To be successful in business requires discipline, focus and knowing where your strengths lie. In Colorado’s rugged and scenic Jefferson County, the local economic development corporation – Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) – focuses on attracting a range of industries specifically suited to the area, as well as serving its existing businesses. The EDC has been supporting sectors since its founding over sixty years ago.
Back in 1955, a group of local business leaders were trying to recruit Martin Marietta – a worldwide frontrunner in chemicals, electronics and aerospace – to Jefferson County. They knew that to entice a company of this size and stature to Jefferson County required a concerted effort. They formed an organization comprised of both private industries and governmental entities to create the most effective package possible for Martin Marietta. Their hard work and dedication paid off when the company established itself in the county. Martin Marietta merged with Lockheed Corporation in the mid-1990s to become Lockheed Martin, and the aerospace, security, advanced technology and defense giant is now the largest employer in Jefferson County.
Jefferson County EDC was the first economic development corporation in Colorado. It is currently headed by President and Chief Executive Officer Kristi Pollard who has held the position since last October. Pollard brings considerable economic development experience to her role, having worked previously for the Southeast Business Partnership, Chevron and the Colorado Mesa University Foundation. She earlier served as executive director for the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, where she worked on job creation, business relocation and expansion.
She says the timing was ideal. “My husband and I were considering a relocation, and this was just too good of an opportunity to pass up,” says Pollard.
Jefferson County EDC concentrates on six key industry clusters since it seeks to attract sectors which will have the most beneficial and longest-lasting economic impact, namely aerospace, aviation, beverage production, bioscience, energy and outdoor recreation.
Jefferson County serves as a base for many well-known businesses, including beer giant MillerCoors (formerly Coors), the third-largest employer with 2,255 staff. Members of the Coors family have lived and homesteaded in the Golden Colorado area for generations.
From a reasonable cost of doing business to an available workforce and room for expansion, there are many reasons why companies choose Jefferson County. The Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation provides professional services and serves as the point-of-contact for projects. It also offers site development assistance, will research taxes and utilities and works with local and state entities to customize incentive packages, facilitate introductions to potential partners and more. Confidential site selection allows companies to search real estate including existing facilities, land development and even sites which may not be listed.
The area is home to significant tracts of developable land in the communities of Arvada, Golden, Lakewood, Westminster and Wheat Ridge and already has twenty-three large business parks. “We have a lot of development opportunities,” says Leigh Seeger, vice president of economic development, who has been with the EDC for the past decade. “These include our major existing business parks, and we have lots of opportunities in the county for development, including major industrial and office parks that are about fifty acres or more.”
Over the years, long-term businesses have come to realize the many advantages that come with being in Jefferson County and are continuing to expand their operations. Lockheed Martin has grown to encompass about 5,400 acres, and like MillerCoors, companies chose Jefferson County for the ability to grow.
One of these companies is CoorsTek, Inc., a venture of Coors that began as a glass bottle-producing company for the beer firm before switching to ceramics manufacturing. CoorsTek is one of the area’s top employers with over a thousand staff members and is the worldwide leading manufacturer of technical ceramics used in a wide range of applications, including medical, oil and gas and automotive. It has its corporate headquarters in Golden, Colorado. “Coors has expanded above and beyond what they had originally started,” says Seeger of CoorsTek.
“We have our legacy industries: aerospace and aviation. They have continued to flourish, along with beverage production,” says Pollard. “Colorado has really become a hub for craft breweries, and we have a lot of that type of activity. Bioscience is a growing industry here and one that we recruit heavily. And energy is another.”
Jefferson County is home to the headquarters of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). At its massive, 327-acre campus set against the mountainous backdrop of Golden, Colorado, NREL has numerous research labs, with its principal campus boasting on-site renewable energy installations, and LEED-platinum certified buildings. As a result of NREL’s long-time presence, complementary companies have established themselves in the area, and several entrepreneurs have been able to spin-off from their time at NREL with various product lines.
Similarly, companies come to the Jefferson County area because of the established presence of giants like Lockheed Martin. These include businesses that make parts for the industry, such as Primus Aerospace – a provider of high-precision, complex assemblies for the aerospace and defense industries. There is also Switzerland-based Pilatus Aircraft Ltd. that designs, manufactures and sells high-end aircraft like the PC-24, the first business jet specifically designed to use on short, unprepared runways.
The county prides itself on its many outdoor recreation activities, which has resulted in many outdoor recreation manufacturers establishing themselves in the area. As Jefferson County is located on the western edge of the urbanized Denver Metro area, it is popular with outdoor recreation enthusiasts for its many trails, lakes, mountains and other outdoor amenities.
Colorado has had an open space program since 1972, and a modest 0.5 percent sales tax has resulted in the program acquiring and protecting 43,675 acres with 236 miles of trail, which welcome in excess of 2.4 million visitors every year. As a result, the area is home to outdoor manufacturers like Icelantic Skis, an outdoor equipment store in Golden, Colorado, that take advantage of the area for researching and testing products.
With its rugged outdoors and room for expansion, Jefferson County is extremely popular with businesses and new residents. This is the fourth-largest country in Colorado and is home to twelve incorporated communities, with a total population of about 560,000 and growing.
The area provides residents with a balance of reasonably-priced accommodation, vibrant culture, employment opportunities and outdoor living second to none. The median income approaches $57,000, and median home prices are $419,445. Students have numerous opportunities for advancement, with tremendous quality of life opportunities, a world-class school system and a number of charter and private schools.
For businesses, the area is close to transportation hubs including the Denver International Airport. “All of these major companies have access to their different satellite offices and subsidiaries, and it is really easy for them to get to and from them,” says Pollard.
Jefferson County has a low tax structure, a range of incentives to businesses and room for expansion, making the area a superior place to live, work and play.
“We offer that quintessential Colorado experience,” comments Pollard. “We have a low cost of doing business. We have affordable housing. We have great schools, and we have great opportunities to be able to recreate. So we believe that Jefferson County is really one of those locations that should be on the top of business’s lists when looking for a relocation or expansion.”