An aerospace road trip throughout western Colorado six years ago turned out to be a landmark event for Grand Junction manufacturer Wren Industries.
During that first Aerospace Business Development Roadtrip organized by The Colorado Space Business Roundtable, Joe Rice, government relations director for Lockheed Martin Space, remembers first seeing Wren and meeting its president, Mike Sneddon.
Today, Wren has a contract with Lockheed to build parts for the Orion Spacecraft, which aims to put an astronaut on the moon within the next few years and later send someone to Mars. Sneddon is also on the board of directors for the roundtable, serving for the past three years.
Wednesday, Wren was one of two local manufacturers to host a tour of their facility during the road trip. Road trip attendees also visited Capco on Wednesday morning after spending Monday and Tuesday in Rangely, Meeker and Delta.
The goal of the road trip is to meet businesses in western Colorado looking to expand or move into the aerospace industry, promote Colorado aerospace and recruit western Colorado students for internships.
"Nothing is better than getting into a community and seeing things firsthand," Rice said. "Part of these trips is that we know there are capable businesses looking to grow."
Attendees at the Wren tour included representatives from the Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation, Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, Metropolitan State University of Denver and senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet's offices. Members of the Colorado Competitive Council and Colorado Space Coalition were also in attendance. Large manufacturers such as Boeing and Ball Aerospace have attended in past years.
The group will make its way to Snowmass Village today before returning to the Front Range.
Tom Bugnitz, CEO of Manufacturer's Edge, a consulting group looking to help grow manufacturing in Colorado, also attended and spoke of the importance of seeing people in person.
"From our perspective, I don't know what's going on until I come out here," he said. "There's good people out here and I like to get to know them."
Bugnitz said his organization has helped Wren Industries make connections to help the business expand and get into aerospace.
Sneddon, whose company won the Aerospace/Electronics Manufacturer of the Year award earlier this year at the Colorado Manufacturing Awards, said these road trips have been valuable for him and the western Colorado community.
"It's extremely valuable. We're trying to bring a diverse economy here. It's important for us. We enjoy showing off our stuff," he said.
Rice noted that Colorado is the No. 1 aerospace employer in the nation, however, much of the industry is centered on the Front Range. These trips can be a way to spread out aerospace.
Sneddon agreed and noted the many differences between the Front Range and Western Slope, but said the aerospace industry could be a way to change that.
"It's a difficult egg to crack," he said. "Aerospace might be a way to bridge that gap."