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DigitalGlobe Shifts Sights For New Global HQ To Westminster


A Longmont-based satellite imagery company recently announced it has chosen Westminster for its new global headquarters. The move is an about-face for DigitalGlobe, which had previously selected Broomfield after a months-long search.

What makes the move so interesting is that DigitalGlobe is rejecting much larger financial incentive packages to make the move to Westminster, says Boulder County Business Report publisher Chris Wood.

"What we’ve learned is that DigitalGlobe is receiving about $6.2 million in incentives from Westminster, but was offered $7.2 million in incentives by Broomfield," Wood says. “A more staggering number is what Longmont offered: more than $18 million in incentives."

Wood says for a company that anticipates 2013 revenue of at least $635 million, a modest incentive package probably isn’t that much of a draw. More appealing, perhaps, is the presence of an existing building that is suited to DigitalGlobe’s needs with room for future growth.

Interview highlights

We first talked about this search for a new global HQ location back in September. What’s happened since then? 

"You’ll recall that DigitalGlobe had announced plans to anchor the new North Park development at I-25 and Colorado Highway 7 in Broomfield, where the company announced plans to build a new 400,000-square-foot headquarters.

Left out in the cold was Longmont, which has served as the headquarters for the company.

Then, more recently,DigitalGlobe rescinded those plans and announced that it would instead sign a 15-year lease for an existing building near I-25 and 120th Avenue in Westminster. That’s at a building currently occupied by a high-tech company called Avaya."

What are the details of the incentive packages each city offered – and how much of a role did that play in DigitalGlobe’s decision?  

"The Boulder County Business Report filed Colorado Open Records Acts requests with the cities involved, and found that incentives really didn’t play much of a role at all – though not for lack of trying.

Some details about the incentives were redacted before the documents were turned over to the Business Report. But what we’ve learned is that DigitalGlobe is receiving about $6.2 million in incentives from Westminster but was offered $7.2 million in incentives by Broomfield. A more staggering number is what Longmont offered: more than $18 million in incentives."

Why would a company reject an incentive offer three times greater than what it’s receiving in Westminster?

"Well, DigitalGlobe is a large company. It’s anticipating 2013 revenue of at least $635 million. So a few million dollars, while big money to most of us, probably wasn’t that big a factor.

And the company was really set on consolidating its operations closer to its work force in the Denver metro area. Longmont simply didn’t fit its plans. It really does demonstrate that incentives, while important, are not the end-all and be-all for some companies. Other factors are at play."

Such as…?

"Probably the biggest factor is that DigitalGlobe does not have to invest $75 million to $80 million upfront for a new building, as it was planning in Broomfield. And it gets a building that is particularly well-suited to its needs. The Avaya building is already set up with a lot of the elements that DigitalGlobe requires: It has a security system already in place, and the building itself encompasses 482,000 square feet, enough to provide ample growing room for the company.

The location also puts DigitalGlobe even closer to an expanding work force in the Denver metro area. That should make it easier for the company to add about 500 workers, as it plans to do.

Finally, the building even has a giant ornamental satellite dish – something very appropriate for a satellite-imagery company."

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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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