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Boulder County Business Report’s Top Ten Stories for 2011


2011 was certainly an eventful year for business in the Boulder Valley. KUNC’s Brian Larson spoke to Boulder County Business Report publisher Chris Wood about some of the biggest business-news stories of the past year.

Larson: The Boulder County Business Report has just completed a top ten ranking of those stories. But before we get to the list – tell me you came up with the list?

Wood:It was accomplished with every measure of subjectivity, Brian. Essentially, our editorial staff got together, reviewed every major story that we’ve written about over the last 12 months, and voted. So it was certainly not scientific, but it was a lot of fun.

Larson: Seems simple enough. Was there any trend or overriding theme that you detected when you and your staff revisited these stories?

Wood:There were a few themes. If you look at our list, you will see a couple of large real estate related deals, banking news, company sales and bioscience. Of course, it wouldn’t be Boulder if we didn’t toss in some renewable energy stories and a healthy dose of controversy.

Larson: Alright. Let’s dive into the top 10 business stories for 2011 in the Boulder Valley.

Wood:Both No. 10 and No. 9 involve Longmont companies. At No. 10 is the announcement by Butterball that it would close its Longmont plant. This will mean the loss of 350 jobs, and the city right now is deciding what might be the best use for that plant, which is in a prime spot downtown. Also related to Longmont is our No. 9 story, the sale of Lehman Communications to Prairie Mountain Publishing. Lehman, of course, owned both the Longmont Times-Call and the Loveland Reporter-Herald, among other publications. They’re now part of a group that includes the Boulder Daily Camera and the Denver Post.

Larson: And at No. 8 is the bioscience story that you mentioned earlier, and you’ll be going right back to Longmont with No. 7.

Wood:That’s right. The bioscience story at No. 8 is the sale of Roche Colorado to Corden Pharma. This deal took a company with a long history in Boulder under new ownership. At No. 7, it’s back to Longmont, with a loan default by the owners of Twin Peaks Mall. More recently, NewMark Merrill, which has an office in Fort Collins, announced that it would purchase the mall, with an eye toward redevelopment.

Larson: Nos. 6 and 5 deal with renewable-energy.

Wood:That’s right, at least if you consider observation of the sun to be related to renewal energy. But Boulder was chosen as the new headquarters for the National Solar Observatory. The city won out over numerous other locations, including the other finalist of Huntsville, Alabama. So it helped to further solidify Boulder’s position as a home to research laboratories. At No. 5, we have a very big deal, which is the shelving of plans for the ConocoPhillips project. ConocoPhillips’ plans for a renewable-energy research facility, generating 7,000 jobs, are on hold indefinitely.

Larson: We’re moving very fast through this list. Let’s tackle the next three before coming back for the top story of the year.

Wood: Well, we have two very recent stories, including, at No. 4, Goff Capital’s purchase of 19 office and industrial buildings in Flatiron Park in Boulder, at No. 3, Clovis Oncology’s $130 million initial public offering, and the shutdown of Broomfield-based Firstier Bank by the FDIC was our No. 2 story.

Larson: And, now, I feel like we should have a drum roll here, but the No. 1 business-news story for 2011 is:

Wood:Could it be anything other than the battle over municipalization of Boulder’s electrical service? This was a pitched battle between Xcel Energy and the city, and with voters giving their OK for the city to create its own utility, the two sides are likely to spend years in legal battles and wrangling over the future of electricity service in the city.

Larson: Chris thank you.

The following list of top business news stories of 2011 in Boulder and Broomfield counties was compiled and ranked by the Boulder County Business Report’s editorial staff.

  1. Boulder voters OK pursuit of municipalization
  2. FDIC shuts down FirsTier Bank in Broomfield
  3. Clovis Oncology raises $130 million in IPO
  4. Goff Capital purchases 19 buildings in Flatiron
  5. Oil giant ConocoPhillips shelves campus plans
  6. Boulder chosen as headquarters for observatory
  7. Twin Peaks Mall owner defaults on bank loan
  8. Investor group purchases Roche Colorado Corp.
  9. Lehman sells Times-Call to Prairie Mountain
  10. Butterball closes processing plant in Longmont
  11. Sierra Nevada works on NASA’s Dream Chaser
  12. Covidien builds 63,000-square-foot R&D center
  13. Group led by Best Buy founder buys in Louisville
  14. Team effort helps OnCore stay put in Longmont
  15. University of Colorado joins PAC-12 Conference
  16. Chesapeake Energy buys stake in Sundrop Fuels
  17. UQM ramps up manufacturing of electric motors
  18. Elevations, St. Vrain credit unions seal merger
  19. Federated Media acquires Lijit Networks Inc.
  20. Startup Colorado wants to tap Boulder’s mojo
Email: brian.larson@kunc.org
Boulder County Business Report publisher Chris Wood helped create the Northern Colorado Business Report in 1995. He previously served as managing editor of the Denver Business Journal. Chris discusses regional business and economic issues in Boulder County every other Thursday at 5:35 and 7:35 during Morning Edition.
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