In the first quarter of this year six companies courted by the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp. either moved to Colorado Springs or expanded their presence in the city.
Four companies chose to move to Colorado Springs over competing markets such as Boise, Idaho; Salt Lake City; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Denver.
Those companies are moving their headquarters here and plan to hire a total of about 140 people through next year.
Two companies, Cosmic Advanced Engineering Solutions and the Space Foundation, chose to stay and expand in Colorado Springs.
Executives said it was a highly educated work force, real estate values, low business taxes and quality of life.
“We find it very difficult to recruit people to San Diego to work because of high cost of living,” said Scott Evans, CEO of Outreach Inc., a printing and publishing company with 130 employees that serves ministries and churches worldwide.
Evans and his wife visited the city several times, later bringing in about a dozen key executives and their spouses to be part of the decision-making process.
The cost of living is 35 percent lower in Colorado Springs than in San Diego — which was the deciding factor for Evans. But he also liked the city’s educated workforce and low taxes.
“In the short time that we have posted our positions in Colorado Springs, we have found a good availability of highly qualified candidates,” he said.
He’s looking for sales, customer service, graphic and web designers, press operators and a variety of other positions — warehouse, marketing and accounting.
“We love Colorado and know our employees will like it there. There’s lots of sunshine, which is important for those of us who live in Southern California,” Evans said.
He expects about 40 or 50 of the employees will move with the company in June 2012, and he’ll hire about 60 to 70 employees in Colorado Springs. Already, he’s hired a local vice president of finance. Other positions will open early next year.
He said the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp. supplied valuable information about the city’s infrastructure, enterprise zones and utilities.
“When our executive team came out last September, the (EDC) did a good job of introducing us to the city, the mayor and other business people and owners of other companies that had moved from California,” Evans said.
“Having somebody who’s a representative of Colorado Springs and understands the benefits and has connections was really helpful. And the report they provided to us early on was extremely helpful,” Evans said.
The EDC performs a lot of behind-the-scenes work to get companies to town.
“There’s a lot of due diligence work that goes into relocating a company with a 130 employees,” said David White, EDC executive vice president of marketing.
He characterized it as a process of elimination.
“They will pare it down to three or four cities that are very similar. That’s where the soft issues come in,” White said. “They visit to get a feel for the community, shopping, schools, how well they’ll be accepted in the community.”
And that’s where the EDC really goes to work. The staff visits the company in their hometown, and then invites them to the city. Getting them here is the hard part, White said.
“Once we get them to come visit, we have a closure rate of about 70 percent. The community really sells itself,” he said. “The key is getting them here on a prospect visit.”
Olson manufactures supplies for the solar industry. Because of the increase in alternative energy market, the company has been growing rapidly.
The company chose the Springs over other cities because of the work force, and the city’s quality of life. The company sells to companies located in the western United States.
And it didn’t take long. Their initial meeting was in September and they decided to make the move in March.
Located on Aerotech Drive, the company has begun hiring and plans to add 12 jobs in the new facility. They are already considering expanding their presence here.
Driven out of Southern California because of the poor business climate, Howell Precision Machine & Engineering Inc. has moved into 740 Geiger Court.
The small-machine manufacturing company first had contact with the EDC in January 2010. One year later, the owners decided to make the move to Colorado. They’ve hired seven people for manufacturing and clean technology in the aerospace industry.
Formerly headquartered in Minnesota, Xiotech Corp. has had its research and development division in the Springs for some time.
“We wanted to have the entire operation together in one entity, while also finding a better business climate and better quality of life for our employees,” said Brian Reagan , chief marketing officer, for Xiotech.
Xiotech has leased a building near Interquest Parkway. The company has 60 employees, locally, and plans to hire 30 more. It is already in the process of hiring a finance team, recently adding a local chief financial officer.
After shifting manufacturing to Colorado Springs, it has added to its local marketing team, in addition to hiring for general administrative functions. It also will boost its engineering and development teams. This year, the company will hire a “bare minimum” of 20 employees.
That number may soon skyrocket, however, as the company is on target to expand.
“2012 is a pivotal year for us,” Reagan said. “We expect to go public next year.”
“Logistically, it’s easy to get to the Springs from around the country,” he said. “One of the attractive reasons for us, economically, was the local talent.”
Furthermore, the EDC was “very helpful in terms of laying out the options and potential benefits and incentives of relocating a headquarters, and getting an appreciation of the broader capabilities and advantages we have in the Springs,” Reagan said.
“We are in the relatively early stages of that (EDC) relationship, and looking forward to continuing to build on that relationship,” he said.
Cosmic Advanced Engineering Solutions
The aerospace software and systems company was already headquartered here. Recently, however, the EDC helped the company with its expansion. They’ve occupied a new building on Space Center Drive, and executives plan to add another 20 jobs over the next five years.
The Space Foundation needed room to grow and had been looking outside the state to expand.
Gary Markle, VP of local industry with the EDC, helped the foundation acquire a larger building on Garden of the Gods Road, where it will begin moving next month.
“In a competitive situation, when the company may be looking to other regions, then we get involved,” the EDC’s White said. “That was certainly the case with the Space Foundation.”
The Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp. keeps a busy schedule visiting companies and tracking their growth.
Between 2009 and 2010:
85 % of companies reported that they were stable.
1 % reported they were downsizing.
4 % were start-ups.
9 % were growing.
Between 2010 and 2011:
86 % of companies reported they were stable.
1 % were downsizing.
1 % were in start-up mode.
12 % were growing.
Source: Local Industry Team, Economic Development Corp.