The fourth class of Colorado Companies to Watch shares a few common traits with the program's alumni: They're successful, they're growing and chances are you might be hearing about many of them for the first time.
That seems to be the stun For second-stage companies. Overdue for respect and recognition.
They're more than worthy. From 2008 through 2011, there companies generated $964 million in revenue and added 902 employees both in Colorado and out of state, reflecting a 103 percent increase in revenue and 102 percent increase in jobs for the four-year period, according to information compiled by the program. That translates into a 30 percent annual revenue growth and 27 percent annual growth in employees.
Those kinds of numbers have helped spur continued interest in the program - a collaboration between the foundation, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade and pubic and private economic development groups, associations and service providers throughout the state.
Colorado has become one of the "shining star examples" of how to conduct the program, says Penny Lewandowski, director of entrepreneurship development at the Edward Lowe Foundation, which also oversees Companies to Watch programs in several other stars.
"It has given this wonderful venue for commercial service providers, nonprofits, government all working collaboratively to find, recognize and celebrate second-stage companies." Lewandowski says. "That's one incredibly successful - that collaboration that is literally all over the state."
This year's 50 Colorado Companies to Watch winners are projecting continued growth in 2012, with a 47 percent revenue increase and 34 percent growth in employees (both in Colorado and out. of state) compared to 2011. IF those projections hold, these companies will have generated S1.3 billion ill revenue and added 1,509 employers over the last live years a 199 percent increase in revenue and 171 percent increase in jobs since 2008.
"Second-stage companies are an important component in Colorado's economy and 11 significant driver or job growth," said Ken Lund, executive director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. "These companies account for nearly 39 percent 01 the suite's economy In terms or sales responsible for 34 Percent: of all of the jobs created."
Recognizing and celebrating the impact of these companies represents a major step toward ensuring the state creates the proper environment (Or them to succeed. Second-stage companies are looking for something more than business planning and marketing assistance. And they tend to move fast. Lewandowski says.
"They need much more sophisticated help, services that. deliver pertinent information and guidance can play an incredible role," Lewandowski says. "They tend to learn From their peers. That's where they feel there are trusted sources. Activities that are peer-to-peer are very important them."
Executives in these companies often are facing leadership issues that come with leaping to the next stage, Lewandowski says. "They start to look at management in a very different way because the entrepreneur can no longer be the person that takes care of everything at this company. Their growth issues and their strategy issues are very different than at early stage."
Each year, the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade works with a judging panel comprised of leaders in public and private sectors spanning business, government, education and associations from across the state. Companies that make the cut must be privately held, based in Colorado, employ six to 99 full-time equivalent employees and have $750,000 to $50 million in sales or a similar range of working capital. And, perhaps most importantly, they must be grappling with growth, not struggling for survival.
In addition to reviewing bottom-line information, the judging panel also considers company culture and impact on the community. "In this year's class some Of the philanthropic efforts were significant. That's one of the things that really stands out," Lewandowski said.
A couple of examples: Applied Trust, a Boulder-based information technology consulting firm, donated 2 percent of its pretax profits to nonprofit groups; workers with Gateway Products, an animal products company in Holly, volunteered to help refurbish a local community theater.
That sense of community connectedness fits the overall theme of the program, which requires multiple public and private groups to come together for a common cause to promote a year-round program that stretches beyond the annual June awards gala.
"When it comes to Companies to Watch - whether it's organizers, service providers, the economic development folks, the press, the government - everybody is on the same page because they are already beginning to realize the incredible impact these companies have, particularly on jobs," Lewandowski says. "I think you're really seeing that in Colorado. It's easier to get people on board. It's becoming natural."
2012 COLORADO COMPANIES TO WATCH GALA DINNER AND AWARDS CEREMONY
PRESENTED BY CAPITALVALUE ADVISORS
Friday, June 22
5 p.m. registration and welcome reception 6:30 p.m. dinner and awards
Denver Marriott City Center; 1701 California St.
