Made in America: Will a MFG revival transform the Rocky Mountain economy?

By Bart Taylor | Aug 07, 2013

Meet CompanyWeek, The Voice of Rocky Mountain Manufacturing & Commerce. It’s the culmination of a lot of things, really: ideas and experience, of a perceived opportunity, of a desire to build something, of talented colleagues who can help make it happen.

CompanyWeek’s also about two recurring themes for me in my last few years at ColoradoBiz.

First, I’ve been increasingly drawn to companies here that make stuff – manufacturers. In Colorado you don’t have to look far to find the fruits of their labor. Beer, satellites, IPhone cases, batteries, software, bikes, apparel, fish tanks, organic salsa, shoes - and on. From start-up to billion-dollar company. Plus, they’re nearly always interesting, the cool factor can be off the charts and the personalities are often as compelling as the products. It’s also a growth-sector.

But I'd argue that manufacturing's at the center of profound change in the economy, and that Colorado will be a case-study in how a region will leverage new manufacturing to great gain, or miss-out to communities that harness the favorable winds pushing along goods-producing businesses.

What manufacturing lacks here, is scale. In Colorado’s service-heavy economy, it accounts for about 8% of Colorado’s employment base and GDP (compared to about 12% nationally). Service business like finance, education and health, and professional services are several times larger, as is government, Colorado’s largest service employer. Three-times as many people work in government than in manufacturing, nearly 400,000 employees

The number’s a bit startling, honesty, and for me an incentive. It seems self-evident that more goods-producing companies are needed. The clearest path for me was the idea of launching a publication that brings this new manufacturing sector to life. Today, business media bends decidedly toward service.

Media’s at its best when it’s at the center of a growing, evolving community. And in this case, there’s also a clear need. In a CompanyWeek interview, when asked how Colorado might help its manufacturers, Rob Mitchell, CEO of Moots Cycling in Steamboat, explained.

“More storytelling is one,” he suggests. “There are some really interesting stories in the state of companies that are very, very well-respected brands, known on a worldwide basis, that are building 100 percent, or very nearly 100 percent of everything they make and sell right here in our back yards. I think a program that highlights those and brings visibility to them and to the state at the same time could be very powerful.”

In focusing on goods-producing companies, service businesses may benefit most. They’re key to manufacturing success and in need, I’d argue, of a new generation of companies to drive growth in their business.

Initially, I hope you’ll ride along by signing up for a free subscription. CompanyWeek will sent to your inbox weekly beginning September 4, with content linked to More later - in every issue of CompanyWeek.

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