Bio & Pharmaceuticals

CO: California Biofuel Company Considers Move to Denver

15 Apr, 2013

Cool Planet Energy Systems, a California biofuel company, may relocate its headquarters to the Denver area and open a manufacturing plant there - and that could create as many as 393 new jobs within three years.

The Colorado Economic Development Commission (EDC) voted unanimously to offer as much as $3.1 million in job-growth tax incentives to the company if it chooses Colorado over Texas for its new headquarters and manufacturing facility. The company is looking at Denver and Greenwood Village as potential headquarters locations. It's also considering Aurora and unincorporated Adams County as sites for its manufacturing facility, said Michelle Hadwiger, business development director for the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT).

Cool Planet is a 3-year-old startup in the Los Angeles suburb of Camarillo that's developed a patented process to turn biomass into gasoline. The process it uses is carbon-neutral, meaning that the more of the Cool Planet fuel an engine burns, the more carbon dioxide is taken out of the atmosphere, said Michele Bremer, director of human resources for the company.

Though the company hasn't begun selling products or making profits, it expects to begin generating revenue in a couple of months, Bremer said. From there, it plans to open about 400 small facilities across the country in order to produce about 10 million gallons of fuel by 2020, she said.

Cool Planet's financial backers include major fuel companies such as BP, ConocoPhillips and General Electric Co., Bremer said. Google also has made a major investment in the company.

The company now employs about 90 people in its Camarillo headquarters and would move just eight to 10 of them to its new headquarters in a first phase of relocation, Bremer said. It then plans to open a 250-worker manufacturing facility and grow in the community it chooses for its new home, she said.

"We like Colorado because it's centrally located," Bremer told EDC members in a conference call Thursday. "It has great highway and railroad access ... and, extremely important to us, a very good business atmosphere that is welcoming to a small company."

The headquarters jobs it would bring to Colorado would pay an average executive salary of about $170,000 a year - roughly three times the average pay of the Denver or Greenwood Village areas. And the manufacturing jobs would have an average annual wage of $57,929.68, 137 percent of the average Adams County wage.

Hadwiger said that bringing the company to Colorado would be important because it fits into several key industries on which the state and the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. are concentrating their job-growth efforts.

"It touches on the energy sector, it touches on the bioscience sector, it touches on our advanced manufacturing strategy," she said.

Bremer didn't give a time frame for Cool Planet making a decision on relocation.

The EDC has paid or earmarked $16 million in job-growth or strategic fund incentives so far this fiscal year. Recent recipients of such incentives include Visa Inc., Redwood Trust Inc. and Hitachi Data Systems - all companies that, like Cool Planet, have looked to expand outside their existing California homes.

Economic-development officials also believe they'll be able to find more expansion opportunities from a recent trip that OEDIT leaders took to Canada and one they'll take later this month to the Seattle area as part of a more aggressive strategy toward corporate recruiting.