CMA winners deliver unequivocal message: respect the middle market

By Bart Taylor | Apr 09, 2019

Several years ago, I wrote the headline, "Middle-market innovators steal the show at the inaugural Colorado Manufacturing Awards," to describe the first CMA program. It's also a takeaway from last week's fourth annual event and list of winners. The region's manufacturing sector is overflowing with creativity and success, owing much to mid-sized companies that have grown into market leaders and change agents, many from humble beginnings. It's a journey we chronicle each week.

The CMAs are only a single manifestation of the vibrancy of regional manufacturing. In 235 in-depth interviews in CompanyWeek last year, executives painted a healthy picture of the manufacturing economy. Here are a few of the our top-line conclusions from the 2018 Manufacturing Market Report.

  • Across all industries, Managing Growth was the top challenge, reflecting positive underlying trends in a sector that's made a startling comeback from the "dog days" of the 2000s.
  • Workforce, again, is a pervasive challenge across most all manufacturing industries. Data continue to reflect the need to retrain a new generation of manufacturing employees, in fast-changing production environments.
  • Competition has emerged as a significant challenge for companies, as is Market Awareness, reflecting a more competitive marketplace for the products of U.S. manufacturers.
  • Expanding Opportunities for manufacturers is also reflected in high-water three-year marks for New Markets, Growing Markets, and New Products, cited by fully one-third of all companies interviewed.
  • Real Estate has emerged as the top Need for manufacturing companies, second only to workforce. It's an additional sign of expansion across manufacturing industries.

One anecdotal takeaway from CompanyWeek profiles is that the sector seems to have more resilience than even four years ago. Manufacturing isn't a single-industry sector and growth can be reasonably forecast across multiple industries.

That said, manufacturing still has a long way to go before its companies and people attain the same rock-star status as technology unicorns or iconic tourism and consumer brands. But the stars are aligning. The companies that today comprise the "maker economy" are on the rise. The opportunity we have once a year to bring together and celebrate this extraordinary group is our great privilege.

Before we look ahead, even to next week, as we track the talented companies shaping the sector, we owe it to the 2019 class to stop and say congratulations. There were no losers in the group of nominees and of 37 finalists last week. Only winners, all adding to the fabric of America's new manufacturing class.

Bart Taylor is publisher of CompanyWeek. Email him at to get the 2018 Manufacturing Market Report, a summary of CompanyWeek interviews from last year.