Things were looking up for Aurora, Colorado.That's how it seemed earlier this year when we wrote about the suburb's new tourism organization, Visit Aurora. Why? Aurora looked sure to land the state tourism incentives it needed to entice Gaylord Entertainment to build a giant hotel there; the city was poised to host its first world championship anything; and it was still celebrating GE's decision to build a big state-of-the-art solar panel plant in Aurora.
But while the International Powerlifting Federation World Masters Bench Press Championships went off without a hitch in April, the other two coups have fallen flat.
On May 31,Tennessee-based Gaylord announced it was reorganizing and selling the rights to manage its four gigantic hotels to Marriott. As for the proposed 1,500-room hotel and conference center in Aurora, Gaylord said it would "re-examine how the project could be completed with minimal financial commitment by Gaylord during the development phase." While city officials insist the deal is still on, it's far from a sure bet.
And now GE has announced that it's postponing construction of its PrimeStar solar plant for at least a year and a half; according to a source, GE is also laying off Colorado employees of PrimeStar, a local startup that GE bought in 2011. In October, GE had announced it would build a $300 million plant near I-70 and Tower Road starting in January.
Aurora officials are trying to make the best of the news.
Wendy Mitchell, CEO of the Aurora Economic Development Council, sent this statement: "GE has announced that it is putting its expansion plans in our market on hold for up to eighteen months. Due to a rapid shift in the solar industry, GE's change in plans is completely understandable. The Aurora Economic Development Council values our relationship with GE and looks forward to our future work together. "
"I think you have to put it into perspective," George Peck, the vice president of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, tells Westword. "I think that down the road, we're still going to see this happen. ... I don't see GE saying, 'We are pulling out of the community.'"
"I don't think it's a big disappointment," says city councilman Brad Pierce. "If you look at the bigger picture of what (the Aurora Economic Development Council) has done and continues to do, this is a blip on the radar screen."
Ken Lund, the executive director of the state Office of Economic Development (who supported giving Gaylord the state Regional Tourism Act incentives), also sent a statement: "Colorado made a long-term commitment to GE and we intend to remain good business partners. Last year, GE created more than 10,000 jobs nationwide and currently holds more than 100 patents in solar technology. While the industry may be changing, GE remains an innovative leader and their continued presence in Colorado and a local workforce of more than 1,200 demonstrates their ongoing commitment to our state. We look forward to future opportunities for renewed growth."
Aurora's been down this road before. Plans for pro baseball teams and NASCAR tracks have fallen short -- and who could forget Science Fiction Land, the much-hyped amusement park that was to be bigger than Disneyland but turned out to be a scam?
So don't worry about Aurora. Denver's eastern neighbor always bounces back.
Sam Levin contributed to the reporting of this post.
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