The Canadian parent company of DigitalGlobe is moving its headquarters to Westminster and plans to create as many as 856 new corporate jobs for the space technology company there in coming years.
Maxar Technologies Ltd. (NYSE and TSX: MAXR) makes satellites and develops related data and analysis services to companies and government agencies.
It employs about 1,000 people in the Denver metro area, 800 at the DigitalGlobe campus off Interstate 25 and 120th Street.
Howard Lance, president and CEO of Maxar Technologies, announced the headquarters decision with Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday afternoon at the DigitalGlobe offices.
“This move represents an opportunity to bring together our executive leadership team in a common location, as well as to establish a base for our future shared-services organizations,” Lance said in a statement.
Maxar has about 6,800 employees in offices in major technology and aerospace hubs in the U.S. and Canada — Silicon Valley, Denver, Washington D.C., Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.
Its U.S. business has 4,600 employees. It had been headquartered in San Francisco.
Maxar, which used to be called MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, or MDA, acquired DigitalGlobe in a $2.4 billion deal in October.
The transaction brought the DigitalGlobe satellite imagery and data company under the same ownership as SSL, a satellite-building company in Palo Alto, California, and Maxar’s data analysis unit that has offices near Washington D.C. and works with U.S. government agencies.
Maxar started looking for a U.S. operations base as it struck the deal to buy DigitalGlobe. The Denver-area was a leading candidate from the start.
When the deal for DigitalGlobe closed, Lance said the U.S. headquarters would fit well in Colorado.
About a dozen corporate headquarters employees are relocating to Westminster from San Francisco in the move, then the company will start hiring to build corporate shared services.
The abundance of technology and aerospace workers in all the region’s that the company operates in made all of them realistic choices for Maxar’s headquarters, Lance said
But the abundance of office space in its Westminster building, the quality of education in the region, cost of living and quality of life tipped the balance toward Westminster, he said. Being centrally located and having Denver International Airport as the company’s home airport helped clinch the decision, too.
“When you travel as much as I do, you appreciate stopping here.”
He’s been a frequent visitor to the state throughout his career and sees it as a good place to hire talented people, he said.
Hickenlooper expressed enthusiasm about Maxar’s choice during an announcement event at the company’s headquarters. He called Maxar’s announcement “everything a governor could want” and shouted to DigitalGlobe employees lining balconies and stairs in the headquarters atrium: “I’m so happy for you!”
The talented workforce is what made the difference for Westminster.
“It’s the talent,” Hickenlooper said. “It always comes down to the talent.”
The 800-plus position growth in staff Maxar anticipates at its headquarters will primarily be driven by DigitalGlobe’s business of selling satellite-derived information and services, Lance said.
“Based on our growth trajectory, it’s a very doable thing,” he said.
Prior to buying DigitalGlobe, Maxar had been the creator of aerospace hardware. Hardware eventually becomes commoditized, Lance said, even in the space industry. Buying DigitalGlobe made Maxar as much a data technology company as a space business, and that should drive significant job growth, Lance said.
Having Maxar’s headquarters here could draw interesting partner companies to the area over time, predicted Jay Lindell, Colorado’s official space industry champion.
The combination of DigitalGlobe’s data business with Maxar’s satellite-building, robotics, intelligence data put the company in a rare position for growth in commercial and defense aerospace businesses, he said.
“It’s a really match and really sets the table for growth,” he said.
Colorado’s Economic Development Commission last month awarded Maxar $14.3 million worth of tax incentives, state tax rebates the company can earn over eight years by creating as many as 856 jobs with an average wage of $116,917. The name of the company was not revealed at the time.
The city of Westminster and Adams County also provided tax incentives.
Westminster has extended to Maxar the $6.2 million package of city tax rebates — primarily use taxes and building permits — the city originally granted to DigitalGlobe, making the company eligible for them through 2030.
Adams County this week approved an incentive package for the company, too, based on property tax rebates tied to job growth. The amount it not yet public because Maxar has not signed and finalized the agreement.
Maxar’s decision fits the county’s open-for-business attitude, said Adams County Commissioner Steve O’Dorisio.
“We want those good-paying jobs coming, and hopefully they hire locally,” he said. “The door’s always open for companies willing to do that.”
DigitalGlobe started in Colorado in the 1990s and became the leading earth imaging business, supplying satellite-collected imagery and data about the earth to companies including Google, Apple, Lockheed Martin and others.
DigitalGlobe CTO and founder Walter Scott is CTO of Maxar following the acquisition.