On the night of April 4, 2019, CompanyWeek is presenting the fourth annual Colorado Manufacturing Awards at the Cable Center at the University of Denver.
Every week leading up to the big event, we are publishing short profiles detailing the finalists in 12 different categories. This edition covers: Outstanding Craft Brewer, Builder/Construction Co. of the Year, Outstanding Cannabis Manufacturer, Outstanding Consumer/Lifestyle Brand.
Outstanding Craft Brewer
By Angela Rose
Last year was a big one for the team at WeldWerks Brewing -- in more ways than one. Not only did they increase total production by nearly 84 percent (to 5,700 barrels), but they also exceeded an ambitious goal for new beer development.
"For our new beers campaign, we wanted to produce 100 brand new beers that we had never brewed before in addition to our year-rounds and rotators," says co-founder Neil Fisher. "We ended up exceeding that goal by brewing 137 new beers in 2018. Of those, 125 were packaged and 100 were distributed along our footprint."
Fisher says that WeldWerks' employees took up the challenge to push themselves into greater creativity and innovation. And they did it without sacrificing their stellar reputation.
"We've built our brand on innovation and quality," he explains. "This idea that no matter what you buy from WeldWerks, you're going to get the highest level of quality. If it's a WeldWerks beer, you know it's well made."
The purchase of nearly an entire Greeley city block in November guarantees that 2019 is going to be equally eventful for the growing brewery with renovations, expansions, and production increases ahead.
"It's three buildings on about three acres," Fisher says. "We took over the rest of the building that we currently occupy, which is close to another 4,000 square feet. We're in the midst of construction there with new floors, drains, concrete, a new canning line, and larger 90-barrel fermenters on the way. That will increase our capacity and help us get to 8,500 barrels this year."
CompanyWeek Profile: https://companyweek.com/company-profile/weldwerks-brewing
Odell Brewing Company
Since opening in 1989, Odell Brewing Company's founders have nurtured a long-term view of the future -- a philosophy that co-founder Wynne Odell believes differentiates the brewery from other companies and has contributed to its success.
"We're committed to the long term," Odell explains. "It's a concept called an evergreen company, and there are principles we subscribe to. It has enabled us to grow steadily and healthily. When we look at our history over 30 years, we've never been down more than 0.01 percent."
Last May, the brewery opened a second location in Denver's RiNo Art District. "It's an entire second brewery and it gives us access to our Denver market, which we really appreciate," Odell says. The company also expanded their packaged beer distribution to 19 states with the addition of Nevada and Wisconsin.
The Odell team continued to innovate in 2018 as well. "We came out with Rupture last year," Odell says. "It's a fresh grind ale, which is a new category. We take fresh hops and break open the oil sacs right before we throw them into the beer. This gives a totally different hop characteristic and intensity to the beer and was technologically a really exciting achievement for us."
While Odell says that she can't speak specifically about plans for 2019, the brewery is considering opportunities in three different areas. "We're looking at all sorts of beverage production that may or may not be related to beer," she adds. "We're looking at more retail sites like our RiNo taproom. And we're looking at leveraging our existing assets with focus on our wholesale delivery teams."
CompanyWeek Profile: https://companyweek.com/company-profile/odell-brewing-company
TRVE Brewing Company
Nick Nunns, founder of TRVE Brewing (pronounced "true"), isn't in the business of playing it safe. From 2016 to 2018, he increased his brewery's production by 40 percent and his taproom staff by 75 percent. For 2019, his sights are set on even more ambitious growth: 2,800 barrels, or double last year's output.
"We added Illinois and Tennessee last year and are licensed to sell beer in about 14 states right now," Nunns says. "But we're actually trying to focus more on digging deep here at home." To that end, Nunns says that TRVE will be increasing the density of its distribution along the front range. "We want our beer to be more prevalent here in Colorado," he adds.
But TRVE doesn't just distribute its own brews. The company acted as distributor for 25 other breweries in 2018. "We really broadened our import and wholesale model quite a bit last year," Nunns explains. "We brought in small amounts of beer and distributed it around the state for various events, most specifically around the Great American Beer Festival. Being able to actually manage that was a daunting task."
Nonetheless, Nunns does not see the import/wholesale side of TRVE growing any further. "We're a manufacturing business and that's where our heart is," he adds. "We aren't in the business of logistics, so we'll probably just maintain the licensing we need for small events and shift our focus back to the taproom. We feel that our efforts are best suited to focusing on producing beer, taking care of the people making the beer, and ensuring that we're making some of the best beer here in Colorado."
CompanyWeek Profile: https://companyweek.com/company-profile/trve-brewing-co
Outstanding Cannabis Manufacturer
By Gregory Daurer
Founder Bob Eschino oversees a popular brand of cannabis edibles, concentrates, and wellness products.
