El Paso County, Colorado Springs push to win advanced manufacturing plant

The Colorado Economic Development Commission on Thursday morning added $3.88 million in cash incentives on top of $111 million that Colorado Springs and El Paso County have put on the table to win an advanced manufacturing plant that could help with the country’s efforts to restore domestic semiconductor manufacturing.

Project Garnet, the code name for a company that makes electronic materials and process solutions for semiconductors, life sciences and other high-tech industries, is looking to invest more than $1 billion in a two-stage project that could create more than 1,000 jobs in Colorado.

The $3.88 million award approved out of the state’s Strategic Fund is tied to the creation of 597 net new jobs and an investment of $631 million in the project’s first phase. The jobs created will pay an average wage of $69,096 and include technicians, chemists, engineers, as well as manufacturing and warehouse operations. The incentives work out to $6,500 per job provided and will be available over a 60-month period.

El Paso County once served as a secondary hub for semiconductor manufacturing before the pursuit of cost savings sent much of that work overseas. But there is now a concerted push by the federal government, fearful of national security implications of supply-chain disruptions, to get more advanced manufacturing back into domestic plants.

“This is an opportunity for Colorado to really get on the map,” Michelle Hadwiger, director of global business development at the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, told the commissioners at a monthly meeting Thursday morning.

A representative of Project Garnet, identified only as Bill, said the $4 billion company currently has 70% of its capacity in Asia and expects the new plant to become a regional supplier to companies like Intel, Micron and Texas Instruments as they expand their U.S. chipmaking. The company has a three-decade presence in El Paso County and is looking at adding a 1-million-square-foot facility.

Another cash incentive of $1.79 million was extended to Project Olive, a California life sciences company that assists with laboratory workflow procedures. It is considering expanding its presence in Frederick, where it employs 520 people currently, by investing $784 million in capital and adding 275 net new jobs at an average annual wage of $89,094. Raleigh, N.C. is also in the running.

The EDC also approved three additional awards of Job Growth Incentive Tax Credits or payroll tax credits linked to future hires in the state on Thursday.

  • Project Tart is a maker of prefabricated, energy-efficient custom homes and workforce housing based in Washington state. It is considering Mesa County for a manufacturing plant that would employ 44 people at an average annual wage of $54,273. The EDC extended $543,546 in tax credits to beat out competing locations under consideration in Caldwell, Idaho and Ogden, Utah.
  • Project Root is a manufacturer of low earth orbit technologies that reduce the launch weight of spacecraft. It is looking at metro Denver for a headquarters, research and development center, and eventually a manufacturing facility. The first growth phase could bring 60 jobs to the region paying an average annual wage of $80,433. The EDC approved $547,577 in incentives linked to those jobs.
  • Project Kumquat, a maker of frozen novelty treats, primarily paletas, is looking at Arapahoe, Douglas and Jefferson counties for a headquarters relocation. The EDC extended $541,661 tied to the creation of 50 new jobs paying an average of $70,577 a year. Locations in Arizona and Utah are also under review.

Gov. Jared Polis announced on Thursday that Eve Lieberman, his chief policy adviser and legislative counsel, will replace Patrick Meyers as executive director of COEDIT on Jan. 1. Meyers replaced Betsy Markey as director in April 2021 while retaining his job as the state’s chief recovery office overseeing the funding Colorado received under the American Rescue Plan Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Meyers will stay on as the state’s chief recovery officer.

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