Colorado is a beautiful state that we like to celebrate. The state flag is proudly displayed on everything from T-shirts to cornhole lawn games. In our grocery stores you can find the Colorado Proud logo on many locally grown, raised, and processed food and agricultural products. We should also be as proud of all the goods we manufacture in the state. It is an important sector in our economy and we need to outwardly call attention to Colorado manufacturers at every opportunity. Especially during this political season, the importance of local manufacturing must be part of the dialog.

Let’s celebrate Colorado manufacturers, not just with a toast, but by talking about the value they bring to all of us. According to the Alliance of American Manufacturing, Colorado has over 138,400 manufacturing jobs in the state. We continue to see ideas become products right here in Colorado that are going into bigger, global markets. Several sports training aids are coming to market along with ice skating blades and hearing-enhancing devices and jewelry with a purpose.

As a co-founder of The 3D Printing Store, I’ve seen different ideas for hard goods be brought into reality. For a lot of people, 3D printing is a cool technology becoming more readily available to the public. But it is also allowing more businesses to try their hand at manufacturing. It literally allows them to print their idea — to hold and look at the product and improve it from there, sometimes with several different versions, until they achieve what they want.

It has been rewarding to help support other manufacturing endeavors. 3D printing is useful to many different industries. For example, we helped produce the first version of the Linedrive Pro Trainer, a baseball training product that improves hitters’ swings. We have also worked with a number of aerospace companies to make the first prototype of something that would otherwise be very difficult and expensive to produce. Colorado has a robust aerospace industry, always looking for lightweight materials. They are proponents of advanced additive manufacturing and technology, and are looking for suppliers who have these capabilities.

The future is bright for making things. Young people like the student in our shop today who is entering a national robotics competition are interested. Let’s show students what is the business of manufacturing is like and how valuable and rewarding it is. Encourage young people to step into the factories and shops and be ready to take the reins as our current workforce retires. Create more opportunities for young people to explore manufacturing and learn that it is a profession, a career they can succeed at.

Women have not always seen themselves as manufactures, but we see many women who are changing that. Women like to know about how their ideas are made. They want to be in control of the decisions from materials to process. We have many women in manufacturing right here in Colorado and they make many things from aerospace parts to labels to apparel to recycled glass.

Just like shopping locally helps keeps more money in the state, so does creating and keeping more local manufacturing jobs. As the presidential, state, and local elections unfold, please pay attention to where candidates stand on promoting local manufacturing and the benefits provided to Colorado. We should keep reminding politicians how important manufacturing is in Colorado. Instead of relying on goods produced overseas, lets support the candidates, from whichever political party, that support products made by great Coloradans in our community. We need more people to make more things and to do it locally — across our state.

Debra Wilcox is co-founder of The 3D Printing Store.