Novel business space encourages young manufacturers

Colorado Springs’ first co-working space for light manufacturing is encouraging young people to pursue manufacturing careers.

Milestones for Growth is the brainchild of Mary and Tony Fagnant, owners of Qualtek Manufacturing. The Fagnants bought the building at 4240 N. Nevada Ave., next door to Qualtek, four years ago and have been renovating it for the past year.

They’ve finished the first phase of renovations, which includes four co-working spaces ranging from 1,500 to 1,700 square feet, a furnished mezzanine for collaborative conversations and presentations, and a kitchen and break room.

Collaboration is one of the benefits tenants of the three open spaces will gain, and one of the reasons why the Fagnants decided to develop the 32,000-square-foot building. They are looking for companies that are in business and need a place to grow, and they hope the project will help strengthen light manufacturing in Colorado Springs and demonstrate to students that manufacturing is innovative and interesting.

Mary Fagnant recalls a panel discussion her company hosted, during which a young woman asked why manufacturers weren’t making their facilities more attractive and fun.

“We started thinking about the idea that … maybe we could change it up a bit and see how we can make it an attractive environment where we can have fun and we can, more importantly, save money for manufacturers and encourage all of us to help each other grow,” Fagnant says.

The Fagnants already had a long-term tenant, Colorado Gold Distillery, occupying the back of the building.

“It would have been much easier for us to go ahead and get another tenant, rather than changing the model quite a bit,” Fagnant says. “But we decided that we really wanted to … develop this space so we can help keep manufacturing in Colorado Springs."

They had planned to finish the renovations before adding tenants but decided to rent one of the spaces to MotoMinded, which designs and produces accessories for motorcycles. 

“We really want our tenants to be giving back to the community — not necessarily financially, but giving back their time,” Fagnant says. MotoMinded’s owner, Chris Vestal, “loves to tell people about what he does and teach them about 3D printers.”

A unique feature of Milestones for Growth is that the walls of the rental spaces are 8 feet high, affording a view into the spaces from the mezzanine area above.

Fagnant says she wants to bring in local students “and let them look and see what we really do and get what the real manufacturing of today looks like." 

The mezzanine area also can be used to present programming that will help tenants grow their small businesses.

As the project got going, the Fagnants brought in Jennifer Taylor to handle marketing and strategic partnerships.

Taylor is helping Milestones for Growth develop partnerships with organizations such as the Pikes Peak Business and Education Alliance, UCCS, Pikes Peak Community College, Peak Startup, Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC and the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center.

Current partners include HB&A Architecture and Planning, which designed the space; Bryan Construction, which built it; Pear Workplace Solutions, which provided furnishings; and Wolf & Key Marketing.

Milestones “really is an economic development project,” Taylor says. “In the development of North Nevada Avenue, what we see as our part is to create a gathering space that’s neighborhood- and student-related — something like University Village. We’re learning that’s more along the lines of what people want to see — something we didn’t understand very well when we started. We do think we can be a catalyst for development moving towards Fillmore.”

Taylor says Milestones is looking to fill the front of the building with a retail operation or two, such as a coffee shop, bakery, brewery or bar, that will function as a community gathering spot as well as serve the tenants.

Depending on how much space the retail business takes up, Milestones will develop plans for up to four more co-working spaces in Phase 2 of the project. Phase 3 includes development of an outdoor space between the Qualtek and Milestones buildings that could host food trucks, small concerts or a play area for kids.

“We have lots of ideas,” Fagnant says. “Our hope is that it will attract the community and be part of North Nevada Avenue.”

Milestones’ founders want to find tenants that are ready to expand their operations but aren’t yet able to buy their own buildings.

Rents, Fagnant said, will be kept below market value as the North Nevada corridor develops.

Tim Heaton, president of CAMA, says he thinks Milestones can become an epicenter for manufacturing in Colorado Springs.

“We are starting to really see an increase in the number of manufacturing startup companies,” Heaton says. “A lot of these new companies are young men and women who are figuring out how to take technology and make really cool stuff with it.

“I believe the whole concept and the approach that they’re taking is the right approach, of encouraging and supporting small business growth and manufacturing. We’re very excited about what those guys are doing, and we’re looking forward to kicking it off with them.” 

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