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4/20/2003

Dollars for defense

By Felix Doligosa Jr.
The Daily Times-Call

BOULDER — A top-secret room is closed off at the Boulder-based Vexcel Corp., except to the Department of Defense.

“There’s a lot of stuff we can’t talk about, what the Department of Defense does with our work,” said Jason Szabo, Vexcel manager of close-range engineering.

Even though most work is confidential, Vexcel, which makes remote-sensing equipment and offers remote-sensing services, is one of more than 800 Colorado companies in the past year to have contracted with the Department of Defense.

In 2002, Colorado businesses accounted for $2.6 billion in Department of Defense contracts.

Nationally, defense contracts totaled $170.8 billion during the fiscal year from October 2001 through September 2002.

Colorado accounted for more than 800 defense contracts last year, according to Defense Department officials.

While most of the contracting aerospace companies are in Denver and Colorado Springs, a handful of businesses in Boulder County help out the armed forces, from processing satellite imagery to radiation-detection equipment.

“The government funding is filtering throughout the whole economy,” said John Cody, president and chief executive officer of the Longmont Area Economic Council. “It’s had an impact in the big picture.”

Vexcel has worked with branches of the armed forces for the past 10 years.

Like the twisting pictures of the fight scenes in the movie “The Matrix,” Vexcel specializes in extracting 3-D information from optical and radar imagery with its product FotoG.

The Department of Defense has used FotoG in several ways, including determining the size of emissions clouds and chemicals at the point of artillery shell impacts and the modeling of aircraft to see whether weapons such as smart bombs could fit in them.

The company is currently negotiating with the Navy on development of 3-D ship models that could help in repairing and constructing damaged hulls and piping.

“Whether it’s a damaged area or a mountainside, FotoG can show what it looks like from various points,” Szabo said.

Mark Walker, vice president of sales and marketing for Longmont-based Conduant Corp., said the company has not been directly affected by the war and increased Department of Defense contracts, but the added military spending benefits much on the market.

“It’s timing,” he said. “Our market is perfect right now.”

Conduant develops disk controllers for high-speed recording and playback of digital data. Its product, the TK200, has military applications.

The TK200 has eight drive modules and can record images 24 hours a day, seven days a week without interruption.

Walker said what the Department of Defense does with this product is classified, but for the most part the military uses it for radar surveillance, global positioning systems and collecting telemetry and satellite data.

“We give a piece to the overall puzzle,” Walker said about Conduant contributing to national defense.

Another Longmont company, InPhase Technologies, has found a niche with the military showing holographic images.

InPhase makes rewritable holographic storage. Holographic storage uses holographic discs, meaning data can be stored throughout the entire thickness of the material, rather than just on the surface.

InPhase has worked with the National Technology Alliance, which is under the Department of Defense and the intelligence community.

Its product, the Tapestry Media, can store video images and pictures in high resolutions and can last 100 years in controlled environments.

Liz Murphy, InPhase vice president of marketing, said the military mainly uses holography for satellite images.

“The military takes a lot of pictures,” she said.

Look Dynamics Inc. is another Longmont company working with satellite imagery.

Working with Space Imaging in providing pictures of Iraq for the 24-hour-a-day news channels, Look Dynamics makes the Optical Engine that processes images at high speeds. Instead of using digital, the optical process develops satellite data quicker.

“We tell them what’s inside the image,” said David Bruce, Look Dynamics’ CEO.

Cody said war purposes are not the only ones to have an effect on local businesses.

“The initiatives related to homeland security are having applications across the board,” Cody said. “The Biotech, private companies and suppliers have been affected.”

One company that has been affected by homeland security is TSA Systems Ltd. in Longmont.

The company specializes in “nuclear radiation-measurement solutions” and can detect radiation such as that from uranium and plutonium.

According to Allan Frymire, the company’s president, TSA did roughly $2 million in business in fiscal year 2002. This year, the company’s revenues will grow by about 300 percent.

Frymire said 90 percent of TSA’s business is government work, 85 percent of that with the U.S. government.

Felix Doligosa Jr. can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 389 or by e-mail at fdoligosa@times-call.com.