Last fall, Colorado economic development officials celebrated a significant win. The Department of Defense had awarded the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) nearly $6.6 million to "provide immediate and sustained assistance to Colorado firms and employees impacted by reduced Department of Defense procurement . . . and to coordinate assistance to the Colorado jurisdictions where these firms and individuals are located."
The grant -- the "Colorado defense industry adjustment program" -- provides help for manufacturers, primarily in Colorado Springs and Denver, hurt by reduced defense spending.
It also breathed life into a concept stalled in OEDIT. SMART, or Strengthening Manufacturing by Accelerating Research and Technology, envisioned resources and a network of facilities to support advanced manufacturing but enjoyed lukewarm support. With the DoD grant, SMART was reimagined. OEDIT selected CAMA, the Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Alliance, to implement the grant and today CAMA manages and sustains 'SMART Colorado,' the official name for the ‘defense industry adjustment program.’
The Statement of Work issued to CAMA outlines nine "Projects" in SMART, each with specific dollar amounts earmarked from the $6.6M total, and deadlines for completion: (here's the full SOW)
Colorado Advanced Industries Supply Chain Initiative (Budget: $900,000). Outcome: 'Contractor will create (digital and online) tools that map Colorado defense industry supply chain assets and show and build market diversity for defense suppliers within Colorado.' Deadline: 9/30/2015.
SMART Colorado Executive Team & Strategic Operational Plan (Budget: $45,000). Outcome: 'The Contractor will use this strategy as a mechanism through which the Contractor will make recommendations for diversification of defense-dependent sectors of Colorado industries.' Deadline: 12/31/14.
Colorado Digital Manufacturing Commons Planning (Budget: $27,000). Description: 'This will require seminars and programs to educate manufacturers on the opportunities as well as promote the software and system development to lead to effective implementation. Digital manufacturing provides an opportunity for firms in the defense aerospace sector to diversify their market offerings as well as a way to reduce R&D costs.' Deadline: 12/31/2014.
Regional SMART Center Team Development (Budget: $27,000): Outcome: 'Host a two-day session of industry leaders, academic leaders, and government leaders and generate a report on the state of advanced manufacturing and future strategies for success.' Deadline: 6/30/2015.
Regional Defense Diversification and SMART Center Planning (Budget: $180,000). Description: 'The Contractor will plan and facilitate the engagement of city and county partners for each of the four regional SMART Centers and their anticipated contracting with consultant(s) to conduct a defense diversification study that builds upon the aerospace sector.' Deadline: 9/30/2015.
Supply Chain Direct Assistance Proposal (Budget: $270,000). Description: 'As companies are identified in the supply chain mapping efforts, CAMA will provide direct assistance to up to 30 firms (up to 10 for each region), which work under this Contract has identified as having been negatively affected by or currently being particularly susceptible to changes in defense procurement.' Deadline: 3/31/2016.
Startup Work and Development of a Southern and a Central Colorado SMART Center (Budget: $3,835,000). Outcomes: 'No later than 60 days before the end date of the Contract, two physical locations will be in operation and servicing the needs of the regional industry community based on the feedback of the regional subcommittees.' Deadline: 7/31/2016.
Innovation Assistance Proposal (Budget: $180,00). Outcomes: 'As part of the long-term sustainability of the SMART Centers, each center will develop a fee for service component of funding.' Deadline: 7/31/2016.
Southern Colorado SMART Center Workforce Development Services (Budget: $1,080,000). Outcomes: 'The Contractor will develop and deliver to OEDIT a strategic plan for integrating advanced manufacturing into Colorado’s workforce development and educational system. The plan will incorporate input from relevant institutions such workforce investments boards, community colleges and industry.' Deadline: 12/31/2015.
On paper, the grant reads like money well spent: Find those companies impacted by reduced DoD spending, provide tools including new facilities to reposition them for success, and leave behind assets and awareness to support more advanced manufacturing in Colorado. Simple, and very positive.
The timeline is short, though, and may already be proving a challenge. Two deadlines have passed, and it’s unclear whether a SMART Colorado executive team or a Digital Manufacturing Commons Plan has been finalized. (CAMA leadership was unavailable to be interviewed for this article, though a website is planned.) And two SMART Center locations, one each in Colorado Springs and Denver, are to be opened soon -- in late summer of 2016.
The outline also prescribes work and money in areas that may duplicate or compete with current efforts. For example, Manufacturer's Edge leads a loose consortium of partners already developing Manufacturer's Connect, a digital supply-chain 'map' and recent beneficiary of a $250,000 federal grant. (The SMART statement of work budgets $900,000 to map the supply chain.) It's also not clear how SMART-funded resources can, or should, be applied to other Colorado manufacturing industries.
As more information is released, we’ll track progress and dig deeper into how SMART Colorado -- the 'defense industry adjustment program' -- can be a win for the state.