|The End Of The ACE Project
Loveland - March 11, 2012
Explaining the ACE Project
Elaine Thorndike of CAMT (Colorado Association for Manufacturing & Technology) is looking for a new place to set-up the
ACE (Aerospace Clean Energy) innovation and manufacturing park. LovelandPolitics stood alone in the community as the voice of
caution when so many others were celebrating the decision by CAMT to locate their hollow ACE Project in Loveland.
CAMT notified state economic development staff this week that CAMT is looking for a new location. Claims by CAMT that the
current owner of the old Agilent property "is not aligned with the vision and mission of CAMT's ACE Initiative" are absurd.
LovelandPolitics reported CAMT was out of the Loveland ACE Project in October last year.
Here is the problem. Nobody has attempted to limit CAMT’s use of the former Agilent property in Loveland and in fact plenty of
incentives have been offered by the new owners Cumberland & Western. What wasn’t offered were kick-backs on the leases,
cash payments to Thorndike personally or leases for shaky start-ups associated with CAMT that have little to no credit. In other
words, CAMT pulled out of Loveland once it was clear the new owners of the former Agilent campus had no intention of
subsidizing salaries for CAMT leadership through leases from the project.
On Saturday May 10, the Loveland Reporter-Herald published a front page story entitled, “Minus ACE Moniker, tech job efforts
will continue.” The problem with this headline is ACE was more than a moniker. According to previous reporting by the same
newspaper, the ACE Project was CAMT and the City of Loveland's partnership that promised to bring over 7,000 jobs to
Loveland. Loveland’s Chamber of Commerce website still has the following description of ACE available online:
“A Space Act agreement signed in late 2010 by NASA and CAMT created a partnership aimed at speeding up the
commercial roll out of aerospace and energy technologies. It has been estimated that the business park could house up
to 100 companies and create 10,000 jobs..”
These absurd claims were being mimicked by local politicians, newspapers, business groups, real estate brokers and everyone who
wanted to be the first to tell the public the good news. Even those closest to LovelandPolitics kept a safe distance from our more
reasoned view of the situation. Now that CAMT is out, the City of Loveland is trying to re-write history with a new spin.
We Told You So
LovelandPolitics tried in vain to educate the community about the outrageous hyperbole and false promises being made by CAMT.
The “Space Act Agreement” was unfunded by design and largely a publicity stunt between Thorndike and a friend at NASA. The
technologies in question are those left behind the government is willing to pay anyone to try and commercialize. In fact, NASA was
offering Loveland’s ACE Project nothing any company located anywhere else in the country couldn’t already apply for by way of
SBIR’s (Small Business Innovative Research) or other contracts. There was no discriminator in the ACE Project making Loveland
a place companies wanted to move to get these contracts; despite constant spin to the contrary by the city and local media.
CAMT is not really an association of companies innovating or manufacturing new technologies as its name implies. It is instead a
grant dependent virtual trade group run like an appendage of the U.S. Department of Commerce. What Thorndike and her crew
lack in business acumen they make up for with political connections, lobbying and grant writing skills. Unfortunately for Loveland,
those skills are no substitute for real business experience or real money to invest in the ACE Project. In other words, they were
able to sell our city but not any reputable businesses their ACE Project vision.
LovelandPolitics stood alone in reporting the real fact surrounding the ACE Project from the beginning. CAMT’s goals were
hardly altruistic and people were upset we reported such. In the end, the ACE Project was a scheme by a small group of people
worried about losing six figure salaries when the United States Government cuts funding in a year or two on their grants. ACE
Project was an elaborate scheme to get the city of Loveland “a little-bit pregnant” so local taxes could subsidize the largely fictional
opportunity and principals in CAMT could become wealthy.
Credit goes to Mayor Cecil Gutierrez, the council and City Manager for not pouring even more public money into the property and
selling it to a private buyer instead. Special mention also goes to Councilman Hugh McKean for having the intestinal fortitude to
ask CAMT the tough questions in public while bucking the trend of many of his colleagues who treated Thorndike like some kind of
savior for the community.
Unfortunately, Loveland’s Director of Economic Development, Betsey Hale, gave an embarrassingly uninformed presentation to
Loveland’s council last month to obtain $150,000 of tax dollars to pay a Cumberland & Western consultant. The city's objectives
for the consultant are eerily similar to CAMT’s ACE Project, and the nonsense appears to be flowing again just without CAMT.
Just like CAMT, the new consultant has special access to government labs nobody else does, just like CAMT the consultant has
relationships in industry that causes companies to change course and just like CAMT the consultant has magical powers over
NASA officials to gain access to coveted technologies for local companies in a way nobody else can.
Perhaps there is also an ethical issue here that needs to be raised. If CAMT brought Loveland the ACE Project, how can
Loveland now simply replace the "moniker" of ACE but continue using CAMT's plan without CAMT. Cumberland & Western has
already made clear they intend to seek tenants for the property whether or not they meet CAMT or the city's definition for
alternative or clean energy manufacturing. In other words, Cumberland & Western is ready to move on and invest in a more
general business plan.
We propose the City of Loveland accommodate and not subsidize efforts to bring high-technology manufacturing to the community
by also moving on from ACE. Loveland has no business trying to continue ACE when the property owner has already decided not
to invest anymore of their own money on the "vision."
We are afraid city staff is trying to perpetuate the ACE Project and Cumberland & Western are willing to cooperate so long as only
the city is paying the bills. Asking taxpayer’s to take a financial risk on behalf of one of the largest and wealthiest property owners
in the country seems hardly appropriate at this time. If the plan made business sense, Cumberland & Western would be funding the
consultant and not the city.
|CAMT's Elaine Thorndike with CAMT
board members before Loveland City
Council. Below is the archive of
LovelandPolitics stories (latest listed first)