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Mystery biotech company considering $784M expansion in Frederick

DENVER — The Colorado Economic Development Commission approved an incentive package aimed at coaxing an unnamed California-headquartered life-sciences company to expand its existing Frederick operation, a capital project that the state estimates could cost upward of $784 million. 

The company, referred to by the EDC and staff with Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade staff as Project Olive, “provides instruments, software, services, and consumables for laboratory workflow procedures,” according to OEDIT documents. 

It is the commission’s practice not to identify companies OEDIT is recruiting until incentives are accepted. Evidence points to Santa Clara, California-based Agilent Technologies Inc. as Project Olive. 

If Project Olive opts to expand in Frederick and not the alternative site it is considering in Raleigh, North Carolina, it “would constitute a choice to lean into currently-established networks of supply and employment, as well as relationships with the local municipality and community versus access to new talent at a lower cost of living,” said Michelle Hadwiger, OEDIT deputy director and director of global business development.

The EDC approved roughly $1.79 million in incentives over five years for the Frederick expansion project. 

Should Project Olive accept the subsidy and move forward with its plans in Weld County, the company will be expected to create 275 net new jobs at an average annual wage of $89,094. Those jobs would include manufacturing and research and development chemists, facilities and

maintenance engineers, quality assurance and control specialists, technical engineers and writers, and supply-chain and project managers.

According to OEDIT, Frederick and Weld County have “both preliminarily approved incentives” worth nearly $9.4 million over 10 years, “and will be moving forward with formal approvals at the appropriate time.”

Frederick assistant town manager Ryan Johnson told the EDC that Project Olive “has been a good partner in the past” and the existing operation has exceeded job-growth projections. “They definitely performed.”

Johnson did not immediately respond to a request from BizWest for clarification about Frederick’s “preliminarily approved incentives” that OEDIT staff referred to Thursday. Such economic-development agreements typically must go through a public hearing process before approval by the town’s board of trustees. 

Agilent Technologies, a representative of which did respond to an email from BizWest Thursday but did not confirm any local expansion plans, appears to be the most likely suspect behind Project Olive. Here’s why:

Agilent, according to its website, “is a leader in life sciences, diagnostics and applied chemical markets. The company provides laboratories worldwide with instruments, services, consumables, applications and expertise, enabling customers to gain the insights they seek.” This language closely resembles OEDIT’s description of Project Olive.

Project Olive, according to OEDIT documents, is headquartered in Santa Clara, California, and employs 17,000 workers companywide. Both of those facts are also true about Agilent.

Agilent has an existing operation in Frederick, which it began developing in 2016. The 130,000-square-foot manufacturing facility was built on 20 acres in the Eagle Business Park adjacent to Interstate 25. Agilent, which began Frederick manufacturing operations in 2019, received incentives from the state and city for the initial project that are similar to those being requested for the Project Olive expansion. 

In addition to the incentives offered to Project Olive, the EDC also approved an offer for Project Root, “a manufacturer of low earth orbit technologies intended to provide high bandwidth and low communication intermission,” according to OEDIT documents. 

The company is considering Florida and the Denver metropolitan area in its search “for its headquarters and center of research and development, where they plan to accelerate the commercialization of cislunar space in partnership with the US Space Force,” said OEDIT, which considers Broomfield and Boulder counties — both leaders in Colorado’s aerospace industry — to be part of the Denver metro.

EDC extended an offer of $547,577 over eight years. Should Project Root accept, the company would be expected to create 60 new jobs at an average annual wage of $80,433.

“This project would support the state’s economic goals by adding to the density of aerospace companies in Colorado and creating net new jobs in aerospace, one of the most important and fast-growing industries to Colorado’s economy,” Hadwiger said. Project Root’s acceptance of the incentives would demonstrate “that Colorado is an ideal place for exciting startups to access talent and customers, showing that Colorado is a startup and scale-up-friendly environment.”

This article was first published by BizWest, an independent news organization, and is published under a license agreement. © 2022 BizWest Media LLC.

Source: BizWest

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