Phil Castle, The Business Times
A facility planned for Grand Junction is expected to offer a variety of resources to regional manufacturers — among them high-tech connections with other manufacturers as well as customers across Colorado.
“I think there’s tremendous potential,” said Tim Heaton, president of the Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Alliance, a trade association that plans to open what’s called a Fuse Impact Center in Grand Junction as part of a network of four centers in the state.
Justin Hemmer, chairman of the CAMA West Chapter, agreed. “I think it’s a good start, a good driver with huge potential for connectivity.”
A location for the new center hasn’t yet been determined. Heaton said he’s looking for local partners who can help sustain operations beyond what initially will be covered by a federal grant.
The Fuse Impact Center in Grand Junction will be one of four in Colorado opened by CAMA as part of a $6.5 million grant the group was selected to administer to help offset the effects of cuts in defense spending in the state, Heaton said.
Centers have opened in Colorado Springs and Denver. A Northern Colorado center will open in Loveland, while the Western Colorado center is planned for Grand Junction, he said.
The name fuse was selected for its multiple meanings, Heaton said: the process of melding different things together into a cohesive whole, but also the device that ignites an explosion. The centers are designed to bring together manufacturers while promoting the growth of those businesses as well as the industry and economy, he said.
When completed, the centers all will feature monitors, computers and other equipment providing high-speed Internet connections among them, Heaton said. It will be possible to not only conduct video conferences among the centers, but also share information in real time. In that way, the centers will promote connections and collaboration, he said.
The centers also will come with full-time directors who will further promote efforts to assist and advance manufacturers in their regions, he said.
Heaton said the overall goals of the centers are fourfold in promoting business, market and workforce development as well as research and development.
Hemmer, owner of Hammerhead Paint Services in Grand Junction, said the center will help area manufacturers in connecting them with other manufacturers and customers without the need to travel to Denver or other locations. “It’ll be about as good or better than face-to-face, all in real time.”
The center also could help in bringing more business — and perhaps businesses themselves — to Western Colorado and build what Hemmer called a critical mass to sustain manufacturing in the region. “We need to be together and work on the problem as a group.”
Eric Goertz, the former chairman of CAMA West who joined in efforts to adjust the grant to open centers in Northern and Western Colorado, said a statewide approach is needed to promote manufacturing. “It was an important upgrade for what was going to happen.”
Having a center in Grand Junction will benefit area manufacturers, but also businesses in other sectors and the community, Goertz said. While the primary purpose of the center will be assist manufacturers, the facilities will be available to anyone, he said.
Moreover, the center will offer one more attribute that could help in promoting economic development, he said.
Goertz agreed with Hemmer the audio-visual equipment and high-speed Internet connections at the center will reduce the time and expense otherwise involved in travel. “It’ll be the next best thing to being there,” Goertz said.
But the center also will afford opportunities to bring training and other types of presentations to the Grand Valley, Goertz added.
Heaton said the collaboration a network of Fuse Impact Centers across Colorado will promote is similar to the efforts that went into creating CAMA. “It was created by manufacturers for manufacturers. That’s exactly this story.”
For more information about the Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Alliance, call (720) 274-9776 or visit www.co-cama.org.