Made in Colorado 2016's top five winners and finalists
Colorado manufacturers focus on innovation, sustainability
Made in Colorado exists to foster the business-to-business connections, the sharing of stories and commitments to products and processes. Putting that all under one roof for a collection of conversations is the way for ColoradoBiz to move the needle toward progress for the sector as a whole.
Our recent Made in Colorado manufacturer's forum and awards program opened with a luncheon and B2B lounge, where manufacturers were exclusively invited to talk about technology and software solutions within the industry.
To kickoff the afternoon program, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock spoke of the strength of the manufacturing sector in Colorado’s capital and beyond and pointed to companies the city’s residents view with pride. After that, winners and finalists in the five Made in Colorado award categories were honored.
Most Innovative Manufacturer
Winner: Terumo BCT
The Lakewood company is a global leader in the collection and processing of blood. Recent innovations include a system that reduces the chance of malaria infections during transfusions and a cost-effective manufacturing system to produce adult stem cells. www.terumobct.com
Hach Co. The Loveland-based manufacturer makes a variety of instruments to test water quality. The company has won kudos from industry experts and has plans to expand in Loveland with an 86,000-square-foot R&D center set to open in 2017. www.hach.com
Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Space Systems
With the Dream Chaser nabbing NASA’s cargo contract for the International Space Station, the Colorado-based division is going strong, building satellites and components for a wide range of high-profile spacecraft, including the Mars rovers and New Horizons, which recently completed a fly-by of Pluto. www.sncspace.com
Best of Food & Beverage
Winner: Tender Belly
The Duffy brothers have brought an artisan mindset to bacon and won over restaurateurs and foodies alike with their pork products, derived from pigs that are fed an all-natural, vegetarian diet. The Denver-based company’s catalog now includes bacon as well as ham, ribs, franks and tenderloins. www.tenderbelly.com
Grateful Bread Co.
Since 2005, the Golden-based artisan bakery has taken an approach to bread that’s straight from the Old World. It now grinds grains in-house on a custom-built stone flour mill from Austria for breads ranging from brioche to ciabatta to pumpernickel. www.gratefulbread.com
Durango’s largest brewery keeps the Four Corners stocked with suds. And production continues to grow – Ska’s output eclipsed 30,000 barrels in 2015– yet, scale hasn’t quashed creativity: Seasonal stouts have included Mexican molé and peppermint in their recipes, and a new pilot-batch system slated to come online in 2016. www.skabrewing.com
Most Ethically Produced
Winner: Women’s Bean Project
This Denver-based 501(c)3 nonprofit manufacturer has a serious social mission: to help women break out of poverty with entry-level jobs designed as stepping stones for long-term careers. The company creates a collection of dry soup, bread mixes and other foods. www.womensbeanproject.com
Making year-round greenhouses from Pagosa Springs is part of a bigger picture for Growing Spaces: The company’s mission involves restoration of the natural ecosystem and promotion of the health benefits associated with backyard farming. And its geodesic-dome greenhouses are pretty cool to look at as well. www.geodesic-greenhouse-kits.com
Custom neckwear manufacturer Knotty Tie touts ethical production standards, with eco-friendly printing and the use of certified organic cotton fabrics. The company, founded in 2013, topped $1 million in sales last year. Looking ahead, the accessory company plans to expand into a newer, larger Denver headquarters and develop new apparel and accessory categories. Half of Knotty Tie’s team of employees is made up of resettled refugees from countries such as Iraq, Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Eritrea. / www.knottytie.com
Emerging Manufacturer of the Year
Winner: Lifeloc Technologies
For more than 30 years, the Wheat Ridge-based company has made alcohol breathalyzers for law enforcement agencies all over the world; but the company is investigating a new market for marijuana detection. A recent grant from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade accelerated the development of a marijuana breathalyzer to flag stoned drivers. www.lifeloc.com
A standby in the academic world, KMLabs’ ultrashort-pulse lasers are making waves in the semiconductor industry: As Moore’s Law is put to the test, the smaller chips need tools that can work on a nano scale. Intel Capital saw KMLabs’ technology as a good fit for its needs and invested in the Boulder-based company in 2015. www.kmlabs.com
Forget Amazon delivery. One of the biggest target industries for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, is agriculture, and Agribotix is emerging as a leader in the space. The company’s turnkey systems include both UAV and data-processing software. Look for the Boulder startup to boom when the Federal Aviation Administration rethinks UAV policies later in 2016. www.agribotix.com
Top Designed Goods
Winner: Topo Designs
The Denver-based company’s bags, apparel and accessories have taken off in a big way, and it’s easy to see why: These Colorado-sewn goods are works of functional art. Topo Designs now has stores in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and San Francisco as the brand’s craftsmanship attracts a global market. www.topodesigns.com
From a shop in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood, Winter Session works magic with leather and canvas. The company’s catalog of sleek bags, wallets, accessories and apparel are at once durable and sleek with a minimalist style that balances form and function. www.winter-session.com
The Azure Furniture Co.
When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. But when life hands you beetle kill pine, make beautiful furniture. Not only is it in great supply in Colorado’s high country, but blue-tinged beetle kill also proves a perfect medium for the crafts people at Denver’s Azure Furniture. Beyond its flagship line of chairs, tables and other furniture products, the company also makes housewares like breadboards and coasters. www.azurefurniture.com