September 28, 2012

1996 – Boulder firms looked away; Broomfield landed Sun

BROOMFIELD — The dot-com bubble was just beginning to inflate in 1996, with help from loads of Boulder County startups, the longest economic expansion in U.S. history was in full swing, and a very special Sun was about to rise on the local horizon.

But for growing companies in the city of Boulder, the year revolved around one strategic decision: whether to take a chance and try to grow within the city limits or move operations elsewhere in the county. The city council had passed a complex ordinance limiting commercial and industrial growth the previous year.

Several decided to go to Longmont or Louisville. Biotech giant Amgen Inc. kept its existing offices in Boulder but decided to build its new plant in Longmont. Supplements maker Amrion, which in 1996 was “bursting at the seams,” said it was worried it would not be able to expand in the city and ultimately moved to Thornton as part of a merger with Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market.

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Whether all these moves were a direct result of the city’s commercial and industrial growth restrictions is debatable, but sometimes perception is as strong a force as regulation.

What isn’t debatable, however, is that while space-poor Boulder was struggling with how to control business expansion within its limits, developers at Broomfield’s Interlocken business park had planned for it. The master-planned, upscale business park had been meticulously laid out for certain kinds of companies with certain kinds of profiles, ones that were decidedly high-tech.

And when Silicon Valley’s Sun Microsystems Inc. came calling, Interlocken and Broomfield were more than hospitable. In December 1996, the company announced it was buying 120 acres in the park to house its Enterprise Services worldwide headquarters.

Among the other things that played well for Interlocken was the business park’s integration of open space, which fits with the lifestyles of advanced-technology employees. To seal the deal, Broomfield agreed to pay for $5 million in infrastructure improvements through property and use-tax reimbursements.

With or without growth restrictions, however, Interestingly, growth restrictions or no, Sun probably would never have considered Boulder as a potential site. Boulder had decided to become a compact city with strict annexation policies that weren’t compatible with the expansion needs of large manufacturing companies.

BROOMFIELD — The dot-com bubble was just beginning to inflate in 1996, with help from loads of Boulder County startups, the longest economic expansion in U.S. history was in full swing, and a very special Sun was about to rise on the local horizon.

But for growing companies in the city of Boulder, the year revolved around one strategic decision: whether to take a chance and try to grow within the city limits or move operations elsewhere in the county. The city council had passed a complex ordinance limiting commercial and industrial growth the previous year.

Several decided to go to Longmont…

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