January 13, 2017

Newsmakers: Companies to watch in 2017

AEROSPACE

Ball Aerospace

Boulder-based Ball has multiple projects planned for 2017, including the launch of the Joint Polar Satellite System 1 with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Institute and the National Weather Service.

The JPSS is a “new-generation polar-orbiting operational environmental satellite system,” the next generation of weather satellite. It takes worldwide measurements of things such as sea and land surface temperatures, snow and ice cover, ozone, clouds and rainfall. It can help forecast severe weather and analyze droughts, forest fires and air quality.

Ball is also working with NASA on the Green Propellant Infusion Mission, which according to NASA “seeks to improve overall propellant efficiency while reducing the handling concerns associated with the highly toxic fuel, hydrazine.”

The project will test a new, lower-toxicity fuel, a Hydroxyl Ammonium Nitrate fuel/oxidizer blend called AF-M315E, aboard a small Ball satellite.

EnerSys Advanced Systems-ABSL Space Products

NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which it claims is “built to take humans farther than they’ve ever gone before,” will launch powered partly by lithium-ion batteries built by the Longmont-based company EnerSys Advanced Systems-ABSL Space Products.

The Orion will carry four astronauts deep into space, first in the 2020s to an asteroid orbiting the moon for the Asteroid Redirect Mission. In the 2030s, it will take people to Mars.

At a September event called “The Road To Mars Goes Through Longmont,” EnerSys-ABSL’s senior manager Joe Troutman said “Our lithium-ion batteries will power the Orion spacecraft not just to Mars, but also the moon, asteroids and deep-space planets to collect data, map the solar system and take soil samples on planets.”

According to NASA, testing for the system is “happening now.”

Pilatus Business Aircraft

Pilatus will be ramping up construction on the 118,000-square-foot facility at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport that it broke ground on in July. The facility will open in 2018 and will add 60 jobs in Broomfield by 2020, bringing its total employees to 140.

The facility will be on the Jefferson County side of the airport. The airport will lease the land to Pilatus, and Pilatus will own the building. 

When complete, the facility will give Pilatus space to house the PC-24 twin-engine private jet, the new model from its Swiss-based parent company, Pilatus Aircraft. The Broomfield subsidiary is already responsible for sales, marketing and body and interior work for the PC-12 single-engine turbo-prop models.

AGRIBUSINESS

Colorado Premium Foods

In 2017, Colorado Premium Foods will be expanding its meat-processing and packing plant in Greeley in ways that will improve its efficiency and its employees’ quality of life.

The company submitted designs to Greeley’s planning department for a 19,000-square-foot addition to its plant. The expansion would include a 3,400-square-foot employee cafeteria, 2,300 square feet of office space, six shipping and receiving docks and additional cold storage.

The cold storage could be especially important, as in peak months, Colorado Premium has had to store as much as 300,000 pounds of product — up to one third of its typical on-site product — in refrigerated trailers.

This came on the heels of Colorado Premium‘s early-2016 acquisition of National Deli, formerly the non-kosher division of Hebrew National.

JBS

JBS, the meatpacking company that employs more than 4,700 workers in Colorado, announced in December that it’s making its initial public offering on the stock market, a seismic shift for the previously private and family-run company.

JBS SA, the Brazilian parent company of JBS, created a new, Netherlands-based company for all of its foreign holdings — called JBS Foods International — and shares of that new company will go on sale on the New York Stock Exchange in the first half of this year. JBS filed for a $500 million placeholder for its IPO, making it one of the largest IPOs of the new year.

Another storyline to watch with JBS in 2017, though not directly tied to Colorado, is the lawsuit the U.S. Dept. of Labor recently filed against it for hiring discrimination at a plant in Cactus, Texas, at least the third such lawsuit it has faced since 2014.

Leprino

Leprino should be starting on the third and final phase of its plant construction in Greeley soon. It came to Greeley in 2011, when it demolished the Western Sugar Factory and began construction on its former site.

When complete, the cheese-making plant will be 880,000 square feet. The final expansion will consist of four silos — two for raw milk and two for skim milk — more warehouse space, two truck bays and break rooms and locker rooms for employees.

