Cal-Wood Education Center, a Jamestown nonprofit group, saw its operating revenue disappear as school after school canceled when the pandemic hit in March 2020.
Overnight field trips from Front Range schools, many in Boulder Valley, make up a majority of the outdoor education center’s business. Cal-Wood Executive Director Rafael Salgado wasn’t sure how to keep the center open.
But a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan for close to $177,000 in April 2020, as well as monetary help from the center’s foundation for a restoration project, allowed Cal-Wood to continue to employ its small staff, he said.
Instead of working as counselors or manning the kitchen, staff members painted buildings, repaired railings and improved trails. Families also were invited to camp on the site that summer, generating some revenue while following COVID-19 distancing rules.
“We had to be creative,” Salgado said. “The money gave us time to come up with other options. It was a big help.”
Then came the wildfire that burned through 600 acres of Cal-Wood’s property in October 2020. Cal-Wood received a second paycheck protection loan, also about $177,000, in January 2021. Combined with community fundraising efforts, Salgado said, the center was able to keep going, even when a COVID-19 variant last fall again scuttled school field trips.
It wasn’t until December that the Boulder Valley School District gave schools the option to participate in overnight outdoor education trips, he said.
“It’s been pretty tough the last few years,” he said. “I don’t know how we did it. Looking back we were lucky. It was a lot of stress. If we had closed down, it would take a few years to reopen. The funding came right at the right time. Hopefully, 2022 is going to be the year we’re back to business.”
Cal-Wood received the only large — above $170,000 — Paycheck Protection Program loan given to an organizatin in Jamestown, a small mountain community west of Boulder.
Altogether, data compiled by Denver Post business reporter Aldo Svaldi shows 1,175 Boulder County businesses were allocated $1.26 billion in federal Paycheck Protection Program loans. Of Colorado’s 64 counties, Boulder County received the fifth-highest amount of money through the program, despite ranking 10th in terms of largest population.
The federal loan program was originally created in March 2020 as part of the $2 trillion CARES Act to distribute $600 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses. More money, and a second application period, was added in December 2020, for a total of $800 billion in funding.
While the rules on who could apply and what’s required for loan forgiveness were loosened after the program was created, the intent was to help small businesses keep workers or rehire those who were laid off because of pandemic disruptions. Loan amounts were based on average monthly payroll costs.
Of Boulder County businesses receiving loans over $170,000, a company based in Boulder — Gores Vitac Holdings — received the highest amount, almost $8.5 million. The company, which didn’t respond to a request for comment, provides closed captioning and subtitling services and reported 500 jobs.
The second-highest Boulder-based loan, about $7 million, went to GCSES II Holdings, an oilfield services company headquartered on Walnut Street that reported 457 jobs.
The third-highest loan to a Boulder organization went to Spectra Logic Corp., an IT hardware firm that manufactures data storage and management solutions that reported 373 jobs. Spectra Logic received about $6.3 million.
“Spectra Logic has been in business for more than 40 years with headquarters in Boulder. The PPP loan enabled Spectra to preserve jobs for employees and meet customer requirements during the pandemic,” Spectra CEO and founder Nathan Thompson said in a written statement.
Rounding out the top five largest loan recipients in Boulder are Boulder Medical Center, with a $5.2 million loan and 387 reported jobs, and The Kitchen Restaurant Group, with a $4.9 million loan and 500 reported jobs. The Kitchen, a collection of restaurants founded in 2004 and headquartered in Boulder, also received a $10 million federal grant through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
In Lafayette, Clinica Campesina Family Health Services received about $8 million, the highest loan amount to an organization in that city. Along with the loan, Clinica received federal money through other relief programs, including money to expand capacity for coronavirus testing.
Clinica, which is headquartered in Lafayette, provides primary care services to low-income people with limited access to health care at six community-based clinics in south Boulder, Broomfield and Adams counties.
Clinica Chief Financial Officer Brian Johnston said the paycheck protection loan was used only for payroll, offsetting the cost for the company’s 600 employees through the latter part of the pandemic. Clinica, which received the loan in March 2021, wasn’t eligible until the rules were changed that year to allow larger nonprofits to apply, he said.
He said the pandemic significantly impacted revenue in both 2020 and 2021 as fewer patients made primary care appointments. In 2020, before the loan was available, Clinica furloughed employees. Almost all those furloughed were brought back within six months, he said.
“This (loan) really was a lifeline,” he said. “The program did exactly what it was supposed to do and allowed us to continue to staff our organization and see patients.”
Lignetics Inc., which manufactures wood pellets, fire logs, fire starters, wood flour and animal bedding, got a $6 million loan, the largest to any company based in Louisville. The company, which is on South Boulder Road and reported 490 jobs, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Other large loan amounts to Louisville organizations went to Fresca Foods, at $4.1 million with 413 reported jobs, and Avid4 Adventure, at $2 million with 116 reported jobs.
businessAvid4 Adventure instructor Trevor Waters catches air off the XL line on June 10, 2020, at the Valmont Bike Park in Boulder. (Jeremy Papasso/Camera file)Louisville-based Avid4 Adventure provides outdoor summer camps in eight states, including local camps. Avid CEO Paul Dreyer said in an email that considering layoffs as the pandemic started was “a low point in my career.”
“We run an in-person, service-oriented business that is also regulated and licensed by the state,” he wrote. “Due to not only uncertainties and changing dynamics, but also state and federal mandates, we simply could not make enough money in 2020 to pay our fixed costs.”
But once the Paycheck Protection Program was approved, he said, the loan allowed Avid to keep employees. The money, he said, went to payroll and rent.
In summer 2020, Avid created new models to continue to operate under pandemic restrictions, including “small group adventures,” an at-home camp option and an online option. Even with the new offerings, the company served only about 30% of the participants it expected, Dreyer said.
As restrictions loosened last summer, Avid saw its participants and returned to pre-pandemic levels. But, he said, it still was the most difficult season operationally that his company has seen.
“We were short-staffed the entire summer, which resulted in huge stressors for our whole team, and also the need for us to cancel certain camps — for the first time ever — due to not having enough staff,” he wrote.
In Longmont, Woodley’s Fine Furniture received $2.6 million, the largest loan to businesses or organizations in that city. Woodley’s, which reported 198 jobs, didn’t respond to a request for comment. Sample Supports, which provides disability services and reported 250 jobs, received the second-largest loan in Longmont at $2.3 million.
Cornerstone Orthopedics and Sports received $1.2 million, the largest loan given to businesses based in Superior. Cornerstone didn’t respond to a request for comment. Also in the health care realm, Professional Home Health Care Inc. received $1.3 million, the top loan to Niwot-based businesses. The business didn’t respond to a request for comment.
In the mountain communities, Black Fox Mining received $581,000, the largest loan to a Nederland business. The company, which reported 31 jobs, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Lyons-based Sierra Sage Herbs received two loans, each for $314,700.
CEO Jodi Scott, who started the business with her mother and sister in 2008, said in an email that they wanted to provide natural first aid products that were just as effective as the traditional, chemical-laden products that were available.
Since then, she said, the 27-employee company has brought the same topical, therapeutic approach to other body care categories, including creating natural products for moms, babies and animals.
At the start of the pandemic, she said, retail partners either couldn’t pay on time or asked to extend payment terms, while suppliers began requiring full payment upfront and sales dropped as customers avoided stores.
“Our cash flow was significantly compromised,” she wrote.
The loans, she said, allowed the business to continue to operate.
“We were able to ensure that we did not have to lay off any employees during the early days of the pandemic,” she wrote.