As 2016 comes to a close, it's time for a reflective look back, and of course create "best of" lists for the year. Of more than 200 company profiles published last year, here are some of the Colorado manufacturers that grabbed my attention with their innovation, automation, and commitment to quality.
Terry Taggart didn't know much about machining before he bought a machine shop in Parker in 2000. "My friends were like, 'Gosh, Terry, what do you know about this?'" he laughs. "I knew if I had the right people, I could do anything." Sixteen years later, Tag Team is a model of efficiency. How'd Taggart pull it off? made some key hires, invested in automation, and developed an in-house brand in Delta-13 billiards racks, made of aerospace-grade aluminum.
From its beginnings in a 400-square-foot cabin in Evergreen, Grateful Bread Company has grown with a traditional approach to baking. The company makes its own flour in-house on a custom Austrian mill, and boycotts yeast accelerants and artificial ingredients. The artisan approach pays off, as CompanyWeek writer Jamie Siebrase explains in her thoughtfully reported profile.
CompanyWeek writer Gregory Daurer profiles CBDRx's work making CBD-rich extracts from legal industrial hemp, breeding prize strains, and establishing a framework for self-regulation in the cannabis industry. In his quest to develop "the best cultivar for U.S. production" CEO Tim Gordon is working with Colorado State University and the Colorado Department of Agriculture and supplying cannabinoids to research labs worldwide.
Cutting-edge fungi science underpins MycoTech's new $10 million plant in Aurora, where the company manufactures ClearTaste, "the world's first organic bitter blocker," says CEO Alan Hahn. Clear Taste is being used in products ranging from chocolate milk to pea protein. "It's in syrups to cut the bitterness so you can add less sugar," says Hahn. "Whole-wheat bread has about 7 percent sugar to mask the taste. "We're able to cut the sugar requirement in half."
In 2013, Sean Smiley opened the nation's first all-agave distillery and the market has responded in a big way. His agave spirits filled the void for a locally made spirit to compete with Patron and other premium tequilas, and he launched a pair of whiskeys in 2016 that are fermented and distilled on grain, meaning the grain is left in the wort, reported CompanyWeek writer Aron Johnson. "We not only ferment on the grain, which is rare, we also distill on the grain, which pretty much nobody does anymore," Smiley says. "You're going to get a lot of the original grain characteristics."
And five more profiles worth a second look . . .