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Handicapping the Colorado Manufacturing Awards: Here's the list of finalists

By Bart Taylor | Mar 28, 2021

Aerospace & Electronics Brewing & Distilling Bioscience & Medical Built Environment Cannabis & Hemp Consumer & Lifestyle Energy & Enviro Food & Beverage Industrial & Equipment Colorado

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.

Industrial Group

Industrial/Equipment Manufacturer of the Year

Twin Monkeys Beverage Systems | Aurora

StoneAge | Durango

Sundyne | Arvada

Aerospace Manufacturer of the Year

Redwire Space | Longmont/Littleton

MBK Machine | Longmont

Special Aerospace Services | Boulder/Arvada

Building/Construction Manufacturer of the Year

ROXBOX Containers | Denver

Colorado Timberframe | Lafayette

Encore Electric | Littleton

Bioscience Manufacturer of the Year

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

Consumer Group

Consumer Brand of the Year

Phunkshun Wear | Denver

FlyLow Gear | Denver

Moots | Steamboat Springs

Food Brand/Co-packer of the Year

Motherlode Co-Packing | Hudson

Root Shoot Malting/Olander Farms | Loveland

Keen One Foods | Boulder

Colorado Winery of the Year

Sauvage Spectrum | Palisade

Carlson Vineyards | Palisade

The Storm Cellar | Hotchkiss

Outstanding Craft Distiller

Storm King Distilling Co. | Montrose

Black Bear Distillery | Green Mountain Falls

Mystic Mountain Distillery | Castle Rock

Outstanding Craft Brewer

City Star Brewing | Berthoud

Denver Beer Co. | Denver

Holidaily Brewing Company | Golden

Cannabis Manufacturer of the Year

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?

Achievement

Colorado Manufacturing Woman of the Year

Amy Olson | Ready Foods | Denver

Alexandra Gold | Solid Power | Louisville

Heidi Hostetter | H2 Manufacturing Solutions | Longmont

Business Innovation | COVID-19 Response

OraLabs | Parker

LightDeck Diagnostics | Boulder

Titan Robotics | Colorado Springs

Advanced Manufacturing & Machining Award

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 btaylor@companyweek.com.