Brower: Working to build a manufacturing space |

Brower: Working to build a manufacturing space

Patrick Brower
Grand Enterprise Initiative
Patrick Brower, Grand Enterprise Initiative
Patrick Brower/Grand Enterprise Initiative

There was a time in the not too distant past when I generally disparaged the idea of working to create a shared local manufacturing facility for outdoor recreation products.

I did so because of the rather large hurdles in finding and developing the right space where locals could work using shared space, equipment and resources. The idea would be to make useful stuff that would sell in the regional, national and maybe even world outdoor recreation market.

The biggest hurdles? First, the simple lack of availability of a space or spaces that could work for such a facility. Second, there’s the rather giant issue of the hard-to-manage cost of either buying, building or renting such a space or building in Grand County. It’s too expensive.

But wait … that’s just the point. The whole point of working on trying to help create such a space is that for an individual, such a space is hard to find and probably would be expensive. But collectively …

So, along those lines, DiAnn Butler, the Grand County Economic Developer, and I are starting the process of seeing how we can get some help for developing such a facility. We are doing this through the grant and technical expertise system to identify need and plan for just how such an enterprise might work.

And the truth is that there is fledgling, and yet growing, demand for just such an enterprise in Grand County. It’s not really a co-working space. It’s more of a shared manufacturing hub where small manufacturers, probably people making outdoor related products, could share space, equipment, tools and networking to make products. Sometimes these are called maker spaces.

I have seen local demand. In the last year we worked with a Winter Park-based custom ski maker who was getting booted out of his manufacturing space and he was looking for a place where he could make skis. He had particular electricity requirements, a tolerance for the noises of making stuff and enough room to spread out just a little.

But guess what, there was really nothing in the Winter Park – Fraser area that worked for him. So, of course, he ended up taking his operation to the Denver area.

There are other people wanting to make stuff for outdoor activities up here who could benefit from such a space. San Util Design, a company based in Fraser, makes customized bike bags for the mountain biking community. That company can also make other customized bags for that market.

There is an outdoor retailer in Grand County who is already having branded and unique outdoor products made in other locations that could just as easily be made or late-manufacturing-stage modified right here in Grand County. Other local retailers are intrigued by the opportunity, if it truly existed, to make the very products they sell.

But there’s more. The Rocky Mountain Wooden Boat School, based in Grand Lake, has worked to repair and build the iconic wooden boats that are so typical of the mountain boating experience. But wooden boat crafting and repair requires special skills, tools and facilities to be done correctly.

I am deliberately limiting this topic to outdoor products because those items are specifically listed in the scope of a proposal we are pursuing. But there are many other people here making many other things that could also benefit from a shared maker space. Arts and crafts, sculptures, specialized wooden crafts and even construction-oriented aesthetics (fancy doors, outrageously decorative windows, wild chandeliers, etc.) could be made locally in a facility that had the machines and resources to do so.

I’m sure that if we make it, they will come.

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He provides free and confidential business management coaching for anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He is also the author of KILLDOZER: The True Story of the Colorado Bulldozer Rampage. He can be reached at 970-531-0632 or at

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