2021 Made in Colorado


Since the last Made in Colorado issue of ColoradoBiz rolled off the presses in March of 2020, the manufacturing sector has been in the spotlight. 

First, it was about pivots to masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) in the face of shortages. Next, we got a lesson on vaccine development and manufacturing, courtesy of the nightly news. The current chapter is all about massive disruptions in the global supply chain.

Together, these stories have put manufacturing front and center instead of its usual position, relegated to the background. It’s easy to ignore where something is made when it’s in plentiful supply. People only start asking questions when it isn’t. 

If these pandemic-induced manufacturing phenomena have taught us anything, it’s easier to boost manufacturing in your own country than it is to reach overseas in times of need. It’s a lesson that could boost manufacturing in Colorado for decades to come.

For the tenth edition of Made in Colorado, we’re profiling 10 companies that demonstrate the art and science of making it in the state.

Read on to learn more about these Colorado makers and manufacturers:





Castle Rock


Commerce City





Plus, check out the winners and finalists from ColoradoBiz magazine’s annual Made in Colorado: 




Pastificio Boulder | Boulder

Married co-founders Claudia Bouvier and Ted Steen moved to Boulder in 2012 for a lifestyle change. 

A few years later, Bouvier embarked on a master’s degree in engineering at CU Boulder. She ended up getting involved with the school’s Catalyze CU incubator with her business plan for manufacturing whole-grain artisan pasta from freshly milled flour in 2017. 

It was a perfect fit: Bouvier grew up in a culinary-oriented family in Brazil — and later took a professional-pasta making course in New York — and Steen founded a brewery in Connecticut before the couple relocated to Colorado. “This idea of food and pasta-making has been with me forever,” Bouvier says. 

“Our focus is really on heirloom and ancient wheats,” Bouvier says. “In all honesty, it’s just going back to the way pasta was done. generations ago. It’s not that we’re reinventing the wheel, but on both coasts, there’s not this category on the shelves.” 

That’s largely because the grains aren’t in the fields, she adds. “During the grain revolution, our wheat crops have been over-hybridized, because the focus was on feeding as many people as we could,” Bouvier says. “Along the way, we ended up losing the flavor and the nutrition, and those are the main characteristics you see in our pastas.” 

Pastificio Boulder launched at the Boulder Farmers Market before going into Whole Foods in the region and about 100 independent grocers across the country since 2020. “It turns out Boulder is a pretty amazing place to be in the natural foods industry,” Bouvier says.



Stem Ciders | Lafayette/Denver

Founded by Eric Foster and Phil Kao in Lafayette in 2013 and expanding with a taproom in Denver’s RiNo Art District in 2014, the fast-growing craft cidery has pushed the envelope with creative products and clever business moves. 

Fraser Valley Distilling | Fraser

Barry and Debbie Young came to Colorado to retire, then started distilling a wide variety of craft spirits in 2018. It’s a family affair: Barry and Debbie’s son, Michael, runs the restaurant, and daughter, Jenna, is the general manager. 



Solid Power| Louisville

The last year has been notably hectic at Solid Power. 

First, the company — launched by CEO Doug Campbell in 2012 to make safer, better and cheaper solid-state batteries for electric vehicles — closed on a $130 million Series B fundraising round in May led by Ford and BMW. 

Then in June, Solid Power announced a plan for a $1.2 billion IPO through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). 

After recently surpassing 100 employees, the company is also planning to open a new electrolyte manufacturing facility in Thornton by mid-2022 and working with South Korea’s SK Innovation to produce battery cells at its factories.  

“It’s been nonstop,” says Will McKenna, Solid Power’s marketing communications director. “That new Thornton facility will quadruple our footprint in Colorado.” 

McKenna says that batteries made in Louisville will start going through qualification with automakers in 2022. “That’s a multi-year process,” he notes. “We’re envisioning electric vehicles powered by our batteries in 2026, so 2022 kicks off that four-year process.” 

The Thornton and Louisville facilities will support qualification and full commercialization. “Electrolyte production is our business model long-term,” McKenna says. “We envision keeping cell production to a degree. We’ll still have our production line in Louisville, but it doesn’t have the quantity required for electric vehicles. The Thornton-based facility is producing electrolytes that will feed into the manufacturing in Louisville,  so we certainly needed to keep production close by, and the offices are only 15 minutes apart.”


