(The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett) Frank Backes is the Chief Executive Officer and Kenneth O'Neil is the Chief Operating Officer (not to be confused with his brother, Kevin O'Neil) of Braxton Technologies. On the desk behind them is a model of a GPS Satellite that was designed by Braxton

By Bill Radford, The Gazette. Colorado Springs-based Braxton Technologies, at a time when many companies are hunkering down and trying to survive, is focused on growth.

Picture: (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett) Frank Backes is the Chief Executive Officer and Kenneth O’Neil is the Chief Operating Officer (not to be confused with his brother, Kevin O’Neil) of Braxton Technologies. On the desk behind them is a model of a GPS Satellite that was designed by Braxton.

Helping fuel that growth: a role on an ITT team recently awarded a massive contract by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center to provide operations support for its space and ground communications networks. The maximum potential value of the contract is $1.26 billion.

Braxton is a software development and services company specializing in satellite ground command and control systems. “What that means,” explains Frank Backes, Braxton’s chief executive officer, “is that basically we build the software and the infrastructure on the ground to be able to fly either satellites or weapons systems.”

Though the new NASA contract may not be the biggest one the company has been part of, Backes said, Braxton’s role is larger than in some other deals. “The potential for business to Braxton is greater than any program in the past,” he said.

The company hasn’t called Colorado Springs home for long. Though it has had an office on Wooten Road on the east side of the Springs, for about three years, the company was headquartered in Pleasanton, Calif., until this past summer, when Springs-based The O’Neil Group Co. bought the business and moved it here.

Backes was already here, having lived in Colorado Springs since 1985. He joined Braxton when the local office was launched.

“I came aboard three years ago to grow the company all over the country, but primarily here,” Backes said. Colorado Springs, he pointed out, is a center for satellite command and control. It’s home to Cheyenne Mountain, Peterson Air Force Base and Schriever Air Force Base, where Braxton has a role in launching and flying the Global Positioning System satellite constellation.

Bill Simpson and his wife, Loraine, both engineers, started Braxton Technologies in California in 1994. It’s always been a very engineering-focused company, Backes said.

The O’Neil Group has added emphasis on marketing and business development. It’s a shift that Backes – who while earning his bachelor’s degree in semiconductor physics from the University of California at San Diego also minored in communications and marketing – sees as key to growing the business.

Even before the acquisition, Backes’ efforts were paying off. While he didn’t divulge revenue figures, he said revenue has grown in the 25 percent to 40 percent range each year over the three years. When he started, Braxton had about a dozen employees. Now it has more than 60, most. The company also has offices in California and Florida, and with the awarding of the NASA contract is looking at opening offices in Washington, D.C., and White Sands, N.M.

It was Braxton’s growth potential that appealed to Kevin O’Neil of The O’Neil Group Co., a corporation specializing in strategic acquisitions and services. O’Neil didn’t have to go far to learn about Braxton; his brother Ken is chief operating officer.

The company could easily employ 500 people in five years, Kevin O’Neil said. “If we’re not 200 by the end of 2009, I would be very surprised.”

Much of Braxton’s work has been for the defense industry, an industry Backes acknowledged faces a future of tightening budgets. But with “an aggressive price point” for its products, he said, “as the budgets tighten, our business tends to get better.”

Meanwhile, contracts such as the one with NASA open new avenues for Braxton.

“The satellite industry as a whole is very stable,” O’Neil said.

Most of Braxton’s work is done as a subcontractor under major players such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and ITT. But Backes sees that changing.

“Over the long period of time, we expect Braxton to be bidding as prime contractor,” he said.

Colorado boasts the nation’s third-largest space economy, with the aerospace industry providing $4 billion to $5 billion in revenue annually in the state, according to the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. But while many big-name aerospace companies have operations in Colorado, few are based in the state, Backes said.

“Our philosophy very much is to grow an aerospace company headquartered here in Colorado.”