Satellite Imagery Provider DigitalGlobe to Expand, Stay in Colorado

6/13/13Follow @MichaelXBD

DigitalGlobe, Colorado’s highest-flying tech company—literally—reportedly plans to add more than 500 jobs and is considering relocating its corporate headquarters within the Denver-Boulder area.

DigitalGlobe (NYSE: DGI) is one of the world’s leading satellite imagery and geospatial information companies, with a market cap of $2.25 billion and 2012 profit of $39 million. The Longmont, CO-based company operates a fleet of satellites that provide high-resolution imagery for military and corporate clients including the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which is DigitalGlobe’s largest customer.

The new hires and new facility come as DigitalGlobe is assimilating the staff and assets of GeoEye, the competitor it bought for $1.4 billion in cash and stock in January.

“As a result of DigitalGlobe’s recent combination with GeoEye, we now have multiple operations and sites across multiple states including Colorado, Virginia, Florida, Missouri, California and internationally. We are in the process of consolidating our footprint in each locale and are evaluating the locations that will allow our team members to operate most efficiently and support growth consistent with our long range business plans. DigitalGlobe is planning to maintain our global headquarters and significant employee base in Colorado,” the company said in a statement.

Consumers’ most likely experience with DigitalGlobe products is through Google Maps and Google Earth, which rely on images taken from DigitalGlobe satellites. The company also produced the widely shared satellite photos of Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan that went viral following the Navy SEAL raid that killed him.

The company employs about 760 people in its Longmont headquarters, according to the Longmont Area Economic Council. Longmont is about 15 miles northeast of Boulder.

DigitalGlobe representatives met with the board of the Colorado Economic Development Commission on Thursday and received a $4.4 million incentive package to stay in Colorado, according to the Longmont Times-Call.

The company also is looking to build a new corporate headquarters in either Broomfield or Westminster, which are between Denver and Boulder, or in Longmont, the report said.

A commission spokesperson could not be reached Thursday morning, but it’s obvious why Colorado would be willing to cut such a big deal by the state’s standards.

In addition to being an industry leader, DigitalGlobe is one of Colorado’s marquee tech companies and a leader in the state’s surprisingly robust aerospace industry. According to the Colorado Space Coalition, an industry advocacy group, more than 166,000 people are employed in “space-related” jobs. About 140,000 are in the military or government, as the Air Force and Department of Defense have a major presence in Colorado Springs, the home of the legendary NORAD complex and the U.S. Space Command.

The 26,000 private-sector jobs are spread between more than 400 companies, which the coalition claims gives the state the second-largest aerospace economy in the U.S. Other standout companies include Ball Aerospace & Technology Corp., the Boulder-based company that builds satellites for DigitalGlobe and the federal government.

Major aerospace companies also rely on large Colorado-based divisions to design and assemble vehicles and rockets. Sierra Nevada Corp. is designing and building the Dream Chaser space vehicle at its facility outside Boulder, and the United Launch Alliance, maker of the Atlas V, Delta II, and Delta IV rockets, is based in suburban Denver. The ULA is a joint partnership of aerospace giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

DigitalGlobe is one of the Colorado companies that’s gone toe-to-toe with a major competitor, won the battle, and opted to remain in Colorado. In January, DigitalGlobe acquired rival GeoEye for $1.4 billion in cash and stock after staving off an unsolicited takeover attempt by GeoEye. DigitalGlobe’s victory bucks the conventional wisdom that innovative Colorado companies usually are acquired by larger out-of-state competitors.

Michael Davidson is the editor of Xconomy Boulder/Denver. He covers startups, venture capital, clean tech, energy, aerospace, telecoms, and whatever else happens above 5,280 feet. Contact him at mdavidson@xconomy.com. Follow @MichaelXBD

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