walnut Capital reinvented itself as Enter Tech in January 2000 and hops on the e-commerce bandwagon with the purchase of Shopping Mall Online, which links Internet-based commerce with storefront locations.

By February, Enter Tech stock is trading at about $4 per share, up from Walnut Capital’s traditional 40 or 50 cents. The company exchanges 5 million shares for 80 percent of Wave Power Corp. of Florida, with plans to build a global digital utility. Say what?

Before the month is out, the company sues one of its former officers to get back 750,000 shares now valued at $2.6 million.

In April, Enter Tech gets $10 million from Reservation Foundation Trust in exchange for 6 million shares of stock – provided the merger with Wave Power Corp. is completed.

Enter Tech is still going full speed ahead in June, when it signs a letter of intent to acquire 80 percent of AdSynchronous.com of California for 2.1 million shares of stock – valued at $3.9 million – and MallClix of Florida for 450,000 shares.

But then RFT decides 6 million shares are worth only $600,000 rather than $10 million. On July 19, Enter Tech fails to pay its 19 employees. By October, Enter Tech shares are worth about 28 cents. In November, when the shares hit 19 cents, Enter Tech announces it will return to its original digital kiosk plan.

By June 2002, the No. 10 top public company in the region has no revenues.

Baseball

The former Time Zone Without a Team snagged the Colorado Rockies in 1993, and Coors Field opened in 1995, the year NCBR began publishing. Baseball fever was in the air, and Northern Colorado boosters caught a bad case.

In January 1999, NCBR reports that Larimer County and Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce President Mike Hauser have been in talks with owners of two minor-league baseball teams about the possibility of bringing a team “to the new stadium that would be built on the Larimer County Fairgrounds planned along Interstate 25, north of U.S. Highway 34.”

In  August, the Fort Collins DDA recommends the Northside Aztlan Community Center as the site for a stadium for the nonexistent team, now allegedly part of the Rockies’ farm system. “For this to happen, we have to be playing baseball by 2001,” according to DDA executive director Jay Hardy, who is also certain that the city can count on the support of Rockies co-owner Jerry McMorris, a resident of Timnath.

NCBR urges local leaders to work to bring baseball to town. However, no Northern Colorado community completes the necessary paperwork by the Nov. 15 deadline.

In December, Windsor developer Martin Lind steps up to the plate with “a proposal that could have a new stadium approved and built within the next year – a timetable Fort Collins cannot hope to match.”

Major League Baseball targets 2001 for a Rocky Mountain rookie league. Cheyenne, Laramie, Greeley and Windsor all vie for a team.

In 2002, the Rockies’ Pioneer League Casper Ghosts begin playing in Mike Lansing Field, funded by and named for Wyoming native Lansing, who played second base for the Rockies for three years.

McMorris sold his ownership stake to the Monfort brothers of Greeley in 2005, so in a very roundabout way, baseball has come to Northern Colorado after all.

The theme of this final installment of the Business Report‘s 15th Anniversary Retrospective was supposed to be Recovery. Back at the end of 2009 when we were planning this series, we thought – hoped? – we’d have some good news to work with by now.

To be sure, there have been some positive signs and omens of late. The wizards in Washington just revealed that the Great Recession ended in December, and Nothern Colorado is pulling out of it better than the rest of the country – but we’re turning that corner in fits and starts. The…

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