Economy & Economic Development  May 3, 2024

Wood: Economy will bounce back from closures

It’s been a tough few weeks and months for the region’s economy, with some large companies announcing closures or layoffs.

There’s Carestream Health Inc., one of the last vestiges for Eastman Kodak Co., closing its Windsor plant.

Then there’s Intel Corp., opting to sell its 203,391-square-foot facility on East Harmony Road in Fort Collins. Its future plans in Fort Collins remain unclear, but any remaining operations are likely to be far reduced in size.

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And then there’s Pfizer, shutting down the research-and-development facility that it purchased for more than $11 billion from Array Biopharma Inc. in 2019, cutting 300 jobs from its peak.

There have been other cuts, of course, with the tech sector taking a beating in Boulder (Twitter, Splunk, NetApp Solidfire and others). Wheels Up Experience Inc. is closing its operation at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport.

Lightning eMotors Inc. imploded in Loveland, selling all of its assets. Meati Foods in Boulder has had several rounds of layoffs. Billgo, based in Fort Collins, announced a layoff of 80 employees in January.

Enough already. I’m beginning to depress myself.

But is it all doom and gloom?

Hardly. Many companies are adding workers, from Vestas Wind Systems in Windsor to Amprius Technologies Inc. in Brighton.

Amazon will soon hire for its massive new distribution center in Loveland. Tesla is opening an artificial-intelligence operation in Fort Collins. Sierra Space has been expanding in Louisville. Agilent Technologies Inc. has begun a $725 million expansion in Frederick. AGC Biologics continues to expand in Boulder and Longmont.

So, while layoffs and closures are painful, require retooling or redevelopment of facilities, and hurt workers and their families, the economy of the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado should be able to weather such negative news.

The main reason is the incredible diversity of industries that dominate the region. Agribusiness and energy — both traditional and renewable — dominate in Weld County. But aerospace, life sciences, technology, clean tech, natural and organic, the outdoor industry, tourism, health care and a myriad of other sectors mean that the economy overall should continue to thrive.

Unemployment remains extremely low in the region, and workers laid off by Pfizer, Carestream or other companies should find ready options at other employers.

A larger question, perhaps, is what will become of vacated space, whether it be Carestream’s Windsor campus, Intel’s Fort Collins building, Pfizer’s Boulder location or other sites.

Large facilities that are vacated can either become “white elephants,” languishing perhaps for years, or could become attractive sites for new or expanding companies. Others might be redeveloped entirely.

In the coming months, we’re likely to see additional layoffs, as high interest rates continue to take a toll. But we’ll also likely see other company expansions. Perhaps some of them will fill these empty spaces.

Christopher Wood can be reached at 303-630-1942 or at [email protected].

Christopher Wood
Christopher Wood is editor and publisher of BizWest, a regional business journal covering Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer and Weld counties. Wood co-founded the Northern Colorado Business Report in 1995 and served as publisher of the Boulder County Business Report until the two publications were merged to form BizWest in 2014. From 1990 to 1995, Wood served as reporter and managing editor of the Denver Business Journal. He is a Marine Corps veteran and a graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder. He has won numerous awards from the Colorado Press Association, Society of Professional Journalists and the Alliance of Area Business Publishers.
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