FarmBox Foods | Sedalia

 The startup is converting shipping containers into farms for mushrooms, greens and other crops. A sustainable alternative to traditional centralized agriculture, FarmBox’s watering systems use 90% less water than traditional farms. 


Timber Age Systems | Durango

Ponderosa pine hasn’t traditionally been utilized as structural wood, but co-founders Kyle Hanson and Andy Hawk are blazing a trail making cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels. The company’s modular manufacturing model is both scalable and good for the forest. 




Titan Robotics | Colorado Springs

Additive manufacturing — or 3D printing — is moving from prototyping production for many industries. 

And few companies in the space are innovating like Titan Robotics. “Innovation is one of our core values. It’s been in our DNA since the beginning, when the company started in 2014,” CEO Rahul Kasat says. “Titan customers are now making 10,000-plus 3D-printed parts for end-use applications.” 

The manufacturer of large-format 3D printers has pushed the envelope by adding CNC machining capabilities to one of its new models that’s in high demand at aerospace manufacturers as well as foundries. 

Beyond hardware, Titan Robotics is also innovating with materials and software. “With Titan Robotics, we can print with hundreds of different materials, so we continue to launch new materials for specific end-use applications in the market,” Kasat says. 

To help improve processes, Titan Robotics is currently developing quality-monitoring software. “It’s essentially making Titan printers smarter,” Kasat says. “If we notice there’s an issue during the print, we can temporarily stop it, fix it, and then we can restart it.’ 

Now with 35 employees on the payroll, Titan Robotics is “growing dramatically every year,” Kasat says. “We have aggressive plans for 2022 and expect to get to 50 to 60 employees by the end of the year.” 

Look for new Titan Robotics products early in the year. “Stay tuned,” Kasat says. “We’re at the forefront of what people are calling Additive Manufacturing 2.0, moving it from prototyping into end-use production parts.”


RK Mission Critical | Aurora

A business unit of longstanding construction and engineering firm RK Industries, RK Mission Critical manufactures modular data centers at its 140,000-square-foot facility in Aurora. The Disruptor, launched in March 2021, holds promise to disrupt cryptocurrency mining.

ActivArmor | Pueblo 

Since she founded the manufacturer of 3D-printed splints and casts in 2014, President and CEO Diana Hall has guided ActivArmor’s increasing traction with health-care providers. The company’s catalog has likewise expanded to include a new walking boot launched in September 2021.



David Rasmussen Design | Carbondale

With a background that spans furniture-making and treehouse building, David Rasmussen started his eponymous line of kitchen accessories and barware to fill out the excess woodworking capacity at his architectural millwork shop in Carbondale.  

The company’s catalog of wooden wine and cocktail glasses and platters, trays and cheese boards offer minimalist design with splashes of color and innovative features. Case in point: The Chroma Mingler is a plate for hors d’oeuvres with a slot to hold your wine glass. 

“The design is driven by striving for a balance between functionality and aesthetic, and creating pieces that are meant to be heirloomed,” Rasmussen says. “We’re creating work that people care about enough to take care of and create future heirlooms.” 

As of late 2021, Rasmussen is moving 20 miles northwest to an 18,000-square-foot shop the company purchased in New Castle, Colorado — nearly double the size of the original facility in Carbondale — to accommodate sky-high demand. “We’ve become one of the leading providers of architectural millwork in Aspen,” Rasmussen says.



Phunkshun Wear | Denver

Boosted by an investment in high-capacity laser cutters, the manufacturer of neck gaiters deftly pivoted to facemasks during the pandemic and is now expanding into cycling apparel and leggings in 2022.

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Timeless Travel Trailers | Wheat Ridge 

The largest, most experienced upfitter of Airstream Trailers in the country, Timeless Travel Trailers makes works of movable art for a wide range of customers, including brands like Colorado Native, Bonobos, and Deep Eddy Vodka.



Ball Corp | Broomfield

One of the largest manufacturers in Colorado, Ball Corp. takes home the 2021 award for the most ethical. It goes back to two big bullet points on sustainability and inclusivity. 