His company manufactures the top-selling line of cannabis chocolate bars in Colorado, according to the market tracking company BDS Analytics. And the brand can also be found in Oregon, Nevada, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Puerto Rico. In 2015, GQ deemed its Affogato bar one of the "50 Best Things" to eat in the nation. (It helps that prior to starting incredibles, co-founder Rick Scarpello came from a food production background with Udi's and Il Fornaio bakeries.)
The company also makes gummies, mints, and tinctures. Even suppositories -- which provide medical patients with high-levels of cannabis but with relatively low psychoactive effects. "It's a very important product for the patients that need it," says Eschino.
But Eschino's company doesn't just manufacture products found in dispensaries. It also manufactures the very machines which turn its raw cannabis into potent hydrocarbon extracts. That venture began after regulations changed, and the manufacturers of the company's existing machines either wouldn't retrofit them or couldn't retrofit them in a reasonable time. "We realized that if we wanted to do hydrocarbon extractions in the state of Colorado then we were kind of on our own," says Eschino. "We manufactured our first piece of equipment, just so we could stay in business." The company has now sold over 130 of its incredibles Extractor to its licensees and other businesses.
"It's nice to be recognized," says Eschino, about being nominated within the first ever "Cannabis" category at the Colorado Manufacturing Awards. "It's definitely a shot in the arm, not just for us as a company, but for the whole industry. Having organizations outside of the cannabis industry starting to notice us -- and the impact we're having on the state, and the good that we're doing -- just adds some legitimacy to the industry as a whole."
CompanyWeek profile: https://companyweek.com/company-profile/incredibles
Green Dot Labs
As the co-founders of Green Dot Labs, the husband-and-wife team of Dave and Alana Malone are pioneers in the field of hydrocarbon extraction. On the company's website, they call the concentrates which result from hydrocarbon extraction "the purest expression of cannabis, a true reflection of the plant's vivid flavor profiles and incredible wellness benefits."
"We really pushed the envelope from the very beginning," says Alana, the company's CEO. "Back in 2012, there wasn't any framework on how to design a facility to basically use hydrocarbons to extract cannabis. So we had to work with engineers, industrial hygienists, the Planning and Development [Services] department of the City of Boulder, and the State of Colorado to basically figure out how to safely extract cannabis using hydrocarbon gases, and in compliance with International Fire Code. And that just hadn't been done before."Alana says the state was "so pleased" with the engineering and planning work that it "adopted that standard as the framework for current legislation and regulation."
After those safety parameters were codified, Green Dot Labs began commercially making extracts in 2014. At their Boulder facility, they take THC-laden cannabis plants that they've grown, flash freeze them, and then create their "Full Spectrum Extract" from the plants using hydrocarbon extraction. (For those who prefer them, they also make solventless extracts.)
In addition to the concentrates themselves, the company's vape cartridges, filled with Green Dot Labs extracts, can be found at dispensaries throughout the state. The cartridges don't contain additives like other some brands on the market do. Alana says, "We waited a long time before we were able to perfect the technique, and find the right hardware that would allow us to put our raw, essential oil in a cartridge."
The Malones are also pioneers in terms of cannabis breeding. Alana says Green Dot Labs has bred "hundreds" of "unique proprietary strains" throughout the years, and the company's website currently showcases over 130 within its "Exclusive Genetic Library." "We have more variety available from our own in-house gardens than you would find from any brand, anywhere," says Alana.
"We had a crazy-busy , and this year is shaping up to be even busier," says Wana Brands founder and CEO Nancy Whiteman.
Last year, Wana Brands made Inc. magazine's "Inc. 5000," which cited Wana's three-year-growth of 455 percent. In its fourth quarter last year, Wana introduced a line of disposable vaporizer pens – which joins, in Colorado, its drop candies, extended-release capsules (a technology licensed from an Israeli company), and top-selling gummies. Whiteman calls gummies "the perfect delivery system for cannabis." She notes that gummies are already a popular platform for vitamins and supplements, in addition to sweets.
Outside of Colorado, the brand's gummies can be found in Nevada, Oregon, Arizona, Michigan, and Illinois, with several other states and Canada on the horizon. To assist with its expansion, Wana Brands hired Dan O'Connor in 2018 as its COO. According to Whiteman, O'Connor comes to Wana due to his previous work helping Oskar Blues Brewery to expand its craft beer operations outside of Colorado. "He's been through an industry that had a similar trajectory in some ways to cannabis," says Whiteman.
According to BDS Analytics, Whiteman's company is the leading cannabis brand in Colorado in terms of overall sales, and Whiteman says, "We are actually the number-one edibles brand in the country -- which also probably means the world, since the United States is the only country I know that has a legal edibles industry."
