San Francisco-based company Plenty eliminated 23 jobs in Laramie on Tuesday, just more than a year after acquiring local startup Bright Agrotech.

Until Tuesday, there were 55 employees in Laramie. When the June 2017 acquisition announcement came, it sounded as though plans were to continue growing Plenty’s Laramie operation.

However, it was recently decided to consolidate some of the company’s operation in the California headquarters, said Christina Ra, a Plenty representative.

“It’s not as much about the individuals as much as refocusing resources,” Ra told the Laramie Boomerang on Tuesday.

Bright Agrotech, the vertical-horticulture company founded by University of Wyoming graduate Nate Storey, hit the ground running with its agriculture technology work in 2011. After Storey won $10,000 in seed money in the Wyoming $10K Entrepreneurship Competition and secured a spot in the Wyoming Technology Business Center incubator, the company began garnering national and international interest.

After briefly locating in a Laramie warehouse, the company worked with state and local governments and economic development leaders to secure a permanent building. The State Loan and Investment Board approved a Wyoming Business Council recommendation in 2016 to provide about $2.6 million of state dollars, along with a $200,000 loan from the city of Laramie, to construct a building in a Laramie River Business Park location provided by the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance.

That was followed by the June 2017 acquisition of Bright Agrotech by Plenty, a company co-founded by Storey. He remains Plenty’s chief science officer and will continue his work at the Laramie facility at 1461 Commerce Drive.

The Laramie facility will now focus on plant science and research and development, Ra said. That operation, she said, is expected to continue to grow in coming years. But that also means jobs in areas such as sales, organizational excellence, project management, supply logistics and engineering no longer have a role at the Laramie location.

“We have all of those roles in existence in our San Francisco headquarters,” Ra said. “So, anything that didn’t support plant science was eliminated.”

Those 23 employees were told Tuesday they were being let go in what Ra said was “not an easy decision” for Plenty.

“Even though we’re talking about it in a transitional way, we took it very seriously,” she said. “All are receiving severance as we want them to have a runway to their next chapters.

But businesses have to make decisions to think in terms of long-term success.”

When asked why Plenty would keep its Laramie facility in the long-term rather than moving its plant science and research and development operation to the California headquarters, Ra said the Laramie team is robust and the work its team will be doing is “incredibly important” to the company’s future.

“We just want to build on what’s already there,” she said. “An indoor R&D center could exist anywhere. But this was an extremely difficult position to get rid of as part of our Plenty family, and this is something we never want to do again. We’ve invested in Laramie and people that will be in Laramie.”

As far as what to expect in terms of growth in Laramie, Ra said it’s hard to assign a number at this time.

(14) comments

Quicksilvr44

So, the state spent close to $3,000,000 circa 2016 to lose jobs in the long run. That is a huge price tag. There should be language in these State business funds and city funds that locks a certain number of jobs in for a prescribed amount of time. Instead, the company was spun off to a CA company and now there is a brain drain and money drain to Wyoming, again.

Trumped

At least Laramie got another building.

Ernest Bass

What a scam. Nate Storey secures grant money ($10,000), gets a free spot in the U.W. business incubator, receives a $2.6 million grant from the state, gets a $200,000 loan from the city, then gets a free location from the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance to build a building. Then Nate Storey sells the new business (Bright Agrotech) to a company called Plenty co-founded by none other than Nate Storey. He then lays off half his workforce. Suppose the other half will last long? It sure seems like a big scam to me. Oh well, after the WellDog fiasco and other economic development boondoggles (i.e. Cirrus Sky), we should be getting used to economic development scams in Laramie. Build a multi-million dollar building with taxpayer money, vacate building, transfer ownership of the building to the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance (who is then free to sell the building). This is what passes for economic development in Laramie.

packerpoke

good points.

