Paul Harter

There are 5,900 manufacturing companies in Colorado, according to the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade. These companies employ 120,000 people and account for $16.3 billion in economic output.

As employees retire or move on, where will new workers come from? This question is answered by two goals of the Northern Colorado Manufacturing Partnership, a group with more than 50 manufacturers and 20 public-sector participants. For the partnership’s third goal, the question is: Do these manufacturers know each other?

NOCOM 2015 Manufacturing Trade Show

These questions came into play in May at the NOCOM 2015 Manufacturing Trade Show held in Loveland, Colorado. At the show, high school students had a chance to talk with representatives from 59 manufacturers and businesses that support them. They saw the diversity of products being manufactured in Colorado and that, yes, manufacturing can rock.

Goal 1: Career awareness for high school students

Paul Harter (pictured), president and CEO of Aqua-Hot of Frederick, Colo., and chairman of the Networking/Supply Chain Subcommittee, explained the partnership’s goals. First, focus on career awareness among high school or even younger students and their parents.

“Based on surveys of high school students we do before and after a ‘Manufacturing Rocks’ tour, we’re changing young minds about manufacturing,” Paul says. In Manufacturing Rocks, the students tour several companies to see what manufacturing is all about (Hint: It’s not your father’s or grandfather’s machine shop).

Goal 2: A partnership with education

Second, manufacturers work with educators such as those at Front Range Community College to identify critical occupations and the skills those occupations require.

“We have a place at the table” as curriculum is developed in career/technical programs, such as Machining and Welding Technology. FRCC’s career/technical programs have advisory committees composed of people from industry.

Goal 3: Networking and opportunities

Third, bring together manufacturers for networking and supply chain opportunities. The trade show certainly met the goal. Major Colorado-based industries such as Lockheed Martin, Woodward, and Ball Aerospace explained their procurement procedures. And you could consider the entire day a networking opportunity for the registered companies and the 600 people who attended.

“I talked with many people that said they made solid business-to-business contacts and gathered great sales leads,” Paul said.

Supply chains also encompass support services, such as accounting and banking.

“It is important for manufacturers to have a wide variety of relationships with vendors and suppliers but also with service providers that understand manufacturers and their issues,” said Chris Otto, partner, EKS&H, an audit, tax, and consulting firm with offices in Denver, Fort Collins, and Boulder and one of the sponsors of NOCOM. “All of these relationships will help them become more successful.”

Event showcased regionalism

SeonAh Kendall, economic policy and project manager for the city of Fort Collins and a member of the partnership, was impressed with the regional cooperation from all partners of the event.

“It is about regionalism in supporting businesses,” she said. “The city of Fort Collins is highly invested in businesses becoming successful. This event would not be a success without all the partners – workforce centers, industry, and the communities. We’re all here.”

FRCC’s involvement

Regarding skills development, Front Range Community College faculty and staff from Precision Machining and Manufacturing and Energy Technology programs attended, as did workforce development experts.

“FRCC has been able to engage with the NoCo Manufacturing Partnership in a variety of ways,” said Lynn Vosler, director of workforce development at FRCC. “Through the Manufacturing Rocks tours – more than 150 students have been able to experience manufacturing by touring companies. Many of those students are becoming aware of the manufacturing career pathway which could include enrolling in FRCC’s Machining, Manufacturing and Energy Technology, and Welding Technology programs. FRCC is a member of the partnership and continues to solicit companies to weigh in on curriculum, tours, and becoming guest speakers in these programs.”

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