By Bart Taylor | Mar 28, 2021
Finalists were announced last week in the 6th annual Colorado Manufacturing Awards. It's our own March Madness, and the brackets are incredible.
More than 100 companies submitted nominations to the 2021 program, roughly 90 percent of all submissions. Nearly twice as many women were nominated for Colorado Manufacturing Woman of the Year than last year. Finalists earned their way here.
I participate in a selection committee that picks finalists, but I don't judge or select CMA winners. I do have a front row seat to the proceedings. Here's my "inside look" at the brackets.
Twin Monkeys Beverage Systems | Aurora
StoneAge | Durango
Sundyne | Arvada
Redwire Space | Longmont/Littleton
MBK Machine | Longmont
Special Aerospace Services | Boulder/Arvada
ROXBOX Containers | Denver
Colorado Timberframe | Lafayette
Encore Electric | Littleton
Birko Corporation | Henderson
Leiters | Englewood
Hirsh Precision | Boulder
Energy/Transportation Manufacturer of the Year
Keystone Tower Systems | Denver
Rubadue Wire Company | Loveland
Oribi Manufacturing | Commerce City
Industrial/Equipment Manufacturer of the Year may be the CMA's toughest bracket. Twin Monkeys has fueled Colorado's nationally renowned beer and beverage industries. StoneAge, in Durango, may be less known to Front Rangers, but read our profile and you'll understand why they're a powerhouse. Sundyne? Only one of the country's top industrial pump and compressor manufacturers, from the maker mecca of Arvada. No joke. Your guess is as good as mine.
Bioscience Manufacturer of the Year presents an intriguing showdown between two stalwart OEMs and one of Colorado's brilliant contract manufacturers. A celebration of a powerful Colorado industry supply chain.
Building/Construction and Energy/Transportation Manufacturers of the Year are fascinating brackets, a mix of successful companies, up-and-comers vs. established brands. Oribi is a rising player in composites. Watch out.
Aerospace Manufacturer of the Year is predictably strong. Redwire Space, newly formed this year to acquire space-related companies in an innovative new cluster model, including several established companies in Colorado, flashes serious bona fides with components recently landing on Mars. But Special Aerospace Services, including SAS Flight Factory, is a special company and CMA Alumni. Contract ace MBK Machine rounds out a great bracket
Phunkshun Wear | Denver
FlyLow Gear | Denver
Moots | Steamboat Springs
Motherlode Co-Packing | Hudson
Root Shoot Malting/Olander Farms | Loveland
Keen One Foods | Boulder
Sauvage Spectrum | Palisade
Carlson Vineyards | Palisade
The Storm Cellar | Hotchkiss
Storm King Distilling Co. | Montrose
Black Bear Distillery | Green Mountain Falls
Mystic Mountain Distillery | Castle Rock
City Star Brewing | Berthoud
Denver Beer Co. | Denver
Holidaily Brewing Company | Golden
NuVue Pharma | Pueblo
Stratos | Pueblo
Medically Correct | Denver
Outdoor industry OEMs and brands have dominated the Consumer Brand of the Year category and this year is no different. Dan Abrams' high-flying apparel brand, FlyLow Gear, squares off against two OEMs that manufacture in-state. Cycle manufacturer Moots is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year in Steamboat Springs. Substance and sizzle. Moots would be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament this year. FlyLow and Phunkshun Wear, a CMA winner in 2018 and three-time finalist, may need a buzzer beater.
Brands and co-packers don't always meet in the finals in Food Brand/Co-Packer of the Year. In some years, finalists are one or the other. But it's great when they do. At the epicenter of America's natural and organic food ecosystem, each shapes the sector in profound ways. Motherlode and Keen One Foods are worthy representatives. Throw in malt maven Root Shoot Malting, and this bracket is tough to call.
Outstanding Craft Distiller finalists are on their way up. No surprise -- the story of this young industry, with young players, is about the future, along with the whiskey aging in its barrels. Montrose's Storm King Distilling Co. was a finalist last year. It may be enough to call them a favorite.
An annual CMA highlight is Outstanding Craft Brewer. The winners list is a who's who roster, and the group competition has settled into an industry-defining exercise: Finalists are often a mix of established early-mover, middle-market success story, and industry innovator. No different this year. Three great companies, as much as brands. Berthoud's City Star flat-out makes good beer. Denver Beer is an institution. Holidaily, an incredible innovator. Buckle up.
If the western slope means wine, then Pueblo increasingly means cannabis, and its Cannabis Manufacturer of the Year finalists may be starting a trend in the CMAs. But if Medically Correct is the geo outlier of cannabis finalists, from Denver, it's also the gorilla of this group. Win or not, NuVue Pharma may well lead cannabis into a new science-based paradigm, while city-mate Stratos continues to impress. You can trust Colorado brands.
The Storm Cellar barely missed out on the finals in the inaugural Colorado Winery of the Year award last year, then went on to win gold at the 2020 American Fine Wine Competition and numerous other medals and accolades. (Take that, CMAs.) Innovation is now a calling card of Colorado wine, coursing through established wineries like Carlson Vineyards and Palisade neighbor Sauvage Spectrum. Stubbornly slow to change, the Colorado wine ecosystem is suddenly awake -- and on fire. Will a CMA shift the balance of power to Hotchkiss?
Amy Olson | Ready Foods | Denver
Alexandra Gold | Solid Power | Louisville
Heidi Hostetter | H2 Manufacturing Solutions | Longmont
OraLabs | Parker
LightDeck Diagnostics | Boulder
Titan Robotics | Colorado Springs
Titan Robotics | Colorado Springs
Focused On Machining | Sedalia
Linear Manufacturing | Colorado Springs
Judging by the number of nominations, the Women in Manufacturing (WiM) Colorado Chapter is building a high-power following. The women who emerged from WiM board deliberations are leading in different industries -- and different ways. Heidi Hostetter has been a finalist all three years of the award and works to advance manufacturing through a variety of initiatives. Alexandra Gold and Amy Olson lead in successful, innovative organizations. I don't envy WiM's choice after an impossible decision to narrow the category down to three finalists, but the celebration is off-the-charts worth it.
The Advanced Manufacturing & Machining award -- CAMA AMMA as we call it, given the trade group's proctoring of nominations -- measures continuous improvement through organizational investments. The selection committee was so impressed with the quality of nominees that it considered several of the companies for separate industry awards. A win-win. We're anxious to report on the outcome.
Manufacturing's stature has risen through the pandemic and for good reason: companies pivoted to provide key materials lacking in the U.S. supply chain. (Have we heard that before?) OraLabs and Titan Robotics contributed PPE and other material help. LightDeck Diagnostics (formerly MBio) crashed the national scene with a COVID-19 Total Antibody Test that detects antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus to determine prior infection. Crazy innovative things are happening in Boulder County in manufacturing. See above.
Can anyone say bracket challenge?
We'll be featuring all the finalists the next six weeks in the run-up to the 2021 CMA Winners Reveal and Finale, April 29. REGISTER HERE.
Bart Taylor is publisher of CompanyWeek. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.