“Aluminum is the model for circularity in a perfect system,” says Ball spokesperson Hli Yang. “It’s infinitely recyclable, doesn’t lose value when recycled and is easily processed and sorted. However, there isn’t a perfect global system and we know as an industry, we can do better to improve recycling rates, increase recycled content, support policies and infrastructure that maximize recycling yields, and design for circularity.” 

Ball is pushing for a 90% global recycling rate for aluminum beverage cans, bottles and cups by 2030. “Last month, we announced plans to create Brazil’s first circular economy lab in Fernando de Noronha,” Yang says. “Named the VADELATA for the Planet Lab, the project will create a model circular economy within the island by centralizing the collection and recycling of aluminum cans.” 

Ball is also striving to increase the representation of underrepresented groups in the company’s workforce. “We have a strong, intentional focus on creating a culture that embraces inclusion and diversity,” Yang says. “No matter your background, thoughts and talents, it’s important that employees feel included and welcomed for their
unique contributions.”


Spinster Sis

Spinster Sisters |Golden

Aghast with the chemicals in mass-market soaps and skincare, CEO Kelly Perkins took it upon herself to start a line with natural, fair-trade ingredients. The company’s values shine in its sourcing as well as wind-powered production, recyclable packaging and otherwise embracing sustainability as something much bigger than a buzzword.


Wine Punts | Colorado Springs

Born from a college project in 2006, the company upcycles wine bottles that might otherwise be doomed to a landfill into stylish glassware, canisters and candles. Wine Punts has also offered many employees a second chance by hiring people experiencing

Spoke Sound’s artful audio speakers

Spoke Sound | Durango | Product: Home & Lifestyle

Less than a year removed from representing the University of New Hampshire (UNH) at the 2021 NCAA Skiing Championships (which were canceled mid-event when COVID-19 reared its ugly head), Will Bodewes launched a unique audio speaker manufacturer in Durango. 

Bodewes, who grew up in Wisconsin, followed his family to Durango after graduating from UNH. He’d been cooking up the idea for Spoke Sound since 2018 but didn’t release the first product until early 2021. 

The speakers — which double as pictures to mount on the wall — are based on licensed distributed mode loudspeaker (DML) technology that produce sound from a flat surface, instead of the traditional cone used in most speakers. Spoke Sound’s “speaker pictures” project sound out to cover 180 degrees, while legacy speakers project sound waves at angles of 45 to 105 degrees. 

Notes Bodewes: “The bigger the picture, the bigger the speaker, so if you have a really big print, it can kind of sound like a surround-sound system just coming out of one speaker.” 

Bodewes describes his “aha moment” when he discovered DML and saw game-changing design possibilities. “Our technology turns the whole surface of a photo into a speaker,” he says, describing a simple, app-controlled product with an on/off switch and a reset button. “It’s pretty seamless.” 

After negotiating rights to the patent, Bodewes located suppliers to print the artwork on canvas and manufacture the circuit boards inside. He now brings all of the components to Durango to make the final products. 

Customers can choose art and photos from Spoke Sound’s catalog to adorn the canvas, or else upload an image of their choosing for a personalized speaker. Depending on its size and features, speakers run from $195 to $375.

This article is part of the 2021 Made in Colorado feature. To learn more about the Colorado companies changing manufacturing in the state, click here. 

This Colorado-made product is a neck gaiter, evolved

Gatortailz | Centennial | Product: Apparel & Gear

Emily Dick has been an avid skier since she was a little kid. Now 14, she came up with a better neck gaiter that evolved into Gatortailz when she was all of 8 years old.  

To combat the “itchy and hot” status quo, she cut a hole in a gaiter to keep her ponytail from bunching up inside of it. “Ever since then, I’ve been skiing without problems,” she says. 

Emily’s also fielded plenty of requests about where to get one in the interceding years. “I realized I wasn’t the only one with this problem of an itchy neck,” she says.  

“Pretty much every person—male or female—with long hair has the same problem,” adds Emily’s mom, C.C. Dick. 

They didn’t have an answer—that is not until the 2020-2021 season. 

