Bright Agrotech, a Laramie-based manufacturer and installer of indoor farming equipment, is trying to expand its operation into a new headquarters. A proposed application to the Wyoming Business Council for a Business Ready Grant supporting construction of a headquarters was presented to the Laramie City Council on Tuesday to a positive reception from councilors.

Though Bright Agrotech is “one of the fastest-growing” agricultural technology companies and has “significant revenues growing at a very steady rate,” CEO Nate Storey said the company faces challenges as a growing small business.

“One of the challenges and the reason we’re (at council) is we are walking a very fine line as a small business,” Storey said. “We make more every month, but we spend more every month.”

The company, Storey said, hopes to make new hires and sees University of Wyoming graduates as a “huge asset.” Storey, a UW graduate, said graduates from UW are “looking for an excuse to stay” in Laramie, and that Bright Agrotech could provide that opportunity. Having a stronger industrial technology base in the state would “fight brain drain,” he said.

“We’ve done a poor job at keeping gifted, talented people from fleeing the state,” Storey said. “What we offer is the ability to give those people something to do.”

There are 16 employees at the company, including part-time employees, said co-owner Chris Michael. Even though this doubles the amount the company employed a year ago, Michael said it is not enough to keep up with the company’s growth. Assistance from partnerships with the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance and Wyoming Business Council in building the headquarters would allow the company to focus on hiring and innovating technology, Michael said.

“We’ve been fortunate to find and hire over a dozen incredibly talented employees, the overwhelming majority of which are UW grads,” Michael said. “Our unprecedented business growth is directly tied to our ability to grow our team and our intent is to continue pouring our revenues back into hiring more exceptional people.”

With an international presence, Bright Agrotech has grown annual revenue and plans to employ 75-100 workers with an estimated aggregate payroll of $6 million-$10 million dollars annually, according to the proposed application.

The company is “one of our great stories in this community,” said Dan Furphy, president and CEO of the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance.

Councilor Andi Summerville said she was “excited about every aspect of the project.”

The LCBA owned land on the north side of the Welldog building in Laramie Rivers Business Part one, and worked with Bright Agro Tech on a lease agreement for the property, Furphy said.

“Nate (Storey) approached us about six-seven months ago and said, ‘I need a building now, this location still works for us, so let’s work on plans for developing a building,’” Furphy said. “Okay, start putting your plans together as to what you need. We will approach city council and Wyoming business council to get a building for you.”

A public hearing for the application would likely take place in late August, with the application potentially submitted in September, said City Manager Janine Jordan. The grant application would require council’s adoption and resolution for submission.

A final decision from the State Loan and Investment board could come in January, Jordan said.

(10) comments

clipper

Nowhere in this piece is there anything about revenues, only about growing payrolls.

packerpoke

What business park is it? The one on Adams street?

Ernest Bass

Quote: "With an international presence, Bright Agrotech has grown annual revenue and plans to employ 75-100 workers..."

Haven't we heard this before? Oh, yes. Just substitute "WellDog" for "Bright Agrotech."

bread and circuses

... or CBM/Intertech

waitasec

Any type of biotech, especially related to agriculture, is extremely competitive and difficult to find a niche market. I hope they're not blowing smoke and having illusions of grandeur. Any business owner knows that the most expensive part of a business is the payroll. So, the goal will (should) be to maximize efficiency with minimal payroll. And if they stay below the personnel threshold, they won't be required to provide benefits to their employees. Can't make a living on $10/hr and I doubt they would pay $20-$30/hr for unskilled labor.
It's nice to see new employers are coming to town, but the priority will be to make a profit, not to employ the unemployed.

bread and circuses

How many of those sixteen employees are full time, and how many are part-time, minimum wage or unpaid intern jobs? Why would anyone want to eat food grown in plastic? To be located appropriately right next to the failed Well Dog/Game and Fish/?? building. They should pick up their junk and cut their weeds down before they go panhandling.

clipper

Mova along, nothing to see here folks, just the city council picking winners and losers again with taxpayer money.

Ernest Bass

From a comment made on yelp.com dated 7/20/2015:

“Their educational videos on aquaponics and hydroponics are good but as a customer who bought over 200 towers for a commercial farm I dislike using zip grow towers and their market information is misleadings [sic]. If you are considering aquaponics for a commercial venture you probably better off not trying it. A lot of aquaponic companies around the country are going out of business and although Bright Agrotech talks about the profitability of aquaponics in their videos they too removed their aquaponics systems to make way for "better things" according to their website. If you try to start a commercial aquaponic farm you will probably most likely lose a lot of money.”

Is this going to be yet another example of spending taxpayer funded grant money and labelling it economic development? Does the company have to refund the money if they fail to hire 70-100 local employees as they claim they will?

smithy542

I think it would an irresponsible use of tax payer money. I had a buddy that used to work there and the reality is they don't pay their employees well, and are constantly on the verge of not making enough revenue to meet their payroll or maybe that's just what the CEO tells his employees to keep them scared and justify their low salaries and non-existent benefits. Who knows. Maybe it's changed sense he's worked there. Still, I would hope the business counsel takes a tough look at Bright Agrotech's financials before investing public resources in a company that clearly utilizes unsupported projections and puffery to make itself seem like a local asset.

Matthew Brammer

So, based on what I've gathered, we're willing to dump a bunch of taxpayer money into bringing a business (which, based on what I've seen and heard, is not nearly as profitable and has nowhere near the potential as they sell themselves to have) to Laramie (which is already a tight economy and can be very business unfriendly), when they themselves state they're walking a fine profit/loss line.

Seems like a wonderful idea. /rolleyes.

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