Loveland, Colorado (corporate headquarters: Columbus, Ohio)
Founded: 2016 (corporation: 1984)
Employees: 4 in Colorado (about 160 total)
Industry: Industrial & Contract
Products: Manufacturing research, support, and services
Like so many pioneers before it, the advanced manufacturing technology nonprofit EWI looked West for its future.
It found that future in Loveland, where last November it opened a new innovation center at the Rocky Mountain Center for Innovation & Technology, which once housed Hewlett-Packard and Agilent.
EWI Colorado's mission, according to Director Rick Gardner, is to use technology for advanced quality measurement in manufacturing. It wants its customers and members to gain a competitive edge by applying advanced process monitoring and inspection controls. Its customers also will have access to all of EWI's expertise.
EWI Colorado's parent, Columbus, Ohio-based EWI, is renowned for its knowledge in materials joining and forming, advanced automation, and additive manufacturing. The company, created in 1984 as the Edison Welding Institute, also has a technology center in Buffalo, N.Y. and offers research, support, and other services to a wide range of manufacturers.
Gardner was born in Alamosa, Colorado, and is a Colorado State University engineering graduate with 20 years of experience with startups as well as with companies like HP, Agilent, and Lockheed Martin. Ironically, he once worked for Agilent on the same campus where EWI now has its Colorado offices. Gardner says the Colorado facility is a natural expansion of what EWI has developed east of the Mississippi River.
"EWI has a pretty good foothold helping manufacturers in the Midwest," he says. "Its mission is to help a manufacturer become more competitive. It is growing its technology offerings and also growing geographically. [The company] saw there were opportunities along the Front Range. A lot of things came together. This is a high-tech region and there is a lot of local interest."
The Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Alliance, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, and the City of Loveland partnered to bring EWI to Loveland with a $6 million incentive package. EWI Colorado also has become a focus of FourFront Colorado, a public-private partnership aimed at accelerating the growth and resiliency of Colorado manufacturers, especially those in the defense sector. EWI Colorado houses the FourFront Northern Colorado Fuse Impact Center.
EWI's market research showed a need for advanced quality measurement among manufacturers along the Front Range. "We do applied research to help our customers," Gardner explains. "Our mission has expanded to developing, testing and implementing a wide array of advanced manufacturing technologies for the global manufacturing industry, but our focus on helping drive economic growth through innovation remains the same."
As a nonprofit, EWI has members who pay a fee to access EWI's global expertise. Companies also can contract with EWI for a specific, one-time project.
One of EWI's goals is to help its manufacturing customers meet quality goals in a non-destructive way. Gardner says manufacturers sometimes have to destroy a product in order to see if there are any flaws. Some manufacturers may destroy as much as 10 percent of their product to assure continued quality, so any reduction in that rate can help the bottom line. EWI uses nondestructive methods to evaluate a product, including ultrasound, electrical current, lasers and acoustics.
Gardner says EWI Colorado has met a "very positive" reception from companies in the area. The grand opening Nov. 9, 2016, drew more than 200 people and EWI anticipates its Colorado presence will draw hundreds of companies to the Loveland area, especially to the Rocky Mountain Center for Innovation & Technology.
EWI Colorado has several Colorado connections in addition to Gardner. The company's new business development specialist, Marcie Erion, helped bring EWI to Colorado when she had same role with the City of Loveland. Richard Celeste, who was president of Colorado College from 2002 to 2011, helped in the formation of EWI in 1984 when he was governor of Ohio.
EWI Colorado began with four employees in Loveland. Gardner says he expects the company to grow to eight or 12 employees by the end of the year.
Challenges: "We know in general what is needed [to help manufacturers] but we need to take that to the next level," says Gardner. "We do that by getting out there and talking to customers. That's also brand recognition because some companies don't know us. So, getting the word out and tailoring our offering to the customers in this area is vital. We've done a lot of work to push forward but we're still doing a lot more."
Opportunities: "In general, our opportunity is to improve quality for manufacturers," Gardner notes. "We help them get to market more quickly, reduce their costs. The other thing we do is improve their customer satisfaction by helping them become more competitive. The three things that drive competitiveness are time to market, total cost and customer satisfaction. We can help on all three."
Needs: Awareness. "We need to get the word out," says Gardner. "We need to get customers to work with us. We have the funding to help these companies."