Colorado advances $1.7 million in incentives to attract aviation jobs

The Colorado Economic Development Commission on Thursday approved $1.7 million in incentives for West Star Aviation, the largest private employer in Mesa County on the Western Slope.

West Star employs 1,528 people, including 531 people in Grand Junction, where the company maintains 281,824 square feet of hangar, shop and office space on 32 acres. It is looking to expand aircraft maintenance and avionics services, which could create 110 net new jobs in either Grand Junction or in East Alton, Ill., the other location under consideration.

The proposed jobs are primarily in aircraft maintenance and would pay an annual average wage of $51,318, which is 111% of the average annual wage in Mesa County, where the company has had a presence for 70 years.

“West Star is the largest non-government employer in Mesa County. It is a community darling. It is involved in almost everything in the community,” said Jay Seaton, a member of the EDC.

The largest part of the award is coming via $1.45 million in job growth incentive tax credits over an eight-year period, which will start to kick in once the company creates and maintains 20 net new jobs. That portion represents state tax credits against payroll expenses. Another $246,000 in cash incentives will come from the state’s strategic fund, an amount that will be matched by Grand Junction Economic Partnership and Industrial Developments Inc. The state’s payment represents the payment of $4,000 per job for up to 62 jobs over a five-year period.

“We do believe the project is deserving of both incentives. These jobs would be extremely meaningful,” said Michelle Hadwiger, the state’s deputy director of economic development.

The commission also approved $163,974 in job growth incentive tax credits to attract the headquarters of an agricultural commodity trading company named Greenfield Holdings. Greenfield has five of its 11 employees currently in Cherry Creek and is building a grain export facility in Louisiana and looking to expand in Kentucky, Illinois and Tennessee as well.

Chicago, New Orleans and Houston, as well as Denver, are in the running for the new headquarters. The company is looking to create 20 net new jobs at an average annual wage of $83,725, which is 111% of the average annual wage in Denver.

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