Individual tickets: $135 * Corporate table of 10: $1,100
www.colorado.com paniestowatch.org The Marriott is offering a special room rate (see link in event registration on website)
Snapshot: Denver-based 34 Degrees produces a crispbread cracker using all-natural ingredients in savory flavors (natural, sesame, rosemary, black pepper and whole grain) and sweet flavors (caramel, chocolate, cinnamon and graham). They are sold at Whole Foods Market, King Soopers. Costco, Walmart and specialty stores. Revenues grew 28 percent last year. The company projects 58 percent growth this year.
Leadership: President Craig Lieberman founded the company in 2003.
Work force: 34 Degrees employs six people and expects to expand to nine this year.
Pivotal moment: In 2007. 34 Degrees began manufacturing its crispbread crackers in Colorado rather than importing them from Australia. The decision involved buying an expensive oven but gave the company the ability to develop new products.
Technological edge: Three ovens manufactured in Germany produce 3 Degrees' unique. wafer-thin cracker.
Company culture: The six-member corporate team - has ultimate control over product development., marketing strategy and sales." Its charity work includes in-kind donations and volunteer hours at the hood Bank of the Rockies and cash donations to Cooking Matters of Colorado.
Snapshot: Agloves invented and commercialized lived winter touchscreen gloves. which allow people to use an iPhone, Android phone or tablet white wearing gloves. The precision and accuracy of the gloves have won raves from 11w. magazine and other industry sources. Revenues grew 200 percent in 2011; the company projects 67 percent growth this year.
Leadership: Agloves is led by the mother-daughter team of Jennifer Spencer (owner/president) and Jean Spencer. It was founded in 2010.
Work force: The company employed seven full-time and one part-time worker in 2011. It expects 10 add two full-time and one part-time worker this year.
Pivotal moment: When the company secured space in Verizon Wireless stores, its product became the first touchscreen glove to be sold as an accessory through a major U.S. carrier.
Technological edge: Agloves has filed a patent for technology on the bulk resistance or gloves as they relate to touchscreen devices. which respond to the natural bioelectricity oldie body Aim heat, contrary to popular belier).
Company culture: The company provides a flexible work schedule so employees can spend time with their families and enjoy the outdoors. Charitable efforts include donating Agloves to silent. auctions across the and Canada.
Air Comm Corp.
ACC Air Comm Corporation
Snapshot: Air Comm engineers, designs and manufactures heating and air conditioning systems and components tiff helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft
Leadership: Keith Swifter became CEO in 9010.
Work force: The Boulder-based company had 79 full-time-equivalent workers in 201l and expects to reach 87 this Year.
Pivotal moment: Air Comm developed a lightweight, high-performance cabin heater For the Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. This system has been extensively used for combat and medevac operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Subsequent achievement of AS-9100 certification has facilitated the company's selection as an OEM supplier lor major airplane and helicopier manufacturers., and the U.S. Army.
Technological edge: Air Comm's ThrgLok air conditioner fitting and mini-ejector heater technology has differentiated the company from its competition.
Company culture: Norm Steiner, executive vice president of engineering, started Air Comm in the basement of his home in 1987. He and his son, Keith, try to treat employees like an extended family.. Charitable activities include the Crayons-to-Calculators school supply campaign, the United Way, the American Red Cross, Blue Sky Bridge, and numerous local youth sports Waal sponsorships.
Altitude Digital Partners
Snapshot: Altitude Digital Partners provides advertising. public relations and related services.
Leadership: Jeremy Ostermiller has been (.11 .1) since 2009, when the Denver company was founded.
Work force: ADS employs 15 full-time workers and expects 10 expand to 23 this year. Revenues doubled in 2011 and are projected to grow 112 percent this year.
Pivotal moment: The company expanded its product line to include video advertising, which opened up the marketplace, added new lines of revenue and created a competitive advantage. ADP also created a user interlace that automates most data. entry.