C.C. is a wedding planner by trade, so the duo took advantage of the lull in weddings during the COVID-19 pandemic to launch Gatortailz as 50/50 partners. The business partners connected with American Made Apparel Manufacturing in Aurora to sew the first batch of Gatortailz in late 2021. “We sold out in the first week,” Emily says. 

They ordered more runs and got similar results. “Every time we’d put them on the shelves, they’d be gone,” C.C. says. 

The catalog has snowballed into 30 patterns and fabrics, as Emily and C.C. plan new fleece products and balaclavas. 

Emily, a freshman at Cherry Creek High School, says she wants to build on the startup as a possible career. “It’s been really cool to get this experience,” she says. “My mom’s been really helpful showing me how to do this kind of stuff.” 

Laughs C.C.: “Hopefully, when she graduates from college, she can run a major corporation named Gatortailz.”

This article is part of the 2021 Made in Colorado feature. To learn more about the Colorado companies changing manufacturing in the state, click here. 

Whiskey distilled in Colorado’s high country

Snitching Lady Distillery | Fairplay | Product: Beer, Wine & Spirits

Snitching Lady’s primary whiskey recipe was originally concocted by founder Thomas Williams’ great-grandfather in North Carolina. It involves an open flame, charred Carolina oak barrels, and patience. “It was passed from my dad [Richard] to me, and me and my dad have done everything to get the business to where it is today,” Williams says. 

After dabbling as a moonshiner himself, Williams, previously a chef and self-described “ski bum,” went legit with Snitching Lady Distillery in 2018. But he had started distilling with his license in 2017 to start filling a whiskey pipeline well before opening day. “For the first year, I focused on filling as many barrels as I could,” Williams says. He opened with clear moonshine instead of “caving” to the idea of buying whiskey and slapping his label on it. 

Snitching Lady makes whiskeys made with blue corn and rye as well as a bourbon and brandies made with Colorado-grown fruit. About 250 liquor stores in Colorado carry the distillery’s products. 

The brown spirits are aged in old shipping containers on Williams’ land at 11,800 feet above sea level (Fairplay is at 9,954 feet) until they’re ready for bottling. “We age everything on the side of Mount Sherman outside of Fairplay,” he says. The sunny days and cold nights make for a “lung effect” that adds to the flavor. “It breathes a lot more,” Williams explains. “There’s less atmospheric pressure, so it creates pressure inside the barrel.”  

He continues, “When it’s hot, it soaks into the wood more. When it’s cold, it brings itself out of the wood. It gives it more color, it gives it more flavor, and yes, the barrels do get destroyed a lot quicker.” 

While the distillery has grown every year it’s been in business, Williams wants to keep it relatively small. “I don’t want to produce too much to where I lose the concept of the love of what I do,” he says. “We try not to rush anything.” 

The Snitching Lady name is a tribute to Williams’ late fiancée, Rena Diane Aker, who earned the nickname by relaying her reservations about his backyard moonshining habit to the local authorities. “The distillery’s dedicated to her,” says Williams. “I named our main still after her, and she was a big fan of Fuji and Gala apples, so I made an apple brandy named after her—I called it Bobena’s Apple Brandy, because that was her nickname.”

This article is part of the 2021 Made in Colorado feature. To learn more about the Colorado companies changing manufacturing in the state, click here. 

The first integrated steel and iron mill west of the Mississippi River

EVRAZ North America | Pueblo | Product: Industrial

The first integrated steel and iron mill west of the Mississippi River, EVRAZ North America’s plant in Pueblo has manufactured rails for the railroad industry since 1881. As of late 2021, the factory is shifting its power source from coal to the sun. 

“It’s a partnership between Xcel Energy, EVRAZ, and Lightsource BP,” says David Ferryman, senior VP of the Pueblo Business Unit for EVRAZ North America. “What we had to bring to the table was land in a very sunny area of our country that’s perfect for solar.” 

Generated by nearly 300 sunny days in Pueblo annually, that power will stabilize the mill’s energy costs. “It produces about 90% of the energy that we consume,” Ferryman says, calling it “a win/win” for all three entities. 

But Ferryman says there’s another big reason Pueblo is ideal for rail manufacturing: “The two largest railroads in North America are on our doorstep in Colorado. We have the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, or BNSF, railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad. We’re ideally located in the middle of their two networks. From a customer standpoint and supply chain, it’s ideal.” 

