Follow the money to find where more Colorado jobs are


If you hear about a company that has raised a bunch of money from investors, be on the lookout for lots of job openings. 

That’s the case at tech-climate startup Project Canary, which recently announced it raised $111 million from investors. It was the second round of investment (its first round last year was much smaller, $10 million) and yes, the Denver company is hiring.

Project Canary, which helps oil and gas companies measure their methane emissions more precisely by using frequently-collected data, is a twist from the venture capital stories of just five or 10 years ago. 

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Workforce of the future? The employees at Project Canary in Denver take a break from work — together. (Provided by Project Canary)

First of all, Project Canary is from Colorado, a state that attracts a sizable amount of investment but often pales when compared to investments in coastal states. Second, at more than $100 million, that’s a much larger investment than Colorado companies were getting just a few years ago, when they topped out at single or low double-digit millions of dollars. And third, Project Canary is a B Corp., a label that requires for-profit companies to be good to the Earth and help society. It’s not just about profit.

“There has never been more choice about where and how to work,” acknowledged CEO Chris Romer in an email. “Purpose-driven teams like ours who validate their mission, DEI, and wellness commitments with a B-Corp score — ours is 107, placing us in the top 5% globally — do well by doing good. We’re working on altering the course of climate change, the defining problem of our lives. That requires building an entirely new category of technology- and market-based solutions. There is no better mission.” 

The company’s plan is to hire 10 people a month, which will triple its 68-person workforce to about 185 people over the next year. The company has posted 35 job openings in the past month, not all of them are in Denver and some are remote.

Venture capital tends to involve a small community that can make a big difference within an industry and the world — for better or worse. Gnip, a Boulder-based messaging service that had raised $6.6 million from VCs including locals at Foundry Group, was acquired by Twitter for $134 million in 2014, bringing a regional Twitter headquarters to Colorado and hundreds of jobs.

One of the worst? Possibly Theranos, the blood-testing startup that faked its way into collecting more than $1 billion from investors before founder Elizabeth Holmes was found guilty in January of defrauding investors.

Last year, Colorado companies attracted a record $6.5 billion of venture capital, or nearly $4 billion more than the top prior years, according to the Venture Monitor report by researcher PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association. Most of the top states — and Colorado regularly ranks in the top 10 — saw similar growth. 

The state’s median deal size increased 63.6%, with Colorado’s largest deal at $1.4 billion (that went to commercial space company Sierra Space in Louisville — and yes, they are still hiring). Project Canary’s raise will be counted in the next report, but keep checking The Sun for a more thorough update on what has happened with VCs in Colorado.

→ Where the jobs are —VCs invest in multiple companies at a time hoping for the big pay off of at least a few of them. That means VCs are constantly looking for talent for the companies in their portfolios. Check out these local VC job boards:

A break in Colorado’s unemployment fraud

It sure seemed like every other person I knew was impacted by unemployment fraud last year, be it unemployed workers stuck in a backlogged system or friends who received unsolicited letters from a bank or the tax office about their supposed unemployment claim.

Now, at least 17 people suspected of filing fraudulent claims have been referred by a state taskforce for criminal prosecution, according to the state Attorney General’s office, which is part of the Colorado Unemployment Fraud Task Force. The total loss in unemployment fraud “exceeds $300,000,” according to the AG’s office.

Some notable results include Anthony Zaghab, a Centennial resident, who was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison in December for falsifying applications for COVID-related relief funds and obtaining $41,511 in pandemic unemployment benefits from Colorado, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Three other people are being prosecuted by District Attorney Josh Vogel in Prowers County District Court.

 “We expect more case referrals in the near future,” said Lawrence Pacheco, a spokesman from the AG’s office.

→ READ: Colorado task force turns 17 cases of unemployment fraud to prosecutors

CDLE $33.7 million paid to unemployment fraudsters; $44.3 million recovered

On Friday, officials at the state’s labor department said its latest data shows that 68,602 unique claims have been confirmed fraudulent. Of those, $33.7 million was paid to accounts deemed fraudulent. 

Another $671 million in possible payments were stopped thanks to the labor department’s anti-fraud tools. was stopped before being paid to  And another $44.3 million in payments were recovered from banking institutions, according to CDLE.

Target mum on Colorado workers getting $24/hour wage

‘Tis true. Target is raising its minimum wage for workers to $24 an hour, up from $15. But it’s not for all employees and it’s not immediate. The exact number “will depend on the job and the local market, with market-level wages set by the retailer based on industry benchmarking, local wage data and more,” according to a corporate news release.

So, I asked Target about Colorado. The response? “We do not have specifics to share for each market at this time,” replied the company, adding “this market-by-market approach will unfold throughout the year.”

Back in 2017, Target announced it would hike its minimum wage up to $15, and then took two years to do so. The retailer now pays above that wage at stores in Denver, where the city’s minimum wage is now $15.87. According to job postings, Target is offering $16.50 an hour for cashiers, general merchandise and stocking positions in Denver.

→ Target touts Colorado company — Higher wages doesn’t solve everything. In its news release, Target says it’s also providing better benefits and name-drops Guild Education, the Denver company that figured out how to get corporations to pay for their own employees’ extended education. Target uses Guild to provide a “debt-free education assistance program.” Guild works with a ton of large companies so if you’re hunting educational opportunities, you can scan Guild’s customer list by typing a name on its sign-in form.

