Government-sponsored green programs keep sprouting up

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The Obama administration has been responding to questions about the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the $787 billion stimulus program since the president signed the bill at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science back in early 2009.

But the wheels of the government grind slowly, and perhaps the administration’s response should have been: just wait.

Small businesses, especially those in Colorado Springs’ emerging renewable-energy field, should be on a constant look-out for new government lending programs. It seems that every week now a new one emerges with designs to pry-open the bank vaults for businesses in need of funding.

This week Gov. Bill Ritter, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority collectively announced two new programs aimed at financing energy-efficiency improvements and renewable-energy business in Colorado.

The first program, the Green Colorado Credit Reserve, builds on an existing program, the (colorless) Colorado Credit Reserve, and will allow businesses to finance up to $100,000 in energy efficiency retrofits through lender incentives.

Twelve of the 171 Colorado businesses that participated in the original CCR program were located in Colorado Springs, and the governor’s office expects a similar output from the Green CCR. The $1 million appropriated to the program is expected to generate $7 million in loans to 160 companies statewide.

A second program, the Governor’s Energy Office Revolving Loan Program, will administer $13 million in loans to Colorado companies for renewable-energy projects, large-scale retrofits, and energy-efficient product manufacturing.

“Colorado is serving as an engine for the clean-energy economy and a laboratory of innovation,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a prepared statement. “Recovery Act funding is helping to put in place innovative energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that are creating jobs throughout the state while reducing carbon pollution and helping to shift how America uses energy.”

For one Colorado Springs company the timing couldn’t be better. Rocky Mountain Solar & Wind was on the verge of applying for an SBA loan when these programs were announced. The company may be able to take advantage of both.

“We’re going to apply for the GEO loan program,” said company spokesman Joe Rogers. “We’ve wanted to expand for some time, but access to reasonable credit has been difficult.”

Rogers also said that his company will educate its sales force about the Green CCR program. If its customers can secure a loan for energy-efficiency upgrades, he said Rocky Mountain Solar & Wind would be happy to perform the installation.

Colorado Springs green energy companies hoping to secure a chunk of the funds should act quickly. Almost $3.3 million of the GEO’s Revolving Loan Program has already been awarded to Fort Lupton-based wind turbine manufacturer Bach Composite Colorado Inc.

Swimming pools, vodka and stock options

In this crippled jobs market, an offer of employment may seem the most charitable benefit a company could offer. So when a company makes a concerted effort to show that it appreciates its employees, it can lift the spirits of its workers above the dogged daily grind.

Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to work for Google, whose employees are offered meditation classes, wine tasting and salsa dancing; Nike, where employees are encouraged to break from the office for a dip in the company pool; or even Tyco, where employees could sip from a vodka-tinkling ice sculpture of Michelangelo’s David before getting hauled off to jail.

But at least one area company has decided to reward its employees with monetary incentives. Kansas City-based construction company JE Dunn, which has offices in Colorado Springs and Denver, recently offered its employees an equity stake in the company.

JE Dunn has 125 employees in the Rocky Mountain region, 35 of whom live in the Springs. It’s the 12th largest general building contractor in the U.S. with more than $2 billion in revenues.

The company has been in existence since 1924, and before enacting its new ownership plan had been wholly controlled by the Dunn family. Its move will allow employees to purchase stock options that the company will match at a 50-percent clip.

“We wanted to align the expectations of employees with the expectations of current shareholders,” said Senior VP Mark Reilly. “We think this will strengthen the performance of our company and ensure success for decades to come.”

The company said it expects the move will also help it to retain and attract key talent, and will direct employees to focus on service, value and quality.

With that kind of incentive, don’t be surprised if the employees decide to put their minds to developing the next generation of iPod.

Jonathan Easley can be reached at jonathan.easley@csbj.com or 719-329-5208. Find him on Facebook or Twitter.