By Brad Smith | Sep 20, 2019
Industry: Supply Chain
Products: Product development services
"One of our main goals is to use local manufacturers as much as possible," Hanchak says of LINK Product Development. "We've been in business 13 years and have established a relationship with a lot of companies. Our duty is to keep it as local as possible. We hope to stimulate the Colorado economy as much as possible."
Hanchak came up with the company name because the firm provides the link between the concept and finished product. LINK, he says, is a "soup-to-nuts product development consulting firm." That means helping clients with the concept of their product, designing and building prototypes, engineering and designing the final product and then helping get it manufactured.
The company has helped develop an eclectic variety of products, including a new line of carbon-fiber mountain bicycles by Denver-based Guerrilla Gravity. The bike company worked with LINK so Guerrilla Gravity could focus on manufacturing the bicycles. Most carbon-fiber bicycles are made in Asia but Guerrilla Gravity, using its own material design and production, manufactures them in Denver.
Ronin Motorworks of Denver used LINK to help create a limited-production motorcycle based on a design by the defunct Buell Motorcycle Co., a former subsidiary of Harley-Davidson. The stylish Ronin motorcycle is named for 47 legendary Japanese freelance warriors.
Another customer, Denver-based Ross Snow Tech used LINK to help develop the first snowboard binding, called the Convert, that can also function as a snowshoe for use in backcountry boarding. The binding received a Best of Show award at the 2019 Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in Denver.
Ross Snow Tech came to LINK with a concept and sheet metal prototype, Hanchak says. LINK helped with a number of additional prototypes, arrived at a final design, and then developed a testable prototype to make sure the bindings worked on the mountain.
Hanchak says Colorado's reputation as an outdoor mecca continues to grow, which may translate into increased development of outdoor products. He points to the decision last year to relocate the massive Outdoor Retailer show from Salt Lake City to Denver, which will be combined with the annual Snow Show at the Colorado Convention Center Jan. 29-31, 2020.
Add to that the decision this year by the apparel holding company VF Corporation to relocate its offices around the country to Denver. That includes the corporate offices, which were based in Greensboro, N.C., as well as the offices of five outdoor apparel brands: The North Face, JanSport, Eagle Creek, Altra, and Smartwool.
Hanchak says it is too early to tell if these moves will mean new business for Colorado manufacturers, but he thinks it is possible. Regardless, LINK will do what it can to increase local manufacturing, he says, adding that "our clients often are surprised to hear that just about anything can be manufactured reasonably in Colorado. Sometimes their knee-jerk reaction is to just outsource it to China because that's what they've been exposed to. Our job is to educate them otherwise and we bake features into a product's design which encourage local manufacturing."
Challenges: "We need to focus on getting our name out there a lot more," Hanchak says. "A lot of companies don't know we exist. We also want to push to let people know that there is a lot of manufacturing talent in Colorado."
Opportunities: Hanchak points to a rush of brands coming to Denver and the Front Range. "There has been an influx of companies moving to Colorado. That will help boost our clientele. Also, the Outdoor Retailer events have moved to Denver, and North Face and [parent company] VF Corporation moving to Colorado will help."
Needs: "We need people to know we are here," says Hanchak. "When companies are open to turning product development over to somebody outside they can see a real return on investment and we can come up with innovation solutions. We can help them reduce time to market."