The inaugural M2: Manufacturing Growth and Investor Conference, held at the historic Tivoli Student Union in Denver, Colorado, featured lively discussion from numerous Colorado manufacturing leaders and financial experts in the sector. Topics ranged from workforce development issues facing U.S. manufacturers to determining and securing the best financing option. The key takeaway: manufacturing is alive and growing in Colorado, but challenges still loom.
SDR Ventures principal and M2 panelist Chris Bouck stated that Colorado is a great location for manufacturing for three reasons: “We have an energetic, highly educated workforce;” “we have access to energy;” and “freight rates are very good on the front range.” “Trucks come here full and leave empty,” he explained.
Bouck went on to say that consumer products, particularly “branded consumer products,” along with aerospace, electrical equipment and medical manufacturing were the hottest areas in Colorado, but startups still face an uphill battle for funding. “Early stage capital is the hardest to come by, by far,” he said. “It’s larger amounts going to fewer companies.”
An additional challenge looming is that the window of opportunity for closing low-interest loans may be coming to a close soon, according to UMB Bank’s CEO Jon Robinson. “Get ready. Higher interest rates are coming,” he said.
Educational challenges are prevalent in the manufacturing space as well, according to Intertech Plastics’ founder and CEO Noel Ginsburg. He stated that although the U.S. is still considered a “manufacturing powerhouse” abroad, “we’re perceived as we’re losing our edge. Americans are hard workers, but since we don’t have a system in place to train them, we’re falling behind.”
The panelists offered many insightful tips to the wide variety of business owners in attendance including the importance of building up a group of trusted advisors, aiming to grow your company to the point where it’s not dependent on you running day-to-day operations and knowing yourself and your risk tolerance.
For more information on SDR Ventures’ manufacturing expertise, please visit our manufacturing page.