EVRAZ North America employs 1,300 people in Puebloa number Ferryman forecasts will grow to 1,500 by spring 2022including 260 at the rail mill. 

While the solar energy will power the old mill in the near term, construction is underway on a state-of-the-art replacement that’s scheduled to come online in 2023. The legacy mill makes 80-foot rails, and the new one will produce 320-foot rails. “They get welded into quarter-mile strings, so that’s a significant reduction in the number of welds,” Ferryman says. “That is of importance to the railroad companies. Fewer welds is better from a defects standpoint.” 

The new, more efficient electric arc furnace will replace the legacy blast furnace. “With the solar energy on top of that, we will only produce 0.1 tons of carbon emissions for every one ton of rail we produce,” Ferryman says. “A blast furnace with coal-based electricity produces about three tons of carbon per one ton of rail. We’re talking about 30 times more.” 

And that’s a significant reduction, considering the mill’s output is around 500,000 tons of rail a year. “We currently supply about 2,000 track miles of rail to the North America rail market. The new mill will have the capability of producing over 2,600 track miles of rail annually,” Ferryman says. “Safe to say we’ve produced around a quarter-million miles of railroad in our history! That’s enough rail to build a railroad to the moon!”

This article is part of the 2021 Made in Colorado feature. To learn more about the Colorado companies changing manufacturing in the state, click here. 

Mazur Instruments are used for nuclear radiation detection

Mazur Instruments | Castle Rock | Product: Electronics & IT

CEO Vincent Mazur started his namesake Geiger counter manufacturer in 2008.  

“I’m a lifelong electronics guy,” says Mazur, who has worked in both electronics sales and design. The latter is a passion: “An artist likes to paint, I like to design.” 

Mazur saw an opportunity to innovate when he built a Geiger counter chip in the late 1980s based on a design from a magazine, then immediately saw ways to improve on it. In 2008, he started developing an elegant counter design and built a few devices that solved problems with battery life, size and user interface.  

“I just wanted to develop this refined, improved Geiger counter,” Mazur says. “A Geiger counter is old technology. The Geiger counter was around when we used tubes instead of transistors and ICs [integrated circuits].” 

Right when he was readying the product launch in 2011, the Fukushima nuclear disaster struck Japan. “I bought as many Geiger tubes as I could,” Mazur says. “I knew what was going to happen, and it did happen: You could not get a Geiger counter anywhere on this planet for six months.” 

Mazur soon sent one of his first counters to a prominent reseller. “He loved it,” Mazur says. “He had so many orders for competing models, but those customers had no problem taking our model. We could have sold every one of these we could have made.” 

The company’s products have since been used at the Fukushima site, as well as Chernobyl and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Researchers, medical professionals, manufacturers and metal salvage operations are also customers. 

Mazur works with his wife, Wendy, who serves as VP of operations and spearheads the manufacturing, as he handles final testing for each counter himself. “A big part of the equation is sourcing,” Mazur says, noting that he gets plastic parts from Ohio, screens from California and Connecticut, and LCDs from Asia. “I started this with the idea of wanting to source as much as this product as I could in the United States,” Mazur says. “There’s some things that we just can’t, because this country doesn’t have factories for these types of components anymore.” 

Mazur Instruments now makes three models of Geiger counters priced from $289 to $595, and Mazur says the company has shipped “thousands” of Geiger counters to date. “If you don’t have an instrument to measure radiation, you can be 100% sure you have no idea what’s in your environment,” he says of the steady demand.

This article is part of the 2021 Made in Colorado feature. To learn more about the Colorado companies changing manufacturing in the state, click here. 

Zynex Medical is the undisputed leader in its space

Zynex Medical | Centennial | Product: Medical

After he got sidetracked from a nascent musical career, Zynex Medical CEO Thomas Sandgaard moved from his native Denmark to Boulder. 

He went in a different direction when he founded Zynex Medical in 1996. The company (publicly traded on NASDAQ as ZYXI) quickly went to market with the predecessor of its flagship NexWave, an FDA-approved, prescription-only electronic device that helps users manage pain and rehabilitate muscles. 

