Five years ago, an awards program for Colorado makers and manufactures didn’t exist. Today, selecting finalists for the third annual Colorado Manufacturing Awards is like drinking from a fire hose. So much innovation, entrepreneurship, manufacturing acumen, and market leadership to choose from. Who knew?

We did.

Here’s the second and final wave of finalists for this year’s CMAs. (We published the first group last week.)

Last year, we named Fort Collins/Loveland the state’s top manufacturing community, given its compelling mix of manufacturing industries, R&D ecosystem, and effective trade leadership. This year, we invited the NoCo Manufacturing Partnership to help us with the Outstanding Consumer & Lifestyle Brand, in part because they made us look smart. The organization has received national attention for its approach in developing sector support for manufacturing, and the finalists in the category — Denver’s Sarabella Fishing and Knotty Tie, and Grand Junction’s mobile lifestyle brand Vintage Overland — represent the category, and entire state, with distinction.

CAMA, the Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Association, took a different tact and focused on the rich if underpublicized manufacturing community in Colorado Springs to select the three finalists for Outstanding Industrial & Equipment Manufacturer. The finalists are more diverse, with CNC stalwart Diversified Machine Systems, antenna concealment specialist ConcealFab, and the influential fabricator IP Automation, representing Colorado’s deep industrial category from the Springs.

In 2017, Colorado’s brilliant food sector had a distinctive industrial flavor at the CMAs, with bio-specialist MycoTechnology and supply-chain ace Ardent Mills capturing food-related hardware. This year, we invited Colorado Proud, the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s champion for local producers, to help us reconnect with smaller operators with the Small Food Brand of the Year award. It’s a gargantuan task given the innovation coursing through the sector. In fact, in the time it takes us to publish this list, finalists Blue Moon Goodness, Cusa Tea, and The Real Dill may already have outgrown the $2 million in top-line revenue we identified as a small brand threshold.

The Colorado Cleantech Industries Association (CCIA) continues to help companies commercialize and accelerate an array of solutions in the energy economy, at times against an unpredictable public policy backdrop. They also helped us identify three of Colorado’s top cleantech companies for Outstanding Energy & Environmental Manufacturer. Loveland’s Lightning Systems and Denver’s RavenWindow and AMP Robotics are a predictably strong group that again exemplifies the region’s influential cleantech ecosystem.

Aerospace is a regional economic calling card and when paired up with the growing number of electronics manufacturers, many developing solutions for aviation and aerospace OEMs, the award for Outstanding Aerospace & Electronics Manufacturer carries additional weight. This year the Colorado Space Business Roundtable and Manufacturer’s Edge looked across the spectrum of A&E companies to select AMPT, general aviation stalwart Air Comm Corporation, and one of Colorado’s spacecraft stars, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space Systems.

If you’re of the opinion that we’ve left some deserving companies off this list, you’re not alone.

As you ponder next year’s list, REGISTER HERE to attend this year’s Colorado Manufacturing Awards event. Miss it, and you’ll miss the best business event on the calendar.

Bart Taylor is publisher of CompanyWeek. Reach him at