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Travel tech company looking at Denver for another 1,739 jobs

A rapidly-growing Denver corporate travel management company looking to add 1,739 jobs received approval for up to $8.85 million in state job growth incentives tax credits, the largest of five awards the Colorado Economic Development Commission approved Thursday morning.

“Project Pilot,” the codename for the applicant, has just under half of its 400 workers in Colorado. The company’s lease is expiring and it is considering relocating its headquarters to Dallas, Phoenix or Tampa, as well as remaining in the Denver area, said Michelle Hadwidger, deputy director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

The proposed jobs would be in sales, marketing support, research and development, and administration and would pay an average annual salary of $76,145, which is just above the average annual wage for Denver County. Of the jobs to be added, 27 would be in rural Colorado, which qualified the company for an additional cash award of $135,000 from the state’s Strategic Fund.

Although the company’s name was masked, as is usually the case with incentive requests, the first names of the executives present at the Zoom meeting, Elia and Colter, match up with Elia Wallen and Colter Starks, the CEO and vice president of finance at Hotel Engine, which books hotel rooms at discounted rates for corporate clients. The Cherry Creek company did not respond to email requests for confirmation.

A health care technology company with the codename “Project Polish” received commission approval for $2.1 million in job growth incentive tax credits in return for the creation of 298 net new jobs paying an average annual wage of $68,104, which is 126% of the average annual wage in Larimer County, where the company is looking to locate.

The start-up will make point-of-care diagnostic equipment and wants to build a rapid-response facility to produce diagnostic testing strips as well as specialized chips. It has one employee and 50 contractors, none of which are based in Colorado. Utah is also in the running.

President Eric Doherty, said during the meeting that his company has a preliminary contract with the Department of Defense to work on some of its priorities and a recommendation from the infectious-disease department at Colorado State University.

An Eric Doherty was named as president of a startup called Blink Science in January, and the release stated the Atlanta-based company was working on the world’s first point-of-care testing systems for COVID-19.

The commission approved another “retention” award, valued at $1.14 million in job growth incentive tax credits, to a facilities-services provider with the codename “Project Maroma.” Nearly half of the company’s 4,000 employees are in Colorado, and the company is looking at adding 261 new jobs paying an average annual wage of $75,709 in engineering, operations support, management and other professional roles.

The company is looking to add the jobs in Adams County, but also considering locations in New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California.

The commission also granted two smaller job incentive tax credit awards, including one for $856,281 to a company known as “Project Velvet” that provides business intelligence, data management and other technology services to corporate clients. The company currently has two dozen employees and is looking to add 69 jobs in Colorado, Arizona or Washington.  The positions, mostly in the tech field, are expected to pay an average annual wage of $142,710.

Project Teal, an early-stage outdoor recreation company with five employees, is looking at Gunnison for a headquarters that would create 24 net new jobs paying an average annual wage of $65,075. Other locations the woman-owned company is considering are in Chelan, Washington, or Burlington, Vermont.

State staff initially proposed a $75,000 award from the state’s Strategic Fund, an amount the city of Gunnison agreed to match with a local incentive. But commissioner Jay Seaton recommended a larger award to keep Colorado competitive with its rivals, arguing that the two dozen jobs would be “huge” for Gunnison. The company was approved for $157,000 in cash incentives linked to creating the proposed jobs within five years.

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