Leprino also expanded into the direct-to-customer whey protein market in 2016, launching a line called Ascent Protein. The company developed a process that filters the whey directly from the milk it uses for its cheese, and its national marketing campaign just took off.

ENERGY

Bonanza Creek Energy

Bonanza Creek will spend the first part of the year trying to extricate itself from the Chapter 11 bankruptcy for which it filed at the end of 2016. The oil and gas company focused on the Wattenberg field, much of which is in Weld County, before sagging energy prices forced it to file for bankruptcy.

Bonanza Creek has more than $850 million in debt that it must resolve before it comes out of bankruptcy. It hopes to do so by the end of the first quarter of 2017. The company’s creditors will receive 95.5 percent of the equity in the company after it restructures.

Bonanza Creek’s shares fell 56 percent to just 85 cents a share with the announcement, but have since picked back up; major Bonanza investor Fir Creek Inc. bought an additional 3.6 million shares of Bonanza at $1.34 per share, and Bonanza’s stock closed at $2.20 a share by the start of the second week of January.

Prieto Battery

Prieto had a big 2016. The battery manufacturer — the commercial offshoot of classroom and laboratory innovations by Colorado State University professor Amy Prieto — pulled in nearly $10 million in a new round of funding.

The highlight investment was by Stanley Ventures, the investing arm of the Stanley Black & Decker tool company. Prieto’s batteries are more eco-friendly and efficient than normal batteries; normally, ions travel between the anode and the cathode to produce power. Prieto combined the anode and cathode to create a three-dimensional surface on which ions can travel in all directions.

This allows the battery to charge faster and store more power. On top of that, Prieto was granted its sixth U.S. patent, for an electrode coating, early in the year.

Real Goods Solar

If any company needs a rebound in 2017, it’s Real Goods. The Louisville-based solar-panel company suffered through its third straight major stock-price decline in 2016. Its shares dropped 84 percent in 2014, 93.5 percent in 2015 and 98.1 percent last year.

Thus far, news hasn’t been much better. Its Real Goods’ stock has continued to decline; it hasn’t been above a dollar a share since November, and its high for December was only 35 cents a share.

HEALTH CARE

Banner Health

In the face of increasing competition from the ever-expanding UCHealth, Banner is expected to break ground this month on a $5.7 million expansion to its health center in south Fort Collins.

The Banner Health Center is a 7,800 square-foot outpatient clinic attached to the Banner Fort Collins Medical Center, the hospital at Lady Moon Drive and Harmony Road.

The expansion will be a 19,000 square-foot, single-story facility containing two family medicine offices, one pediatrician, one OB/GYN and two rotating doctors. Nine more offices will be shells and completed as necessary.

“There is a strong demand for primary care at this facility, and this expansion will provide us the space necessary to meet that need,” said Gina Valenti, executive director of primary care for Banner Medical Group.

Banner owns 28 acres at the site at Lady Moon and Harmony, and over the next 40 years is pre-approved for up to 144 more beds.

Centura Health

Centura is feeling the heat from UCHealth’s expansion, as UCHealth has expanded into Broomfield, just down the road from Centura’s Avista hospital, and is building a new hospital in Longmont, in competition with Centura’s Longmont United Hospital.

The mid-November revelation that individual insurance plans for Longmont residents aren’t covered at Longmont United didn’t help matters. Neither Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield nor Kaiser Permanente offers individual coverage of Longmont United, forcing self-insured Longmont residents to go to Boulder or Loveland unless they’re suffering a medical emergency.

UCHealth’s Longmont facility will open in summer 2017, and UCHealth hospitals are covered under Anthem, giving some those Longmont residents an immediate option that they don’t have right now.

That, combined with UCHealth’s new Broomfield hospital, will give Centura competition that it didn’t have in 2016.

UCHealth

Last year, we said that UCHealth was “one of the most aggressive health-care systems in the state in 2015, and that pattern doesn’t look to let up in 2016.”

Well, it didn’t. And it won’t in 2017, either. UCHealth will open a hospital in Longmont later this spring, a 53-bed, 212,320 square-foot facility at the northwest corner of County Line Road and Colorado Highway 119. The $189 million hospital will employ 250 to 300 people.

