Manufacturing connections: Summit offers networking opportunity

Eric Goertz
Eric Goertz

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Eric Goertz believes it’s important for manufacturers to make connections with other manufacturers, to learn more about what could be not only potential suppliers, but also customers.

There’ll be no better chance than at a summit offering a one-stop networking venue for area manufacturers, says Goertz, chairman of the Western Colorado Manufacturing Alliance.

“It will be a huge networking opportunity.”

While the summit also will include educational presentations, Diane Schwenke touts the value of establishing relationships among area manufacturers. “I see the networking component as the most important,” says Schwenke, president and chief executive officer of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.

Goertz and Schwenke both are involved in organizing the Western Colorado Manufacturing Summit.


Diane Schwenke
Diane Schwenke

The summit is set for April 10 at Two Rivers Convention Center, 159 Main St. in Grand Junction. Admission is $50 through March 15, $75 afterwards. Online registration is available through the chamber website at

The summit is the first big event for the alliance, a newly branded reincarnation of what for more than a decade was the Mesa County Manufacturer’s Council. Goertz, who works as vice president of operations at the Capco military contractor in Grand Junction, joined the alliance in 2013.

The alliance has a straightforward mission, Goertz says: to help manufacturers grow their businesses through networking, training and outreach.

The summit will further the alliance mission, Goertz says.

In addition to an informal networking session planned for the end of the day, the summit will include what’s billed as a business showcase in which participating companies will present 3-minute pitches about their operations.

The showcase will offer an expanded version of what occurs during monthly alliance meetings in which participants introduce themselves and their companies, he says. The exchange helps manufacturers learn more about available products and services as well as potential customers, he says. Moreover, manufacturers involved in creating even diverse products can learn something from each other, whether its ideas for more efficient operations or improved quality control.

Along with networking, the summit will offer education through presentations and breakout sessions.

Millar Kelly, a research analyst with the Reshoring Initiative, will discuss a growing trend among manufacturers to bring offshore operations and jobs back to the United States. The initiative promotes efforts to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. by helping companies analyze sourcing decisions and consider all of the costs and benefits involved.

Steve Puckett, manager of virtual human resource services for Express Employment Professionals, will lead a luncheon presentation on achieving excellence by avoiding leadership mistakes.

Afternoon breakout sessions will cover such topics as government contracting, international trade, lean manufacturing techniques and social media marketing. Afternoon sessions also will offer information about continuing education and state organizations offering resources to manufacturers.

In addition to the alliance and chamber of commerce, the City of Grand Junction and Mesa County Workforce Center also have been involved in staging the summit in providing a venue and funding to cover the expense of bringing in speakers.

Schwenke says it’s too early to tell how many manufacturers will participate in the inaugural summit, although she’s hoping for between 100 and 200. More than 400 invitations have been sent out.

The manufacturing sector is an important one, Schwenke says, in bringing dollars into the economy and paying what’s typically higher wages.

Goertz says making connections among manufacturers as well as the educational institutions and economic development organizations in the region could not only promote the industry, but also the economy. “If we hook all these things together, link them together, we can really attract entrepreneurs.”