The 2023 Colorado Manufacturing Awards (CMAs) honored top-level companies in a variety of fields: craft food and beverage, consumer products, high-tech, and heavy industry. The awards ceremony emphasized the accomplishments — and importance — of leadership by women within manufacturing fields.

When Bart Taylor, who served as the event’s emcee, founded CMA co-sponsor CompanyWeek a decade ago, he took a risk that people would want to read stories about manufacturing — and that manufacturers would want their stories told to a like-minded audience.

Taylor noted how the landscape has changed since the pandemic: “Today, manufacturing is a national security imperative,” he said — a point affirmed by several CMA winners. Taylor has now teamed up with Texas-based Sustainment, in order to “showcase your capabilities” within an online manufacturing directory, he told the audience.

Similarly, event co-sponsor Manufacturer’s Edge is “part of a national movement to map the manufacturing supply-chain ecosystem,” in order to support and grow it, said CEO Glenn Plagens.

Sharing a vision for growing their Colorado industries, nominees came from locations across the state to participate: Grand Junction, Fort Collins, Buena Vista, and the site of the awards ceremony itself, Golden. Within videos prepared for the event, previous CMA winners provided observations on domestic manufacturing, noting recent supply-chain snags and labor shortages. Representatives from co-sponsors JPMorgan Chase and Moss Adams were on hand to announce some of the winners and highlight their companies’ services

Colorado Manufacturing Woman of the Year

Winner: Karen Hertz, Holidaily Brewing Company

Accepting the award on Hertz’s behalf, Hertz’s longtime friend and Holidaily COO Laura Ukowich recalled their panic after discovering — gulp! — Hertz needed to go gluten-free and stop drinking the beer made by their employer MillerCoors. “How do we go to tailgates?!” Ukowich recalls them thinking. Instead of giving up beer, Hertz opened a gluten-free brewery, instead. Not only that, Hertz is “dedicated to giving back to her community and mentoring young women in the brewing and manufacturing industries,” noted Amy Olson, the vice chair of the Colorado chapter of Women In Manufacturing, who announced the nominees in the category. (Where was Hertz during all this? Being a dedicated mom, attending her daughter’s state final soccer game.)

Read more about the finalists here.

Craft Food and Beverage Manufacturer of the Year

Winner: Polidori Sausage

This Denver brand nationally distributes its meat and sausage products within both retail and food service channels. And its upcoming centennial is definitely on the minds of the family business. “I get chills and tingles through my body when I think about that,” said Melodie Polidori Harris, noting how her great-grandmother came from Italy and started the Polidori family sausage business in (what’s now) Denver’s LoHi neighborhood in 1925.

After Polidori Harris expressed her excitement and surprise over winning, she noted her primary motivation for attending the event: “I came here to support Bart [Taylor of CompanyWeek] and the amazing work that he does for Colorado manufacturers.”

Craft Food and Beverage Contract Manufacturer of the Year

Winner: Claremont Foods

COO Adam Cioth said about the Colorado family business, “When we were little kids, we always dreamed of having something that we could do together.” Today, those siblings and their wives manufacture nationally-distributed energy, protein, and nutrition bars for about 20 different customers, utilizing cutting-edge technology at their 100,000 square feet of space in Longmont. “We love being here,” said Cioth about the state, citing Colorado’s central location, its labor force, and its high-tech and manufacturing ecosystems. “We can’t imagine being anywhere else.”

Read more about the finalists here.

Technology Manufacturer of the Year

Winner: dpiX

This Colorado Springs company has innovated X-ray imaging technology, replacing glass with a much lighter foil substrate on its panels. The U.S. Department of Defense finds that eminently useful, as do other medical and manufacturing concerns. CEO Lindsay Pack said about dpiX’s CMA victory, “Thank you so much for acknowledging the contribution that we’re making here in Colorado—as well as to the United States.”

Technology Contract Manufacturer of the Year

Winner: Blue Line Engineering

If a major aerospace manufacturer needs a component, Blue Line Engineering is ready to take the call. At its Colorado Springs facility, the company performs research and development all the way through final manufacturing. “Our products are used on the James Webb Space Telescope in four different places,” noted founder and CEO Greg Ames, who likens that technology for laypeople to “exquisite guitar pickups.” And Ames also drew a comparison of his company’s corporate culture to that of a theater company, with everyone lending their talents to bring about big results — which in Blue Line’s case “are so helpful for science, for defense, for commerce and industry.”

Read more about the finalists here.

Consumer Product Manufacturer of the Year

Winner: Fading West Development

Planning communities and constructing modular homes for the “workforce segment” of the market wasn’t something CEO Charlie Chupp had ever envisioned doing, given his previous manufacturing background. However, Chupp began asking himself, “How do we bring manufacturing concepts into construction?” Today, modular homes built by Fading West in Buena Vista are being shipped to communities, desperate to house and retain their workers, all across the state.

Consumer Product Contract Manufacturer of the Year

Winner: HookFish Manufacturing

President Mark Huebner runs a dye sublimation print house that also assembles a variety of garments: golf polos, team uniforms, and ski bibs are just some of the products coming out of his active contract manufacturing business. As the grandson of WWII German immigrants “who love this country dearly” and the son of a military combat service member, Huebner said, “They instilled in me the importance of making things in America.”

Read more about the finalists here.

Industrial & Equipment Manufacturer of the Year

Two winners were announced in the category.

Winner 1: Munro

As a manufacturing business over a hundred years old, Munro has made a variety of water pumps in Grand Junction since the early ’70s. Company president Katie Munro Powell highlighted the importance of local manufacturers in her acceptance speech: “Our companies are foundational job providers, are foundational industries for our state — and so incredibly important. And I feel very proud to be part of that.” (Munro Powell was also a contender within the Colorado Manufacturing Woman of the Year category.)

Winner 2: Walker Manufacturing

Company chairman Bob Walker discussed how his family’s business began after his parents courageously transitioned from farming to building golf cars. Nowadays, the Fort Collins company manufactures commercial riding mowers. But given how its top markets are in the Northeast, and its important components originate in the Midwest, why not relocate? “We don’t want to be somewhere else,” affirmed Walker. “We want to be here in Colorado.” Besides keeping company jobs in the state, Walker discussed how a multitude of ancillary businesses — like truck drivers — directly benefit from the company’s local manufacturing, as well.

Industrial & Equipment Contract Manufacturer of the Year

Winner: AMP Robotics

This Louisville company melds robotics with AI in order to create automation systems which sort recyclable material — technology now in use throughout the world. The company’s business development director Rob Writz said, “It is a really exciting time to be in recycling.” He pointed out how the Colorado legislature has now placed the burden for recycling on packaging producers, rather than taxpayers — a Canadian-style initiative which has seen “recycling rates of 70 to 85 percent.” Writz added, “Colorado is about to be a leader in this space in the United States. So, get ready: You all will be a big part of this.”

Read more about the finalists here.

Colorado Manufacturing Advocate of the Year

Winner: Mark Yoss, Metropolitan State University of Denver

Yoss, who transitioned from a 36-year career at Lockheed Martin to overseeing the Industry 4.0 Center of Excellence at Metropolitan State University of Denver, has both manufacturers and students in mind with his current work. Yoss invited the gathered manufacturers over to MSU Denver to learn more about “digital twins and augmented reality, and how you can use that at your workplace. And then, take a student with you back to your home shop to implement it, so that they then wind up getting a job and, hopefully, have a nice, long, rewarding career like I did.”

Nominations for the 2024 Colorado Manufacturing Awards will open in late 2023.


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