Aerospace is one of Colorado’s most high-flying manufacturing sectors in more ways than one.

The state is home of the nation’s second-leading aerospace economy, with nine major contractors operating in the state and accounting for roughly 200,000 jobs in all. That makes it the top state for private aerospace jobs per capita.

The low-volume, high-mix manufacturing involves tight tolerances, rigorous certifications, and products made for the extreme conditions of launch and orbit. In Colorado, a host of manufacturers are riding an industry-wide gravitation to small satellites.

In this context, our Colorado Manufacturing Award finalists emanate innovation, precision, and a drive to explore the final frontier.


Centennial, Colorado

Founded: 2007

Privately owned

Employees: 33

Industry: Electronics & Aerospace

Products: Composite structures

AdamWorks manufactures complex structures such as spacecraft pressure vessels and radio frequency transparent structures using materials such as carbon fiber, fiberglass, and quartz. The design-to-build firm’s customers include Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada Corp., Lockheed Martin, and ViaSat.

In May 2019, the company moved from a 12,000-square-foot facility to its current 20,000-square-foot home due to substantial sales growth, largely driven by the commercial airborne Wi-Fi sector. The move allowed the company to bring previously outsourced painting in-house as it works towards AS9100 certification in 2020.

AdamWorks makes all tooling in-house, and it’s a big differentiator. “High-quality parts can only be produced by the equivalent in tooling, and this is where many others fail,” the company explains. “With Blue Origin, we were able to repair some of the expensive capsule tooling that came from another supplier.”

CompanyWeek profile:

Barber-Nichols Inc.

Arvada, Colorado

Founded: 1966

Privately owned

Employees: 130+

Industry: Electronics & Aerospace

Products: Turbomachinery

Barber-Nichols is on a roll: Revenue increased from about $30 million in 2017 to more than $50 million in 2019, as the company builds a 50,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility adjacent to its campus in Arvada.

Innovation has long been a calling card for the company. In 2018-2019, the company collaborated with Virgin Orbit to develop a turbopump for LauncherOne, which will be used to launch small satellites.

In its nomination, the company notes, “BNI’s mission requires maintaining our precision manufacturing capabilities and engineering expertise within Colorado and continuing to attract top talent.”

CompanyWeek profile:


Longmont, Colorado

Founded: 2012

Privately owned

Employees: 50

Industry: Electronics & Aerospace

Products: Components and systems for spacecraft

The composites-focused manufacturer pivoted from research to production in the last three years and catalyzed a big growth spurt. In 2016, the company was doing about 80 percent R&D work and 20 percent commercial. That ratio is now closer to 80 percent commercial and 20 percent R&D.

With small satellite launches on the rise, Roccor has made a habit of developing custom solutions and porting them to new product lines. Another notable project: The NASA Solar Cruiser, with an 18,000-square-foot solar sail that would propel a small spacecraft on an orbit around the Sun.

According to the company’s nomination, employees are passionate, to say the least: “When it comes to space technology, some might call us, ‘fanatical.’ And we’re okay with that.”

CompanyWeek profile:

The Colorado Manufacturing Awards will take place virtually from 2:30 to 5 p.m. on Aug. 6, 2020.