Best of 2016 a mash-up of manufacturing excellence

By Bart Taylor | Dec 20, 2016

Aerospace & Electronics Brewing & Distilling Bioscience & Medical Built Environment Consumer & Lifestyle Energy & Enviro Food & Beverage Industrial & Equipment Supply Chain

If there's a better job in business media than reviewing the stories and photography filed every week by our network of contributors, I'll have to be reminded what it is. Business is about people and companies, and every week, I'm left shaking my head by the work, the passion, the outcomes, of those we write about.

In addition to the stories you favored most, here's my list of gems from the past year, manufacturing stories that speak to why we do what we do.

1. Raw Urth Designs -- The company's tagline says it all for me -- 'A boutique metal shop creating custom designs.' We need more 'boutique metal shops' in our economy, companies that cut, bend, and weld; that celebrate entrepreneurship; and a passion for making things.

2. Naked Edge Snacks -- I love Jonathan Castner's photographs of John and Lisa McHugh, not to mention that they're poster children for Colorado's nation-leading natural and organic food sector that's transformed the regional economy. We wrote about a couple dozen similar businesses in 2016 -- coverage we'll continue in 2017.

3. Swiss-O-Matic -- Take your pick of companies from the machining ecosystem we profiled in '16, they're all favorites. But Claude Rocchia's outpost in Montrose connects past and present, using magnificent machines from the 20th century to fabricate intricate parts for today's OEMs.

4. Agri-Inject -- Can manufacturing transform rural economies? Ag-tech certainly will, and Erik Tribelhorn's company and others on Colorado's eastern plains like Graham Electric Planter are helping farmers reinvent the sector while creating high-value jobs. Why are we so slow in rallying support for more early-stage, rural manufacturers? Their payback is colossal.

5. Industry Report: Cannabis R&D in Colorado -- CompanyWeek Editor Eric Peterson's exhaustive look at cannabis and hemp-related science underway in Colorado exposes our collective failure to educate the public on the different outcomes of cannabis legalization, some that have nothing to do with recreational use. The chilling effect of misguided federal policy on legitimate science can be breathtaking. Take note. Now.

6. Fly Pedals -- On a lighter note, is there a better business story than two aspiring entrepreneurs reshoring the manufacture of a consumer product to the U.S. from China? Especially one that involves a foundry and machining? Simple answer. No.

7. Wynkoop Brewing Company -- Take your pick of the dozens of craft brewers we profiled in 2017, but former Wynkoop brewer Bess Dougherty's big personality stole the show for me. I also enjoyed Jonathan Castner's photo expose from his epic summer cycling sojourn through Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, which brought us Black Tooth Brewing Company and Grand Teton Brewing, among others.

8. The Whole Works -- If I were to guess, Colorado's apparel and outdoor industry sector will transform into a modern, tech-driven manufacturing ecosystem, with brands locating here to develop, prototype, and test. Those who make here in volume will utilize cut-and-sew operations that are able to scale and modernize, and recruit and train qualified sewers. Certainly one of those will be The Whole Works in Rifle, Colorado.

9. Watson Mills -- Builders and craftspeople share an important space in our economy with benders and fabricators, and Todd Palmer's artisans stood out for me. We profiled them in January of last year and I never lost sight of their skill set. None of us should.

10. Housefish -- See above. And buy locally made stuff!