Made in Colorado 2015: Take 3
Who: Founded in 1976, Finishing Pros is the state’s only ISO 9001:2008 metal finisher certified by the National Association for Defense and Aerospace Contractors (NADCAP).
Michael Webb took the reins as president in mid-2014 to help the growing company make the jump from a contract shop to first-tier vendor for aerospace and medical device companies.
Growth drivers: Finishing Pros offers electroless plating, electroplating, and chemical conversion, but anodization has proven key to its recent growth. “Anodizing is absolutely critical if you want to be in aerospace,” Webb says, referring to an electrolytic passivation method to increase the thickness of the natural oxide layer on the surface of metal parts.
Aluminum has become omnipresent; the new Ford F-150 even uses it to shave 700 pounds from its weight, Webb notes. “The use of aluminum is on the rise,” he says, “That’s underpinning our growth.”
Training: Finishing Pros has partnered with Colorado State University to deliver continuing education to employees via their smartphones and tablets. “The most difficult thing about manufacturing in Colorado: finding people with technical skills,” says Webb. “We’ll be able to have our people access all of the information for our technology on their smart devices.”
Next: Webb says his aim is to position the 50-employee company for “large-scale industrial growth.” He forecasts an uptick of about 50 percent for 2015, due in large part to growth in aerospace.
Frontière Natural Meats
Who: James Viola and Robert LaPoint launched Frontière in 2009. After brokering meats for the first three years, they bought processing equipment and went into production.
What: Bison represents about two-thirds of sales and Frontière also sells organic beef, chicken and pork. “Bison has become more of a national thing,” says Viola. “People are just getting more health-conscious.”
Frontière owns a herd in Colorado. “They’re not nearly as challenging as raising cattle,” Viola notes. “They’re very hardy, naturally wild animals.” But there are some wrinkles, he adds: “A 2,500-pound bull – a barbwire fence ain’t going to hold him in.”
Next: The company is expanding its facility in 2015 to accommodate annual growth of 30 percent for three years running and looking at shelf-stable, jerky-like bison bars and other new products.
Jeff Rowland Design Group
Who: Just coming off of his 30th Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Jeff Rowland launched his high-end amplifier manufacturer in 1984. He works with a network of Front Range contract manufacturers to make amplifiers that often retail for $10,000 or more to customers all over the globe, and “exude opulence,” according to Stereophile magazine.
A shifting paradigm: Hi-Fi listening rooms are a disappearing breed. “Streaming and downloading is affecting this industry as a whole,” says Rowland. “The younger set has handheld devices and their content provider is their computer.”
Innovation: The company has been first-to-market with now-industry standards like Class D power. New for 2015, the Daemon is a networked and integrated preamplifier/amplifier with a touchscreen that’s aimed at bridging generations. “It’s known as the messenger between gods and man,” Rowland says
of the name.
Why Colorado: A great manufacturing ecosystem. Rowland sources everything from circuit boards to aluminum casing from local companies. “Vertec Tool is world-class,” he says.
Who: Kady Zinke was a Denver Nuggets dancer before launching KADYLUXE. The brand’s dancewear line debuted after a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2013, but Zinke has since pushed into broader market for protective clothing by partnering with Dr. Terry Lowe of the Colorado School of Mines.
Innovation: “We’ve actually invented something pretty amazing,” says Zinke. Her idea of ultra-thin padding for dancers has snowballed into something much bigger. “It’s a hybrid technology that’s going to make sports a lot safer.” She sees opportunities in football helmets, military gear and automobiles.
Inspirations: “Under Armour,” says Zinke. “I love Kevin Plank’s story.”
Next: After landing seed funding from Colorado’s Advanced Industries Accelerator Grant program, Zinke and Lowe are in the midst of a feasibility study to manufacture the next-generation material in Colorado. (KADYLUXE currently splits production between Colorado and California.) But she’s not forgetting her roots: The brand’s second dance wear collection launches in spring 2015.
Knotty Tie Co.
Who: Mark Johnson and Jeremy Priest launched Knotty Tie in 2013 to make neckwear from custom-printed fabric. In 2014, they grew to six employees, including a pair of resettled refugees from Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Both were professional tailors before coming to Colorado. “We wanted to connect them to opportunities that were very meaningful to them,” says Priest.
One-off and custom: Knotty Tie has no minimum order for custom printed ties and a standard turnaround time of three to five weeks. “We felt custom shouldn’t have a minimum order of 50 and an eight-week lag time,” says Johnson.
Lessons learned: “Month over month over month, we’re making slow and steady improvements,” says Priest. “We’re really expanding our market share.” He notes that Knotty Tie is in the top three Google results for “custom neckties,” a term that sees about 50,000 searches a month worldwide.
Highlights: The company sold neckwear to numerous wedding parties, academic departments and consumer brands, and execs from Boston-based HubSpot wore Knotty Ties for their October 2014 IPO on the New York Stock Exchange.
Next: The nimble operation is bringing fabric printing in-house in 2015 and partnering with a number of artists on custom patterns. “We’re constantly developing new products on the fly,” says Priest. “The printing equipment unlocks the cost equation for us.”