Last week, Curtis Williams outlined the conventional approach cities adopt to entice manufacturing businesses. It’s a combination of smart selling, the opportunistic use of incentives, and here, in Colorado, a large dose of leveraging natural attributes. Today Denver’s the fastest growing city in the nation. The rest of the state’s not far behind. It’s a home field advantage to envy.

Out-of-the-box development, the kind that attracts industry’s best and brightest, is harder, the formula more elusive and for manufacturing, largely absent from today’s economic development playbook. The irony is that communities are increasingly enamored with modern manufacturing. Cities crave growing craft food and beverage firms, light manufacturing in lifestyle and consumer sectors and high-tech fabricating and assembly.

Yet new voices in industrial development are emerging, cognizant of the value of primary jobs and the opportunity to build around the sustaining trends driving manufacturing back onshore or growth fueled by new consumer preferences. Among the most intriguing ideas is the concept of multi-tenant facilities that house complimentary light-manufacturing companies.

The idea is grounded in two trends at work in the economy. Officing concepts like Denver’s Industry, Galvanize, and WeWork facilities tap a modern professional ethos that values collaboration, community, and social networks. For entrepreneurs, the collective delivery of support services in these facilities, often extending to funding and talent, has also been a catalyst.

The second is the profound change in manufacturing, manifest in both the industries driving growth and how technology is changing industrial processes.

On a national level, consider Faraday Future, the ‘mysterious’ car company poised to break ground on a $1B factory in Nevada. The company’s site is to be mindfully located “on 900 acres of land near Interstate 15, a major roadway to Southern California. This means the company could attract large crowds for tours to increase brand awareness.”

A manufacturing factory that doubles as a tourist destination? Why not. It’s not difficult to envision an open and airy facility, with tourists and prospective customers treated to a full-on display of robotics and automation, technology and systems management — a 21st century industrial iteration of Disneyland.

It’s happening today on a smaller scale here, in the Rockies. One of Fort Collins’ most popular consumer destinations is New Belgium Brewing — a manufacturing facility. Now broaden your view, and envision visiting your favorite craft brewery in a facility that’s also home to a distillery, a composite cycle or ski maker and an artisanal food company — treats to enjoy as you watch products from each company being made.

The Neenan Company was the architect on the original New Belgium tasting room and brewery in Fort Collins and Neenan VP Shawn Sullivan has no problem conjuring the image. In fact he’s an evangelist today for the concept along the Front Range.

“There’s a real opportunity to create a dynamic manufacturing and retail environment through shared infrastructure and common area that would lower occupancy costs,” Sullivan explains. But operational savings may only be part of the benefit. “We also see the upside of enhancing brand awareness through cross pollination of people and products,” he adds. “We’re in the early stages of creating custom, innovative designs that bring neighborhood manufacturing to Colorado.”

Ted Eynon, co-owner of Colorado-based Meier Skis, has already moved beyond concept and into a space he hopes will house a craft brewery and other like-minded craft manufacturers. He shares Sullivan’s sentiments about the benefits of collaboration.

“When you think of Colorado, skiing and beer are going to be at or near the top of everyone’s list so it’s only natural to bring the craft production of both under a single roof for an immersive brand experience that consumers can actively participate in,” Eynon says.

Eynon moved Meier from Glenwood Springs to a location in Denver, near West 8th Avenue and I-25. “The goal is to have a unique offering of Colorado active lifestyle craft products where someone can be sipping a cold beer or spirit while simultaneously picking out or designing their own skis or snowboards — an open concept with lots of glass that will open up sightlines and ensure that everyone is able to feel and experience the brands. We are in the process of looking for the right brewing or distilling partner to make this a reality.”

It’s no stretch to see cities and towns getting in the game, conceiving developments and facilities aligned with Sullivan and Eynon’s vision, and beyond. The combinations are intriguing, including design-to-manufacture clusters in growth sectors like aerospace and bioscience.

Is it out-of-the-box economic development thinking that might change the fabric of urban development? We may soon find out, in a neighborhood near you.

Bart Taylor is publisher of CompanyWeek. Contact him at