December 17, 2014

A new technology and solar energy offshoot of Panasonic Corp. of North America plans to make its home base at a 400-acre development near Denver International Airport, anchoring an environmentally-sustainable project and employing as many as 400 at the site.

Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Co. chose Denver over 22 other U.S. cities as the place to make its main U.S. innovation and sales hub.

Panasonic Enterprise Solutions sells digital video display technology and solar power systems and helps design, finance, engineer and manage projects for large corporate and public sector clients.

It plans to make its home base a showcase for its technology and work with the developers, local officials and Xcel Energy to make the larger development an example of sustainability.

“We want to do something special,” said Jim Doyle, president of Panasonic Enterprise Solutions. “If we do this right, people will be flying in to Denver” to see it.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said the decision to base the hub at the future 61st and Pena Boulevard RTD commuter-rail stop could be “the biggest economic win for the region in years,” one projected to have an $82 million annual economic impact for the city.

“This is without question the catalytic opportunity we’ve been waiting for,” Hancock said, adding that it could jump start the regional “aerotropolis” concept for developing land around DIA.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper agreed, saying the project’s economic significance has the potential to exceed recent headquarters relocation or expansions of companies such as Arrow Electronics Inc. or Charles Schwab Corp.

The Pena Boulevard Station project site is just outside the 53-square-mile DIA property, on what will be the first rail stop on the way into the heart of the city. The greenfield development is a project of L.C. Fulenwider Inc.

Panasonic Enterprise Solutions, formed in April, plans to build its operations and sales hub at the site over the next 18 months.

It will eventually be home to as many as 400 jobs, many with headquarters-type functions, engineering and other jobs assembling digital display technologies and solar equipment that are at the heart of what the company does.

The 61st and Pena rail station is not expected to open until 2016. Panasonic Enterprise Solutions hopes to have its headquarters open by the middle of that year, Doyle said. He plans to move to Denver next summer.

Newark, New Jersey-based Panasonic North America formed the Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Co. earlier this year to serve as umbrella business and sales organization for Panasonic’s large-scale digital signage, solar power, audio- and visual-technology products and services.

The company’s focus is to use its expertise in those areas to serve large corporate and public sector clients, with some its near-term growth prospects being in stadium displays and similar digital signage projects.

Panasonic North America has given its new offshoot a mandate to grow aggressively, Doyle said, and the company’s home base will reflect that.

It’s working on technologies and engineering for large batteries to store electricity, and on other technologies not yet in use, he said.

“Three years from now, there may be a slice of our business we don’t even known about yet,” Doyle said.

The city of Denver and the state are granting $1.5 million in strategic-fund business incentives to the company with the aim of creating 330 jobs with an average wage of $89,554.

The company looked at 22 U.S. cities and found Denver best suited for its technology and the environmental sustainability it wants to pursue, Doyle said.

As an engineering organization looking to grow from 100 positions today, it was also important to have nearby universities producing the kind of graduates the company would want to hire, he said.

Those factors, proximity to DIA, the incentives, and the local officials welcoming the company made Denver rise above the other cities.

“It became somewhat of a slam dunk,” he said.

The business’ Osaka, Japan-based parent company, Panasonic Corp. (TYO: 6752), is making environmentally sustainable projects a priority.

It converted a former factory site in Fujisawa, Japan, on the coast south of Tokyo, into a sustainable “smart town” that’s home to 100 families today and is expected to grow to be home to 4,000 people.