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The Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC touts the Springs’ manufacturing presence as “diverse and vibrant.” Indeed, the Chamber & EDC lists more than 400 manufacturers in the Pikes Peak region, serving a range of industries.
“One thing that is interesting for us, which we haven’t really seen in the past, is the food manufacturing component,” says Tammy Fields, senior vice president of economic development for the Chamber & EDC. That’s an area that is taking off, she says, pointing to Australian food manufacturer Trisco Foods’ plans for a production facility to open soon in the Springs and In-N-Out Burger’s planned patty production plant on the city’s far north side.
There are other niches too, such as medical device manufacturing. And while dreams of the area being a high-tech Silicon Mountain have faded, “we’re still seeing the high-tech manufacturing,” Fields says. “We’re not seeing super-strong activity there, but we’re seeing consistent activity.”
Here is a sample of a few Springs companies that reflect the breadth of local manufacturing.
Ray Allen Manufacturing
The company’s namesake and founder, Ray H. Allen, started a saddle and harness business in Colorado Springs in 1948. He was making tack for horses and mules at Camp Carson when he was asked to also produce collars and leashes for dogs. Today, Ray Allen is touted as “the world leader in professional K-9 products.”
The company — now owned by a private equity group — operates a 25,000-square-foot facility that includes a small storefront, on the east side of Colorado Springs. It acquired Illinois-based J&J Dog Supplies in 2014.
“It was a nice fit for Ray Allen,” company President JD Snowden says. While Ray Allen has largely focused on working dogs, such as in the military and law enforcement, J&J’s canine training products are on the competition side, such as agility.
Ray Allen employs 33 people or so. “We try to run pretty lean in an age of increasing costs for freight and tariffs on raw materials,” Snowden says.
Growth has been up and down, he says. “We have some really really good years depending on what’s going on with government spending and local law enforcement spending and things like that, and then other years that things kind of dry up.”
That’s why Ray Allen continues to push into other areas, such as “a pretty big expansion” this year into service dogs, Snowden says.
“A lot of people have gotten active with their dogs — races, sports and such,” he says. “Our equipment is perfect for that. .. So we’re trying to show people, if you’re a dog owner and you do stuff with you dog, check us out. It’s pretty amazing that most people here don’t know who we are and that we’re here.
The Harloff Co.
While they didn’t play starring roles, you may have seen Harloff’s products in the background on TV’s “ER” or “Grey’s Anatomy.”
But it’s the real-life health care world, not Hollywood, that is the focus of Harloff, which produces medical carts.
Norman Harloff started the business in his garage in 1951, producing housekeeping carts. The focus switched to medical carts after the California-based Winsford Corp. bought the business in 1986; Winsford already had a company producing bellman’s carts and other products for the hospitality industry.
President John Sweetland says Harloff targets “three somewhat discrete markets” — hospitals; the alternate care market, which includes facilities such as surgery centers and doctor offices; and long-term care, including nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. “There are different supplies that are key in those markets, different distributors, and we primarily sell through distribution.”
Business has been up and down over the years. At times, Sweetland says, “that has more to do with our sales leadership than what is going on in the market. We just hit a very strong growth period this year,” he adds, attributing that to new sales leadership.
“We’ve had situations in the past where we’ve had up years and then not been able to capitalize on them, and the challenge for our sales leadership, which I believe they are more than capable of meeting, is sustaining that.”
Harloff has about 60 employees and operates a 54,000-square-foot plant. Tariffs on steel and aluminum led Harloff to “substantially” raise prices on its products in the middle of last year, Sweetland says, but the company has been able to avoid such increases this year.
Springs Fab has grown from a business CEO and President Tom Neppl started in his garage in 1986 to an internationally known resource for the design and manufacture of engineered metal products. It serves a wealth of industries, including mining, aerospace, oil and gas, and new energy such as wind. Springs Fab’s portfolio includes a headline-making project: After a 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami caused the failure of the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, Springs Fab led the effort to build a system that filtered radiation out of seawater.
“Our real strength has always been working with companies that need manufacturing expertise,” Neppl says. “We can just build to their specifications, but what we really spend a lot of our time doing and where we’re most successful is helping people design their projects to cut costs, to make it a better product. We’re doing that more and more with companies that are in the early stages.”
Springs Fab built its current plant, now 100,000 square feet, in the 1990s and expanded in 2008. It also has a facility in Westminster. The company employs about 200.
“Work seems to just find us,” Neppl says. “We did go through a real drought after oil crashed about four years ago and prices dropped, and we’re recovering from that. Now it looks pretty good. We’ve got some really big opportunities on the horizon.”
One constraint on growth: a lack of skilled labor industrywide, Neppl says.
“The big concern, coast to coast, is we can’t find people,” he says. Locally, as the Pikes Peak region continues to grow in aerospace and defense, “I see strong manufacturing growth on the horizon, so the need for skilled labor is just going to continue.”
The impact of tariffs has been more positive than negative for the steel industry, Neppl says.
“We’ve been fighting China for decades in this industry. I’m pleased that we finally have a president who is willing to stand up and try to get us on level ground with those guys.”
Compared to the companies above, MotoMinded is in its infancy; it’s only been “a full-time thing” for the last two years, says Chris Vestal, founder and president. In that time, though, MotoMinded’s portfolio has grown from one product to two dozen or so.
“It’s been rockin’,” Vestal says.
That first product was the Pillbox, a fuel injector holder.
“At the time, dirt bikes were just starting to be fuel-injected,” Vestal says. If the injector failed “in the middle of nowhere, that was the thing I couldn’t service,” so he carried a fuel injector and accessories in his pocket.
His idea for a storage compartment under the seat led to the Pillbox — and to MotoMinded.
Most of MotoMinded’s sales are direct to consumer. Newer products include LED kits, plastic guards and GPS mounts. About half of the manufacturing is done through 3D printing. “We have a small army of 3D printers,” Vestal says.
MotoMinded is the first tenant in Milestones for Growth, which offers a shared space for light manufacturers. Before that it was part of Pikes Peak Makerspace, “but we kind of outgrew that pretty quickly,” Vestal says.
MotoMinded is just Vestal and two employees for now, but they’re brimming with ideas.
“We have plans, maybe next year, for automotive and even household products,” Vestal says.