“It’s a very pleasant electrical stimulation,” Sandgaard says. “It feels like a tingling, and it goes much deeper than other stimulation devices. It’s more effective, it’s more powerful, and it’s easier to use than anything else on the market.” 

A quarter-century after Sandgaard started the company, the company is the undisputed leader in its space, having shipped about 400,000 NexWave units as its catalog expanded into other related technology. “We really have no competition,” Sandgaard says. 

Sandgaard says Zynex offers pain management that’s superior to pharmaceuticals in a number of ways. “There are no side effects from using our products,” Sandgaard says. “There’s an even bigger demand today because of the non-addictive component of the pain relief.” 

While the company’s supply chain stretches from Colorado to Asia, the final products are made at the company’s manufacturing facility south of Denver. Of Zynex’s 400 employees — a number that doesn’t include 500 sales reps nationwide — about 75 work in production. 

Zynex is in the midst of launching another product invented by Sandgaard that monitors blood volume to detect internal bleeding, dubbed the Cardiac Monitor Model 1500 (CM-1500). “It was approved by the FDA, and we’ve got multiple patents on it,” he says. “It’s the biggest unmet need in hospitals today, and there’s nothing else that can do this.” 

And Sandgaard has come full circle with his musical career: He’s been recording his debut album, which he describes as classic rock, and plans to release it in 2022. “People love it,” he says. “They’re going crazy.”

This article is part of the 2021 Made in Colorado feature. To learn more about the Colorado companies changing manufacturing in the state, click here. 

A Colorado company’s product is a de facto standard for large cold-storage facilities

Rebound Technologies | Commerce City | Product: Energy & Environment

CEO John Fox envisions Rebound Technologies IcePoint system becoming a de facto standard for large cold-storage facilities. 

Co-founder and CTO Russell Goldfarbmuren invented IcePoint and started Rebound about a decade ago. “He started out in solar and wanted to move into storage in an effort to support renewables coming onto the grid,” Fox says. “That’s how he started to think about ice and thermal storage as a battery, versus just a battery for a battery’s sake.” 

The technology works by dehumidifying a facility, allowing for “agile cooling,” and offering thermal storage, Fox says. Essentially, the system’s patented icemaker freezes water when it’s most economical, then injects salt into the ice as a freeze suppressant. The resulting -25 degrees Fahrenheit brine pulls unwanted heat from the freezers at the facilities. 

IcePoint operates more efficiently than legacy cold-storage technology and reduces waste by freezing food faster. When shipments arrive and doors open for the trucks, cold-storage facilities “get overly taxed and it’s not set up for those peak demands,” Fox says.  

The dehumidification capability is a big selling point, he adds. “We actually do an air-to-brine heat exchange where the brine is actually in contact with the facility’s air. We’re actually taking the worst, most humid air off the docks, sucking that into our machine, removing water, and then putting it back into the freezer, very cold and very dry. We can remove 20 or 30 gallons of water an hour from the facility.” 

The nine-employee company manufactures in-house. Rebound is now able to build two IcePoint units simultaneously at its 10,000-square-foot facility in Commerce City. “We’re doing everything ourselves,” Fox says. “We have a small manufacturing crew.” 

The initial system is running at the company’s space as it builds out the next ones for large cold-storage facilities on the Front Range in early 2022. “Our first customer is warehousing and distribution, but we can move up the food chain into the processing world,” Fox says.

This article is part of the 2021 Made in Colorado feature. To learn more about the Colorado companies changing manufacturing in the state, click here

How additive manufacturing sets this Colorado company apart

Ursa Major Technologies | Berthoud | Product: Aerospace & Aircraft

Founder and CEO Joe Laurienti saw a need for an independent manufacturer of rocket engines while working as a propulsion engineer at Blue Origin and SpaceX in the early 2010s. 

He cites “the confluence of a lot of timing” behind the company’s launch in 2015, with venture capital pouring into space startups as the federal government and companies like Google and Facebook doubling down on the sector catalyzing demand for better propulsion technology. 

It all adds up to a big opportunity for a third-party supplier. “We can mass-produce at a lower price by building more engines,” Laurienti says.  

Leveraging innovation in both design and manufacturing, the company uses additive manufacturing—3D printing—to make 80% of the mass of its reusable rocket engines. Additive manufacturing makes for benefits in design, prototyping and manufacturability, Laurienti says,  and the final result can better withstand the extreme conditions of launch. 

