Phil Castle, The Business Times
When Eric Goertz envisions the future of manufacturing in the region, he likes what he sees.
“I think we have an opportunity right now in Western Colorado to take part in a manufacturing renaissance.”
A number of factors play into his expectations, among them educational and economic development programs that promote a more qualified work force and innovative new ventures. Moreover, a group with which Goertz is involved has renewed its efforts to help manufacturers.
“We have a bright future if we work together,” said Goertz, chairman of the Western Colorado Manufacturing Alliance.
Goertz believes an upcoming event billed as a summit for area manufacturers will help make connections that lead to collaboration. “There’s a lot to be gained from local people networking with local people.”
The alliance is the newly branded reincarnation of what for more than a decade has been the Mesa County Manufacturer’s Council. Goertz, who works as vice president of operations at the Capco military contractor in Grand Junction, joined the group in 2013.
The alliance has a straightforward mission, Goertz said: to help Western Colorado manufacturers grow their businesses through networking, training and outreach.
One benefit comes from representatives of manufacturers becoming better acquainted with one another and the diverse operations in the region, Goertz said.
Goertz cited as an example his own experience in learning about Apex CAD Products, a Grand Junction business that uses three-dimensional printers to create product prototypes. Capco subsequently worked with Apex to develop prototypes used for research and development.
Manufacturers are eager to work with local companies because of the personal service and quick turnaround times, Goertz said. But manufacturers aren’t necessarily aware those services even exist.
That’s why the manufacturing summit scheduled for April 10 at Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction will include a showcase event in which participants will have three minutes to pitch their companies, products and services. The summit also will include time for informal networking as well as booths for vendors who service the manufacturing sector, Goertz said.
That will make the summit a venue at which Western Colorado manufacturers will promote business development without the expense of long-distance travel, he added.
In addition, the summit will offer informational sessions. The topics haven’t yet been set, but could include exporting, lean manufacturing techniques, leadership and workforce development.
The alliance hopes to attract to the summit manufacturers from not only the Grand Valley, but across the Western Slope. Some Front Range firms likely will attend as well, Goertz said.
Given the broad definition of manufacturing, the group also hopes to attract a diverse mix of companies, he said. “Anybody who thinks they’re a manufacturer is welcome to attend.”
By offering value in business development, networking and training, the summit will offer a way to introduce regional manufacturers to the alliance and in turn broaden the group and its efforts to promote the industry, Goertz said. “We’re really going all in on this one event.”
The relocation of operations and jobs to overseas facilities and the economic downturn has hurt the manufacturing industry in Western Colorado, Goertz said.
But the sector has stabilized somewhat in recent years even as smaller operations have started to replace the larger operations that left, he said.
Goertz said he’s even more optimistic about the long-term prospects because of vocational training and degree programs offered at Western Colorado Community College and Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.
What’s billed as an “educational highway” gives students the flexibility to get in and out of programs that offer needed training or lead to two- and even four-year degrees. A mechanical engineering degree program offered by CMU and the University of Colorado has produced a growing crop of graduates, Goertz said.
At the same time, the economic development efforts of the Business Incubator Center, Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and Grand Junction Economic Partnership help entrepreneurs turn ideas into manufacturing businesses that bring products to market, he said.
That leaves as a third component a group of manufacturers that connects with educators and economic development groups to further promote advances, Goertz added.
The efforts are important, he said, because manufacturers typically offer higher wages as well as bring dollars into a community. “Making something is very important to an economy.”
The next meeting of the Western Colorado Manufacturing Alliance is set for 7:30 a.m. Jan. 17 at the Business Incubator Center, 2591 Legacy Way in Grand Junction. For more information about the alliance or upcoming summit, call Eric Goertz at 243-8750.