In the months ahead, Wana will open its CBD-only, THC-free production facility, where it will manufacture a line of CBD-only products for the wellness market.
Whiteman says she's "thrilled" that Wana Brands has been nominated for a Colorado Manufacturing Award. Whiteman, a former insurance industry marketing executive, adds, "It's just a further proof of the mainstreaming of cannabis."
CompanyWeek profile: https://companyweek.com/company-profile/wana-brands
Builder/Construction Co. of the Year
By Margaret Jackson
Encore Electric has worked on some of the most high-profile projects in the Rocky Mountain West.
From the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center to the Wyoming State Capitol building, Encore has provided the technology and energy to power some of the largest and most complex electrical systems in the region. Other projects include the Colorado Rockies West Lot development in downtown Denver, the U.S. Olympic Museum, and the Pikes Peak Summit House in Colorado Springs. Employees working on the latter must pass a physical fitness aptitude test to ensure they can handle the elevation.
"Our vision is about all things power, technology, and energy," Encore President Willis Wiedel says. "In the old days of electrical construction, everything was about power and lights. Today, it's power and lights, but it's also technology. And of course energy."
The company was founded by a group of people who were part of a private company that went public. The group made an unsuccessful attempt to take it over after that company filed for bankruptcy, so instead, they started their own company.
"We started from scratch with nothing, including money," Wiedel says. "Everybody did second mortgages and took half salaries. We just knew we had something special."
That was in 2003. Today, the company has grown into the largest merit-shop electrical contractor in Colorado with 841 employees who are rewarded based on their performance.
"We are a customer-driven company," Wiedel says. "Most companies promote growth in revenue and profitability, but we ask our people to wake up every day to take care of our customers."
RK, the region's largest mechanical contractor with 2017 revenue of $297 million, works on some of the most complex projects in the West.
Current projects include the first phase of the expansion of the Salt Lake City International Airport, which serves more than 25 million passengers a year from facilities that were designed 50 years ago to serve half as many travelers; several health-care project, including a hospital in Highlands Ranch for UC Health; and Colorado State University's Wayne McIlwraith Translational Medicine Institute, a 48,550-square-foot facility dedicated to animal care.
RK, which has about 1,650 employees, also worked on the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Conference Center and is working on a 140,000-square-foot data center at Majestic Commercenter in Aurora for an undisclosed company. On the Majestic project, RK is able to leverage several of its seven different business units, says Jon Kinning, the company's chief operating officer.
"We can take advantage of our electrical group and the RK Steel group that's building the steel bases for it," Kinning says. "We can leverage multiple trades to manufacture data centers."
RK's business units include RK Mechanical, which designs and installs mechanical and plumbing systems; RK Service, which helps property managers and owners optimize the performance of their facilities; RK Steel, which fabricates and installs structural steel and metal products; RK Energy, which engineers and manufactures modular and prefabricated skidded equipment for oil and gas well sites; RK Water, a water treatment provider and specialty contractor for sites that need dewatering or groundwater remediation; RK Electrical, which engineers custom electrical solutions; and RK Mission Critical, which provides custom-engineered modular solutions for the data, telecom and power industries.
CompanyWeek profile: https://companyweek.com/company-profile/rk-mechanical
Tharp Cabinet Company
For the last 45 years, Tharp Cabinet Co. has manufactured high-quality custom cabinets for residential projects throughout the United States from seven different buildings on Denver Avenue in Loveland.
But that's changing. This month, the company is moving its operations under one roof at 380 W. 37th St., where it will occupy about 100,000 square feet of the 170,000-square-foot building, which gives it plenty of room to grow. The new location will enable Tharp to expand its product line and market reach. It also will allow it to add more people to its workforce of 135 full-time employees.
Tharp owner and President Garth Rummery says that in addition to allowing for growth, the new space is more conducive to ensuring the quality of the company's products. "Wood does not like changes in humidity," Rummery says. "It grows and shrinks with humidity. We've been moving materials between buildings, and now it will be one giant, open manufacturing space."
Tharp designs, manufactures, delivers and installs cabinetry throughout Colorado and Wyoming. It uses cutting-edge technology and skilled craftsmen to produce made-to-fit solutions.
"Everything we do is custom -- nothing is off the shelf," Rummery says. "We have a wide selection of materials and we've grown to have a scale that gives us some pretty good advantages in the marketplace."
CompanyWeek profile: https://companyweek.com/company-profile/tharp-cabinet-company
Outstanding Consumer/Lifestyle Brand
By Bart Taylor
Bill Boyer launched Denver's iconic coffee company in 1965, and today owners Jason and Doug Barrow are keeping the brand as relevant as ever. It starts with maintaining a deep respect for the company's longtime connection to the community. "We're the home team," says Jason Barrow. "Boyer's has been around for over 50 years, which means that everything we do oozes Colorado. We're the official brand of the Colorado Rockies, we love the mountains, and more. Boyer's products are high-altitude roasted. Recognition in the Colorado Manufacturing Awards further reflects this unique position."
