Q: Jahr, tell us a little about yourself and what your hoping bring to the table in the Colorado Springs manufacturing community.

JT: I have 15 years experience in advanced manufacturing industries as well as advanced materials industries. I come from Detroit, a very automotive-centric area where the whole manufacturing ecosystem was very top down and existed to serve that industry, very similar to Colorado Springs with the focus on the aerospace and defense industries.

I’m hoping to bring my expertise and understanding of production and manufacturing in Detroit, as well as my experience as a small business owner, to help businesses in Colorado Springs, and grow the manufacturing ecosystem so the current workforce wants to stay here, and people want to move here because jobs are available. And, through the FourFront Fuse Center, I want to provide a facility small businesses can use to grow. I didn’t have that in Michigan and I really would have benefited from it.

Q: Why are you passionate about manufacturing and what are you looking forward to as the new Director of the Southern Colorado FUSE Impact Center?

JT: I did not have this opportunity when I was growing my companies in Michigan. If I did, I’m sure I could have grown much bigger and much faster than I did. To be able to reach out and help these companies grow, that’s just something I’m very passionate about. I love being involved in the manufacturing industry. I like seeing things get made, produced and engineered. That whole realm is where I want to be.

Q: In a really practical sense, what can a company expect when they come to the new Fuse Center in Colorado Springs?

JT: So for example, a company might come to the Fuse Center and they might not even know what they need, just that they need help. At the very beginning, we’ll help them do an assessment of their needs and what their gaps and weaknesses are. We’re located in the Catalyst Campus. Part of that is there is a complete suite of service providers here. So whether they need marketing help, strategic planning, business services, legal, accounting, they are going to find it right next to Fuse Center. So we’ll help them identify what they need, and help them get to where they need to go by connecting them with businesses in their own backyard. We’ll also be hosting regular events like CEO brown bag lunches to get these companies together and discuss the problems facing the industry today. I believe it’s a lot easier to build actual relationships when done face to face. That’s why we have this space, so we can encourage people to come here and get together.

Q: What are some of the features and technology at the new FUSE Impact Center you’re excited about?

JT: In the Fuse Center, there will be a technology room that contains an Oblong Mezzanine system, on its own, providing a really good productive workspace for a meeting center and conference room. But when you connect it to any of the FourFront Fuse Center Oblong systems that are going up, it provides a true info presence exchange where data can easily be worked on by multiple people at the same time. And each of the FourFront centers being developed will contain one of these Oblong systems. It is a big step beyond teleconference. With the data connectivity side of it allowing people in all different areas working on the same materials at the same time, it’s true collaboration.

Additionally, the Fuse Centers are a physical location for manufacturers and advanced industry service providers to be able to come together and have a place where they can receive services and information. The four points for FourFront are business growth and advancement, market diversification, research and development, and workforce. So here at these centers, we’ll provide services and a place for each of those items. Down here, we’re focusing on market diversification specifically for the defense industry with the Defense Assistance Program.

Q: Speaking of the Defense Assistance Program, what are the challenges facing manufacturing in Colorado Springs specifically, and what is FourFront doing about it?

JT: Some of the biggest challenges I’ve seen so far are, firstly, workforce. There is not a big enough influx of people into the manufacturing industry. Secondly, my challenge is to get the word out about what Colorado Springs is capable of. We have huge capabilities here, but not necessarily all in one company. So the challenge is to get these companies to learn about each other so they can collaborate and go after these research contracts that are available instead of always competing.

As a result of many things, including sequestration, a lot of companies are seeing decreasing revenues and having to lay off employees. As a response, CAMA is putting in place a Defense Assistance Program to say to these business that we’re here for them if they need help. We’re offering assistance for a variety of different services such as strategic planning, or market diversification, really any service they could use to grow their business.

Karla Tartz is chief strategy officer for FourFront Colorado. Reach her at karla@fourfrontco.com.