On minimum wage… Colorado’s $12.56 hourly minimum is already the 11th highest among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., according to the Employment Policies Institute, a nonprofit that studies employment policies. That’ll likely factor into whether local Target workers will qualify for the $24 wage. States with higher pay are all on the coast, except for Arizona. Meanwhile, D.C. is raising its minimum wage to $16.10 on July 1.

Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine is unloaded from a United Airlines plane. (Handout)

→ How about $19.64/hr for customer service? This just in from United Airlines: The airline really needs help, so it’s boosting its starting wage for customer service and ramp service jobs to $19.64 an hour starting March 13. There are 250 openings for ramp service workers and 100 in customer service, confirmed company spokesman Russell Carlton. >> DETAILS

Are you a Colorado employer with a tantalizing job opening or upcoming job fair? Share it with What’s Working to be considered for the weekly column. >> EMAIL

Third local Starbucks join union effort

Momentum is growing as a handful of Starbucks workers joined a national movement Friday to demand union recognition. The latest store is in Republic Plaza at 303 16th St. in Denver. Those workers join the efforts of staff from stores in Superior and “the barn” location in Denver on East Colfax Avenue at Milwaukee Street. 

“It should be noted that we are dealing with all of the things that the other Starbucks are dealing with, with the added issues of being in an underserved area, like 16th Street,” said Paige Reilly, who works at the Republic Plaza location.

Starbucks Workers United is representing employees who are in the process of forming a union, which includes two stores in Denver. (Provided by Starbucks Workers United)

We first heard about the local effort in January from Michaela Sellaro, who works at the other Denver store. She said it wasn’t about the money but “having a seat at the table” and being heard when localized issues arise.

At the time, a Starbucks spokesperson offered this comment: “The stance of the company is that while we don’t believe the union is necessary at Starbucks, we believe in the process and we respect our partners rights to organize.”

→ Play ball! Oh wait. — Major League Baseball canceled the first two games of the 2022 season because it failed to reach an agreement with the players’ union that included a $700,000 minimum salary, according to the New York Times. The Colorado Rockies are included in that, reports the Rox Pile Rockies Report.

Colorado jobs economy

As the Great Resignation/Reallocation/Reassessment continues, there were 1,817 new claims for state unemployment benefits for the week ending Feb. 26. Another 17,788 Coloradans collected continued unemployment benefits. Both are down from the prior week.

Nationwide, the number of payroll jobs went up 678,000 in February while unemployment rates fell to 3.8%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. There are still more people getting unemployment benefits now than before the pandemic (6.3 million vs. 5.7 million), but there are fewer underemployed or part-time workers seeking better, full-time jobs, at 4.1 million now compared to 4.4 million in Feb. 2020.

And perhaps in a move that employers are finding the help they need, Google told its workers to get back to the office by April 4. The company adopted a hybrid schedule, so two days will be remote, Reuters reports. Microsoft asked employees to return to the office last month, according to GeekWire.

Of note: 24% of the 125,019 openings posted on Colorado’s state job board ConnectingColorado.com are location-neutral jobs, which typically means remote work is allowed.

→ Best place to work from home in Colorado — All you really need to work from home is reliable broadband. Oh, and an employer that lets you. If you’ve got the latter, then the Colorado city best suited for working at home is … Westminster, which ranked No. 10 on PC Magazine’s best WFH list. It cracked the top 10 because it’s “just barely affordable” and has a new train line. At No. 17 was Longmont, which led the way in Colorado among cities that built their own fiber internet service. Longmont had gigabit speeds way back when. But booted from the list? Boulder because of its unaffordable housing. >> TOP WFH CITIES

  • Worthwhile offer? Towns that paid newcomers to move in was another factor PC Magazine considered. It used data from MakeMyMove, which tracks financial incentives by small towns. No surprise, Colorado towns aren’t on the list. >> MOVING OFFERS

Other working bits

→ Financial hardship? Rent assistance for non-COVID reasons. — The ongoing Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which covered monthly rent for 36,432 households in Colorado last year, is now in phase two — and financial hardship eligibility doesn’t have to be pandemic related. The state’s program provides up to 15 months of rent, including overdue rent, to help Coloradans get their finances back together. Read the latest update and why there was still $400 million available at the end of 2021. >> STORY, APPLY


Take the What’s Working inflation poll: Have your living expense increased? Take the poll at https://cosun.co/ww-inflation

Thanks to everyone who has shared a personal job, hiring or inflation story. They help inform my reporting. If you still have one, let me know and I just may use it in a future story. The easiest way to share is by filling out the form at cosun.co/ww-inflation or email me at tamara@coloradosun.com.

Have a good week and if you appreciate the column, share it with a friend! ~tamara

What’s Working is a Colorado Sun column for those who have lost a job, are trying to find one or are trying to hire someone. Email tamara@coloradosun.com with stories, tips or questions (please add “What’s Working” to the subject line) and share what city you’re from! Read the archive and don’t miss the next one by signing up at coloradosun.com/getww 

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Follow the money to find where more Colorado jobs are

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