Colorado Economic Development Commission shoots down incentive request

The Colorado Economic Development Commission approved $8.2 million in incentives for four companies looking at locating 735 jobs in the state on Thursday morning. But in a rare move, it rejected a request from another company, Lada Cube, on a split vote.

The Grand Junction company, which designs and manufactures demountable wall panels, received $250,000 from the state in November 2018 under the Advanced Industries Early Stage Capital and Retention Grant.

That grant requires the company to keep at least half of its employees in the state or maintain its headquarters here. But economic development officials learned after the fact that Lada Cube left Grand Junction in July 2019 without notifying the state, violating its agreement, said Michelle Hadwiger, deputy director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

“I want everyone to know my intentions were not malicious,” the company’s repentant CEO John Fay told commissioners. “My hope is that we can make things right. I would really love this opportunity. I need to reclaim the honor of my name and my business.”

His company, under the codename Project Ginger, applied for $329,152 in Job Growth Incentive Tax Credits last month to relocate 22 jobs back to Grand Junction. But the commission tabled the request until they could get legal advice, which LeeAnn Morrill from the state’s attorney general office provided during an executive session Thursday morning.

Fay said he wasn’t in a position to pay back the $186,285 his company still owed the state but would honor his obligation if required to do so. He also said the company was buying a building in Grand Junction and had 15 employees there.

Four commissioners voted to grant Project Ginger its new incentive request, on the condition that future awards be diverted to the state until the amount owed was covered. But the other four commissioners rejected the request.

EDC Chairwoman Carrie Schiff, who votes when there is a tie, stepped in to reject the deal, saying “We are going to turn this down.”

Given that incentive requests are highly vetted and screened by OEDIT staff, rejections are rare. And the EDC approved four other requests, as well as $390,000 to help the new Colorado Outdoor Festival, a replacement for the Outdoor Retailers trade show, launch next year.

Approved awards included $4.26 million in job growth credits to Project Thoroughbred, a provider of systems and software engineering services to the Department of Defense that is looking to create 459 jobs paying an average annual wage of $143,615 in El Paso County.

Another $2 million was awarded to Project Stronghold, which is looking to bring 130 cybersecurity and tech jobs to Broomfield. Those jobs would pay an average annual wage of $184,990.

Project Connect, which is affiliated with a global manufacturing and product development company, received $493,671 conditioned on bringing 67 jobs to Parker. Those jobs would pay an average annual wage of $79,143.

Project Innovate received approval for $1.1 million in job growth incentives as well as another $335,000 from the state’s Strategic Fund for the creation of 79 jobs. The company is looking at Greeley to manufacture 3D home printing systems, which aligns with a state goal of addressing its affordable housing shortfall.

Greeley is also stepping forward with even more incentives, including a construction grant not to exceed $2 million and a five-year loan of $750,000.

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