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Coors’ cut-and-run is a final capitulation, but also the wrong bet on the future

By Bart Taylor November 3, 2019, 10:01 am MST

Ten years ago, Coors' stunning cut-and-run from Denver would have been analogous to Microsoft leaving Redmond, Apple leaving Silicon Valley, or Ford leaving Detroit. We'd have been left at a loss for words.

Today, things are different. Today, the move is no more than a final capitulation to a regional craft brewing industry that's buried Coors under an avalanche of innovation, and to Peter Coors' hubris and personal failure to build a bridge to entrepreneurs who deep down respected the Rocky Mountains' first craft brewer, Adolph Coors. 

It's also a strategic blunder that will cost Molson Coors.

According to the Denver Post, Coors is leaving Denver because it can tap marketing talent in Chicago that's unavailable here, talent from midwest business schools that apparently plies the hallways of the Fortune 500 food and beverage giants from Chicago to Montreal, the Canadian HQ for the brewing conglomerate. 

But last I checked, the innovation coursing through food and beverage is emanating from entrepreneurial, early-stage ecosystems in cities like Denver -- not from a corner office at General Mills or Miller or Molson Coors. Legacy, industrial food and beverage brands have shifted gears. University of Chicago grads are great, but today, companies are focused on acquiring innovation. As Coors leaves Colorado, a dozen other companies are setting up shop here to tap into the risk-taking creativity on display in all corners of the economy.

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Coors wanted no part of that scene, at least in the end. Last January I wrote about a MillerCoors blog post, "Brewery Taproom Visits Dragging Down Sales at the Corner Bar," an empty cheap shot at craft competitors. I expected more. I expected an iconic brand to lead from the front.

Luckily, manufacturing is full of companies that are leading -- leading by reimagining manufacturing in a dozen industries in response to customers, to employees, to the communities that today value their business. The trend to make more things closer to where they're inspired or designed, to where they're purchased and used, has only been accelerated by globalization, by companies chasing the promise of cheaper, easier -- or smarter. We’re still finding some of the best things don't come easy.

Manufacturing's challenges are unique -- as a manufacturer like Coors has discovered. The challenge of selling a Coors Banquet to a Millennial consumer is similar to the challenge of a selling that same person on a manufacturing career.

But as Coors' retreats from its fight, we're joining this battle. It's a better bet. We're all in.  

Bart Taylor is publisher of CompanyWeek. Reach him at btaylor@companyweek.com.

The ongoing quest to publicize the generational excellence of the people and companies in manufacturing, in the most entertaining and meaningful way we know how, is underway: the fifth annual Colorado Manufacturing AwardsNominate your company, your customer or peer, your mentor or someone you respect. As an iconic manufacturer departs, let's celebrate the economy that it leaves. 

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