As compelling the Boyer's legacy, the Barrow brothers are even more focused on the present -- and the trajectory not only of the brand but the industry. "From an industry perspective, we're right on the middle of a transformation, a movement," says Doug Barrow, "where the coffee experience is moving out of the cafe into the home. In this way we're paralleling the craft beer market. Our customers care that we're a handcrafted coffee company. They're looking for memorable experiences in the products they buy."
The craft coffee movement, or as Doug says, the "renaissance of coffee, busting out of coffee shops and into the mainstream," isn't lost on America's retail bellwethers. "The largest retailer in the U.S., Walmart, reached out to us, looking to be part of this movement, this 'third wave of coffee' that reflects the artisanal value of what we do and not just 'coffee as a commodity.' As a result, the Boyer's brand is now in 48 states."
Yet in many ways the Boyer's story always returns to Colorado, to products like the popular Denver Blend. Boyer's remains bedrock to the Barrow brother's uber-connected corporate umbrella of coffee brands, including Luna Coffee and Boulder Organic Coffee. Each have a unique connection to common social themes that inform the entire organization -- what Jason refers to as the "flywheel effect of our brand strategy" -- like organic products, fair-trade practices, and sustainable underpinnings.
At Boyer's, it all adds up to a modern coffee brand with deep roots and new growth shaping a transformative industry. What's not to like?
CompanyWeek profile: https://companyweek.com/company-profile/luna-gourmet
VOORMI made a splash on the national outdoor apparel scene soon after it introduced its first product in 2013, a technical hoodie that became an immediate bestseller and still is today. Yet even as the company's catalog and customer base have grown -- VOORMI sells in 60 countries around the world -- founder Dan English emphasizes process more than products in describing the company's unique approach to developing leading-edge technical wear and brand awareness.
"We're in a constant state of innovation," English says. "We think more like a Silicon Valley company than an apparel brand." It's obviously a comfortable place for English, who spent years at Microsoft before retooling his technology background into a successful stint at hook-and-bullet brand Mossy Oak.
"VOORMI is built on the notion that everything we do, we do with purpose," English explains, "and for us that means focusing on great products, domestic manufacturing where possible, local sourcing [VOORMI sources wool from high elevations in the Rocky Mountains], and innovating at a rapid pace."
It doesn't hurt that VOORMI is ensconced in Pagosa Springs, a stone's throw away from Wolf Creek Ski Area and the Weminuche Wilderness in the formidable San Juan Mountains. It's a perfect testing ground for any company endeavoring to make the world's best outdoor apparel and gear.
But for English and his young team that includes son Dustin, a co-founder, and Timm Smith, director of brand marketing, the conversation inevitably comes back to engineered fabrics, to precision blending, to rate of change, and other terms that leave the impression that Voormi is equal parts technology company and apparel manufacturer, a brand position that suits English just fine.
CompanyWeek profile: https://companyweek.com/company-profile/voorm
Vortic Watch Co.
What's up this spring with watches and awards? Oscar-winning director Peter Farrelly's shout-out to Detroit watchmaker Shinola earlier this month was only a precursor to Fort Collins' own Vortic Watch Co. landing on this year's CMA finalist list for Outstanding Consumer/Lifestyle brand.
Vortic transforms classic pocket watches into compelling new wristwatches, fashioned with new movements and machined parts, some made with metal 3D printing. The company's timepieces were an immediate hit.
"We've doubled the business every year," says R.T. Custer, who along with Tyler Wolfe co-founded the company in 2013. Luminaries such as Jackson Browne and Jimmy Buffett now sport Vortic wrist watches, and the timepieces have also grabbed the attention of museums that value the the company's mission of preserving and reimagining historic relics.
Vortic's success may be a double-edged sword. The company's rise has also piqued the interest of global powerhouse Hamilton International -- parent company of the ubiquitous Swatch brand -- who today is suing Vortic for trade infringement in, of all places, the Southern District of New York. Custer certainly wants his brand in the news, if not in this way.
Yet as Shinola deserves credit for its bold statement about U.S. manufacturing by locating in Detroit, Vortic's own homage to American craftsmanship is equally profound -- if even more ingenious.
"Building a manufacturing company is difficult, but with the continuous support of the Colorado entrepreneurial community, our mostly Colorado-based supplier network, and the financial backing of Colorado Lending Source, we're not building it alone," says Custer. "We are proud to make the only truly American made watch entirely in beautiful Colorado."
CompanyWeek profile: https://companyweek.com/company-profile/vortic-watch-co
Read up on the finalists in the aerospace/electronics, distilling, cannabis categories here.