Making things key to state’s economic growth

Adams County forum focuses on manufacturing

Scott Taylor
staylor@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 12/11/19

People will continue to be a major factor for Adams County’s economic growth a trio of manufacturers said Dec. 4. “How do we find good people — people that are willing to show up, that are …

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Making things key to state’s economic growth

Adams County forum focuses on manufacturing

Posted

People will continue to be a major factor for Adams County’s economic growth a trio of manufacturers said Dec. 4.

“How do we find good people — people that are willing to show up, that are somewhat mechanically inclined and interested in doing the work?” Matt Christensen, chief commercial officer of Commerce City’s Oribi Manufacturing asked.

Christensen was one three panelists at a luncheon at Thornton’s DoubleTree Hotel sponsored by ACED, the Adams County Economic Development group.

With an increasing portion of Adams County’s economic future focused on manufacturing and manufacturing support, the Adams County Economic Development annual luncheon focused on those businesses, specifically the smaller locally based manufacturers.

Oribi is an Adams County company that uses composite and reinforced thermoplastics to manufacture parts for other industries.

“We make products faster, stronger, cheaper and tougher,” Christensen said. “Most things, we are replacing a metal part or a more standard composite part, and so we do a lot of work for the military and for sporting goods.”

It requires the company to be extremely flexible and responsive, and that requires high-tech workers.

“For us, because of our rapid growth, we certainly have leveraged robotics very heavily and that’s created opportunities for very different kinds of employment,” he said. “We have the trade-based type of employment, but now there are new types of employment — with robotic management and programming and service support.”

Positive outlook

There’s every reason to believe manufacturers would continue to do well, according to the luncheon’s keynote speaker, Real estate demographer Jesse Ostermick of the firm CBRE.

Ostermick said Colorado’s unemployment rate continues to be lower than the national average. She predicted job growth would continue to rise, and noted that Adams County has had the third fastest-growing wage-rate in the metropolitan area since 2015, behind Jefferson and Boulder counties.

She said demographers expect the county’s population to rise by a 500,000 people in the next six months, mostly from net-migration from people looking for work.

“The point is, jobs are people,” she said. “If we are talking about economic growth and economic development, we have to measure that growth projection with the influx of people. To fill jobs, we need people. If want to continue to grow, we need to find a way to accommodate continued levels of in-migration.”

Industrial jobs could lead that, with Adams County being home to one-third of all industrial space in the Denver Metro area.

“Over time, industrial has definitely stepped up in terms of the type of product they build, the look of it and the quality,” she said. “In Denver in general and Adams County specifically, the quality of ownership has become much more institutional.”

Employees needed

Sumer Sorensen-Bain, chief operations officer for logistical support company Manufacturer’s Edge, said most don’t realize how important manufacturing is to Colorado’s economy.

“Manufacturing is a greater contributor to our states gross domestic product than tourism,” Sorensen-Bain said. “Manufacturing contributes $23 billion, and tourism is more like $19-20 billion. So even though we’re known for these great mountains and this beautiful, beautiful outdoor lifestyle, this is what drives our economy.”

Sorensen-Bain led the panel, which included Christensen, Mary Stevenson, president of heating system maker Deltech Inc. and MTech Mechanic Service Account Manager Rick Hodge.

Stevenson said her company’s biggest need is to hire production workers, who need to be familiar with hand and power tools, must know basic math and attention to detail.

“Younger and stronger is better than being a Boomer,” she said. “It’s really hard to find people, and we use everything from Monster.com to Craigslist to the Adams County worksforce center to try and find people. Right now we have a good and stable crew, but each time we do I’m amazed and waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

Christensen said it’s forced a portion of his company to move away from manufacturing and into full-time job recruiting.

“I think our team feels we have exhausted the traditional, classic ways to hire employees,” Christensen said. “So we are looking at becoming a full-time recruiter. How else can we get creative, working with the schools and universities and engineering teams?”

Hodge said creating a good culture is key to his company.

“You are starting from the ground level and if you hire the right people and make good decisions and help people understand you are trying to create a place long term, it is something that really pays dividends,” Hodge said. “We hope they are not just here for a job. I’ve always believed that if you do the next right thing, money will follow.”

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