By Eric Peterson | Dec 14, 2020
No one is going to look back at 2020 as just another year.
But many manufacturers saw sales booms in the wake of COVID-19's arrival. Demand for everything from aluminum cans to bicycles skyrocketed as social distancing altered behaviors in directions both predictable and unexpected.
Looking back at more than 100 Colorado businesses profiled by CompanyWeek over the course of the year, these 10 manufacturers stand out.
After launching with a plan to mine the Moon, ExoTerra pivoted to manufacturing with electric thrusters designed for small satellites. They solve a mounting problem, says Michael VanWoerkem, ExoTerra's founder and president. "Right now, microsatellites just get dropped off and float and become orbital debris. What we're trying to do is give them enough propulsion they can actually change their orbits, maintain their orbits, and they can deorbit at the end of mission so they don't become an orbital debris problem."
Angela Rose profiled the Grand Junction-based world-class musical manufacturer in March. The company makes harps for customers all over the world. Owner Dale Wright noted: "I like to get to know the harpist as I take their order. It can take months and months to come down to a decision because a harp is very personal."
A 673-year manufacturing legacy lives on in Grand Junction. With roots making chainmail in medieval Switzerland and a 20th century legacy manufacturing bicycle spokes, the company makes branded products as well as offering contract manufacturing to some of the biggest bike names out there.
Diversification into wine and hard kombucha are the big stories at Odell -- now Colorado's largest independent craft brewery -- for 2020. CEO Eric Smith says it's all about appealing to an ever-broadening market: Allkind Hard Kombucha "is more of a packaged offering with limited draft," he notes. "We're excited about that opportunity to expand our fermentation just like we did with the Wine Project."
President Larry Caschette has grown the contract manufacturer with a strategy to build with existing clients. "We can start with a napkin and design for manufacturability," he notes, "get them through some prototypes, get them through some beta runs, and then start to use the diversity of equipment to find the right processes to drive costs down and keep up with that growth curve."
Recently acquired by Raytheon, the small satellite innovator has emerged as a leader by bringing an assembly-line approach to an industry that's heading straight up. After manufacturing in Boulder, the company moved production to a 80,000-square-foot new facility in Lafayette in April 2020.
In a profile by CompanyWeek writer Gregory Daurer, CEO Tyler Huggins dished on the startup's meat alternative based on mycelium from fungus. As plant-based proteins like those from Impossible Foods get market traction, so has Meati: The Boulder company announced that it raised a $28 million Series A round in October.
The recently rebranded manufacturer of electric drivetrains is on the front end of fleet conversions in California and other forward-thinking markets. CEO Tim Reeser projected big growth for the Loveland-based company, forecasting 1,000 percent for both 2020 and 2021.
CompanyWeek contributor Margaret Jackson talked with GM Ron Francis as the socially-minded company opened its first factory outside Idaho in Pueblo in summer 2020. The manufacturing model repurposes shipping containers into small homes; a 640-square-foot, two-bedroom home is priced at $80,000.
CEO Paul McGowan offers a cautionary tale about outsourcing to Asia, but his audiophile brand that's boomed since bringing manufacturing back in-house in Boulder. The company's amplifiers and power centers have a loyal customer base, and McGowan hopes that translates into success for a new line of speakers.
Eric Peterson is editor of CompanyWeek. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.