LCBA

Ernest, we understand your concern for this particular situation. If you ever have any questions about economic development in Laramie or the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance, we would like to sit down and discuss them with you. You can contact us through our website, laramie.org, or call 307-745-7339.

pastrez4urinfo

"money for nothing, chics for free....first ,you look at the purse. " J Geils. Welldog, rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat.....bidnuss as usual. Ever hear of specific performance doctrine and terms of performance? and clawback provisio? uh, uh, well.....no.....? fleeced again, joe public. Can"t blame Storey--any good capitalist would capitulate similarly. thats how the game is played.......

GrowordieLaramie

“Plenty is not abandoning Laramie. On the contrary, Plenty continues to invest heavily in this community and hire aggressively in Plant Sciences (to the extent that we will replace all of the positions that were eliminated here within the next few months). The point of this refocusing was just that, to focus on Plant Science and either move or eliminate positions that were better off in a different location, or were no longer relevant to the companies most critical goals and efforts.

There's nothing the community could have done or would have done that could change this course of action… If you consider the last 6 months and the next 6 months together, there is no negative net effect on jobs in Laramie. If anything, the community will discover that the net effect is continued growth of positions at Plenty, and continued investment in this community.”
Nate Storey | CSO

packerpoke

29 were fired the means 29 homes for sale now,

Ernest Bass

Bright Agrotech sells a ZipGrow Farm Wall Education Rack that is 80” in length and 77” in height. It includes pumps, grow lights, irrigation components, seedling systems, and everything you need to begin vertical farming. It costs $3,565 plus $429 shipping. The beginning bundle (cell tray with plugs, extra plugs, nutrient trio, TDS tester, pH calibration solutions, etc.) sells for $429. For a total of $4,444 you can begin growing dinner salads in your own living room. Your salad will cost approximately $97 but it will be worth it because you will be able to brag to your hipster friends how you live on the cutting edge of technology. Thank you ZipGrow, or Bright Agrotech, or Plenty, or whatever your name is this week.

Growwyo

The prices you are quoting (zipgrow.com) are from a Canadian company. Nothing to do with Plenty. Check your facts, being able to Google and not noticing small intricacies is dangerous.

Ernest Bass

If you type “zipgrow” into Google the search results will show you a picture of Bright Agrotech’s building in Laramie, a map to Bright Agrotech’s building, Bright Agrotech’s street address, and a picture of a Bright Agrotech doofus. Look to the right of your screen after searching Google for “zipgrow”. No need for me to check my facts. If you go to zipgrow.com/about/ then to the bottom of the page, you will find “About Us” – click on “About Us” and you will be taken to a page, within ZipGrow’s website, showing the heading “About Bright Agrotech” with mention of Dr. Nate Storey. I don’t believe there are any “small intricacies” here. Either you are wrong or Google and Zipgrow.com are wrong. Which is it?

Ernest Bass

Addendum: Apparently there is a website zipgrow.ca which is Canadian and labeled “Exclusive distributor of Bright Agrotech products in Canada”. The prices I quoted are from zipgrow.com which is a U.S. website. The Canadian site lists the above referenced Farm Wall as costing $4,065 - $500 more than it costs in the U.S. (still a bargain at any price if you want to impress your friends with how technologically advanced you are and you don’t mind spending $97 for a salad).

Growwyo

Either way, Storey should receive credit for saving the other 32 jobs which could have been terminated just as well.

pastrez4urinfo

thank you, mr. bass.......its not the truly fantastic priced system, mr. storeys motives, brights novel approach and tried research: its a lack of due diligence in terms of doing CBA and merit of duration of these types of publicly sponsored capital projects. Years ago, it was called a "basis" for a loan in a bank.....replete with reasoned risk assessment. Point being: so many people think this "building building" is some panacea for growth and will work.....it doesnt because the true feasabilty fails in general market or firms have "wiggle" room to transfer, layoff, terminate, etc. due to external market forces, blah, blah.....after the bloated hopium-filled project gets built. Then you get new building capacity with no cashflow/payback.........and the original principals are tucked away elsewhere-still with comfortable salary. Just like government kinda......

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