“We displace traditional manufacturing by putting 20 parts in a single part and 3D-printing it,” he says. “We want to be the technology company really pushing what is possible on the propulsion side.” 

Now 120 employees, Ursa Major works with a number of service bureaus in Colorado and across the country to supplement the parts it prints in-house, then builds and tests rocket engines at its 70,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on a 90-acre campus just east of Berthoud. “Our engineering, our design, our assembly, and our testing all take place at one property,” Laurienti says. “That’s a huge advantage.” 

The engine models are named after characters from science fiction. The first Hadley (from Ray Bradbury’s short story, “The Veldt”) engines have already shipped, and the Ripley (Sigourney Weaver’s role in the “Alien” movies) is coming soon. “We’ve got a few more coming,” he adds, laughing that the name of the third engine is “a hot topic of discussion” at the company. 

Laurienti says his decision to base Ursa Major in Colorado has been a good one. “There’s a local talent pool that’s really strong,” Laurienti says. “It’s turned into a really big boon for recruiting.” 

He points to another big benefit: accessibility. “When I was living in West Texas 120 miles from a grocery store and we were testing these rocket engines, it was a life-changing experience to see it once, and we were doing it every day,” Laurienti says. “All of these rocket-engine test facilities are these heritage, isolated, classified military facilities or they’re down in Mississippi in the bayou. I wanted to start a test facility where field trips could come and we could show kids and hopefully start a spark for more engineers in the future.” 

He adds, “We’re really lucky that Colorado provides space to do that where it’s not 120 miles east of El Paso, it’s just outside of Denver.”

This article is part of the 2021 Made in Colorado feature. To learn more about the Colorado companies changing manufacturing in the state, click here

How the pueblo chile inspired a Colorado hot sauce company

PexPeppers Hot Sauce | Pueblo | Product: Food & Beverage

Long before the Pueblo chile lured Garrett Peck to Colorado, his lifelong love of all things hot and spicy was amplified by a liver transplant in 2004. “When I had liver failure from 14 to 17 years old, hot sauce kept my mind off the itching,” Peck says.  

But his recovery was far from smooth. “I was addicted to the drugs that doctors gave me prior to the transplant,” Peck says. “My life wasn’t exactly where it should have been. My friends and family were like, ‘What would that kid think of you that gave you that liver?’ So that kind of got me to really re-analyze what I was doing with my life. Basically, hot sauce got me clean, because I just devoted all of my time to making hot sauce, growing peppers, researching what others were doing, stuff like that.” 

When he embarked on his manufacturing career in 2012, Peck started PexPeppers with one recipe, the habanero-and-honey HornetBOMB, and it snowballed from there. “I’m up to 18 sauces right now,” he says. The top sellers are Gold Rush, made with Pueblo Dynamite chiles, and the peach-habanero Cosmic Peach. 

He uses local chile along with other hot peppers grown all over the country. “I try to have no fillers,” Peck says, pointing to hot sauces with carrots or bell peppers atop the list of ingredients. “You’ll never find those in my sauce as a thickener,” he adds. “When it’s a ghost pepper hot sauce, you better bet it’s going to be ghost peppers.” 

Case in point: PexPeppers’ Tropical Revenge sauce is 63% Carolina reaper peppers, about four times the pepper concentration of top supermarket brands. 

But back to the Pueblo chile: Peck first visited in August 2016 to get a look at where it was grown. “I fell in love with the place almost immediately,” he says. 

He visited for a second time two months later, and relocated by the end of 2016. The peppers were a big part of the reason: “The Pueblo chile is the underdog to the Hatch, but in my opinion vastly superior.” 

Sourcing Pueblo chile from Musso Farms, Peck is making his sauces at the Excelsior Food Hub in Boone, just east of Pueblo, as he transitions into a company-owned building (a long-shuttered tavern formerly known as The Rig in Pueblo) as a manufacturing space and storefront. 

It’s all about meeting skyrocketing demand. “Sales have exploded like crazy,” he says.

This article is part of the 2021 Made in Colorado feature. To learn more about the Colorado companies changing manufacturing in the state, click here