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Half-cent vetting lets down Pueblo company

Photo by Kara Mason

When Quality Custom Woodwork owner Cheri Bucciarelli was approached by the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation’s Vice President Richard Werner about the chance of using half-cent sales tax funds to bring another woodworking company to town Bucciarelli said she was pro-growth for Pueblo.

After all, if this company could provide more jobs and economic development it meant more business for her and her 10 employees which build and install cabinets for residential and commercial properties.

Dubworks, which received $545,000 from the half-cent fund in 2013 to buy new equipment for an expansion, also builds and installs cabinets for residential and commercial properties. But it was suspected, and Bucciarelli was reassured, that Dubworks would cater to much bigger projects than what Quality Custom Woodwork does.

Half-cent money is not to be used to bring in businesses that would compete with an existing business in Pueblo. So, it would be unlikely another wind energy company or coffee roaster would receive money from the half-cent fund because those companies already exist in Pueblo. However, if a company that manufactures a specific kind of bolt needed for a wind turbine, they may be eligible because they are not a direct competitor with the wind energy company.

“I trusted them to do the right thing. They are smarter, wiser, more worldly than me. I just thought they had their ducks in a row.” -Cheri Bucciarelli, Quality Custom Woodwork owner

Since Dubworks started operation in Pueblo, Quality Custom Woodwork has lost at least two jobs that Bucciarelli knows of to Dubworks, she said.

The larger of the two was Pueblo Community Health expansion, a $60,000 job.

“That’s a modest job, actually. That’s the largest that I know he beat me in. A $60,000 job is not a big job,” Bucciarelli said. “I have to turn a lot of $60,000 jobs to run my company each year.”

The vetting failed, Bucciarelli said. If it had worked, she wouldn’t lose any business to Dubworks.

In a September 24, 2013, Pueblo Chieftain article about the half-cent money going to Dubworks, Jeff West, Dubworks president, said “his company can do a custom kitchen but the work likely would be more expensive than other businesses in town because that (custom kitchens) isn’t their focus.”

But Bucciarelli said she doesn’t actually build kitchens. All of the sets in her space on 4th Street are premanufactured.

“I don’t build kitchens. I build commercial casework for (places such as) schools and hospitals,” she said.

Looking back, Bucciarelli said she doesn’t believe PEDCO actually understood what her business did, but she trusted them to make smart choices about economic development for the community because “they were the experts.”

“I trusted them to do the right thing. They are smarter, wiser, more worldly than me. I just thought they had their ducks in a row,” Bucciarelli said.

PEDCO wouldn’t comment on their vetting process or the competition between Quality Custom Woodwork and Dubworks upon being contacted by the PULP, but Pueblo City Council President and voting member of PEDCO Steve Nawrocki was able to give some insight.

“In recent years the few companies that have come have been successful financially because they have been vetted quite well. Sometimes things happen, and that was one of those unfortunate circumstances.” – Steve Nawrocki, Pueblo City Council President

“We would never intentionally bring somebody in to compete with a local business,” Nawrocki said. “To my knowledge that’s the first time that type of thing has happened.”

PEDCO’s vetting process consists of a group of volunteers and one PEDCO staff member to perform an extensive review, according to Nawrocki.

An extensive review includes looking at financials and the history of the company. For a company such as Dubworks that is expanding, the group looks at the track-record of the company, Nawrocki said.

Bucciarelli said she can’t help but wonder if this really was an isolated case because so little information is known about the vetting process and the work going into attracting businesses.

“I can assure you that over the last several years there were a number of prospective companies that came that had a lot of prototypes and we didn’t think we were the place to give them money,” Nawrocki said. “In recent years the few companies that have come have been successful financially because they have been vetted quite well. Sometimes things happen, and that was one of those unfortunate circumstances.”

Bucciarelli said Jack Rink, President and CEO of PEDCO, has reached out and had several meetings with her and offered to set a meeting up between Dubworks and Quality Custom Woodworks, but it wouldn’t do anything for her, she said, the damage has already been done.

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Written by Kara Mason

Kara Mason is PULP's news editor. She is also the Society of Professional Journalists Colorado Pro Chapter president. Kara freelances for other regional publications, covering government, politics and the environment.

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