UCHealth will also start construction on a 53-bed, 153,000 square-foot hospital in Greeley in 2017. The $185 million facility will be built on 22 acres at U.S. 34 and 71st Avenue, and is slated to open in late 2018.

That hospital will employ another 300 people in addition to 500 construction jobs.

LIFE SCIENCES

Clovis Oncology

The Boulder-based cancer drug company closed the old year, and opened the new one, with a bang. In December, it received early approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for Rubraca (rucaparib), a new ovarian cancer drug designed for women whose chemotherapy hasn’t worked well enough.

The FDA wasn’t expected to make a decision on Rubraca until February, but the drug was put through an accelerated approval program.

On the heels of that, Clovis made a stock offering that closed in early January and exceeded the company’s expectations. It originally offered five million shares at $175 million, then upsized that to $205 million.

When the offering closed, though, Clovis had raised $221.1 million in net proceeds. It sold the five million public shares at $41 per share, and closed at $50.86 per share, a 10 percent increase. 

Miragen

All signs point to the Boulder-based pharmaceutical going full speed ahead with its merger with Signal Genetics, of Carlsbad, Calif. The boards of both companies have approved the merger, which was announced in November.

Signal will sell the intellectual property assets of its multiple myeloma test and buy Miragen with an all-stock purchase — the end result being Miragen’s shareholders assuming 96 percent of Signal’s stock.

The resulting company will still be called Miragen, and it’ll continue its development of therapies for diseases such as cancer, fibrosis and heart disease with a $40 million cash infusion.

St. Renatus

St. Renatus LCC, of Fort Collins, is giving people hope of something they’ve never had before — a needle-free dental anesthetic. Kovanaze, a nasal spray, was approved by the FDA last year.

It numbs the upper teeth in adults and children. Dr. Mark Kollar, St. Renatus’ founder, debuted Kovanaze in late 2016 to dentists at conventions in Denver and New York City.

St. Renatus developed Kovanaze with the help of a $5 million investment after it graduated from the Innosphere, Fort Collins’ science and technology startup incubator.

With a distribution network of nearly 3,000 sales reps, how widely Kovanaze is adopted, and its success rate, will be stories to watch in 2017.

NATURAL AND ORGANIC

1908 Brands

1908 was one of the most aggressive companies of 2016, and whether it continues to expand will be a story to watch in 2017. The Boulder-based natural-foods company made four acquisitions in 2016 alone.

1908 bought Wholly Bites, in Longmont, and renamed it Thrive Tribe to roll out paleo products. It acquired Appleooz, an apple chip company in Boulder, and Schultz’s Gourmet, a Centennial-based sauce company.

Finally, 1908 purchased Yummari, a hemp and chia seed energy bar company in Louisville. 1908 finished its spending spree by November.

The company also partnered with Pasta Jay’s, the popular Italian restaurant, to sell its sauces and salad dressings in grocery stores, and it added five employees during the year.

Noosa Yoghurt

There are a couple things to look out for with Noosa in 2017 — the success of the three new flavors it released at the end of 2016 and its lawsuit against a competitor.

Noosa filed a lawsuit against Schreiber Foods Inc., of Green Bay, Wis., for allegedly copying the design of its containers. It’s asking a court to block Schreiber from selling its product in those containers and award it Schreiber’s profits.

Bellvue-based Noosa earned more than $150 million in profits last year, and its three new flavors — orange and ginger, strawberry and hibiscus, and pear and cardamom — are poised to be big sellers.

Sunrise Strategic Partners

In whom will Sunrise invest next? That’s the question after the Boulder-based investment firm made five investments in 2016 and opened its first physical office.

Sunrise was started by Boulder Brands co-founder Steve Hughes, with the goal of investing between $10 million and $25 million each in small, $10-million-to-$20-million-a-year natural-products companies.

Sunrise was run virtually from February, when it was founded, until it opened a 3,000-square-foot office on Pearl Street in downtown Boulder. It timed that with the acquisition of a minority stake in Maple Hill Creamery, a company in New York that produces certified organic dairy products from 100 percent grass-fed cattle.

Sunrise also invested in PACT Apparel, Perky Jerky, Teton Waters Ranch and Kodiak Cakes.

OUTDOOR INDUSTRY

Active Interest Media

Will Active Interest Media continue to expand in 2017? Almost surely, yes. The Boulder-based producer of consumer and trade events, websites, magazines, films and TV shows made several moves last year.

It produced a TV show, “Anglers Journal Television,” with its subsidiary Warren Miller Films in conjunction with launching a magazine of the same name. It debuted on the Discovery Channel’s Destination America Network.

Active Interest also acquired the social media platform Yonder, an app designed for sharing outdoor adventures, and the San-Diego-based IDEA Health and Fitness Association.

The Allen Co.

The Broomfield-based Allen Co. is expecting big things in 2017. It’s building a 313,290-square-foot campus in the Colorado Technology Center in Louisville. The two-building site will occupy a 20-acre site that the company closed on last year.

The sporting-goods manufacturer considered moving to Louisville in 2011, when the city offered it an incentive to relocate. That incentive expired, but the company applied for and received a reinstatement of its planned development unit.

The Allen Co. seems to be on the move, and construction on its new complex will likely finish by the end of this year.

Otter Products

Otter Products underwent some midyear turmoil, when its CEO resigned and was replaced by a team that includes the company’s founder. It also laid off an unspecified amount of workers from its Fort Collins headquarters.

That being said, Otter’s products have continued to be successful, and in 2017 it’s expanding its modular Universe case system to more platforms, such as the iPad. It’s also trying to break into the markets for other smartphone and tablet accessories.

Otter launched a line of headphones, car and wall phone chargers, micro USB cables, Bluetooth adaptors and laptop sleeves at the end of 2016. The success of these items will be a major story to watch for the company this year.

TECHNOLOGY

Comcast

Comcast is more than just a telecommunications provider in the region. It’s also becoming a major employer.

On the telecommunications front, Comcast is rolling out 1-gigabit-per-second Internet service in Colorado in 2017. Colorado Springs will get the first installation, and the higher-speed Internet will spread to the rest of Comcast’s Colorado service area throughout the rest of the year.

On the employment front, Comcast soon will open a new 600-worker Fort Collins customer-service center. Comcast is leasing 80,000 square feet of vacant space at tech giant Hewlett-Packard’s campus, 3420 E. Harmony Road, and hopes to have most of the 600-plus positions filled when the call center opens.

Solid Power

Solid Power, a spinoff of the University of Colorado Boulder, thinks it’s developed the future of batteries. In 2017, it’s continuing down the path to commercializing its technology.

Solid Power has developed what it calls solid-state battery technology, which it thinks will replace the current lithium-ion batteries on the market. That’s a huge market — $24 million — but Solid Power is capitalizing on what the auto industry calls the “tipping point,” when consumers will buy more electric cars than combustion engines.

That will come in about 10 years, experts think, and that’s when Solid Power’s batteries will be ready to power the next generation of cars. The company is preparing for a Series A equity investment run; it’s looking for at least $3 million or as high as $15 million.

VictorOps

What VictorOps does with its newfound cash infusion will be something to watch in 2017. The Boulder-based software company closed its Series B funding in December, bringing in $15 million in investments.

VictorOps’ software allows information-technology and DevOps professionals to solve their IT problems in real time, 24/7. Todd Vernon, VictorOps’ CEO, said that he wants to use the funding to grow, as the product is where it needs to be.

VictorOps saw 175 percent growth in monthly revenue over the last year, and its customer base jumped by 64 percent. Look for the company to add between 15 and 25 people to the 45 it already employs at its headquarters on the 1400 block of Pearl Street.

AEROSPACE

Ball Aerospace

Boulder-based Ball has multiple projects planned for 2017, including the launch of the Joint Polar Satellite System 1 with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Institute and the National Weather Service.

The JPSS is a “new-generation polar-orbiting operational environmental satellite system,” the next generation of weather satellite. It takes worldwide measurements of things such as sea and land surface temperatures, snow and ice cover, ozone, clouds and rainfall. It can help forecast severe weather and analyze droughts, forest fires and air quality.

Ball is also working with NASA on the Green Propellant…

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