The local technology company Fiberforge, which employed 22 people designing and making lightweight thermoplastic components in Glenwood Springs, has gone out of business and transferred control of its assets to a third party liquidation firm.
The move comes after two recent attempts to sell Fiberforge were unsuccessful, according to Steve Victor, whose Chicago-based firm Development Specialists Incorporated now controls the company’s assets and has been charged with repaying its creditors.
“The company has been subject to two sale processes within the last year, and as of recently it wasn’t profitable to move forward,” Victor said. “I think the company has really good technology, and it had customers, but it seemed to me that it may have been ahead of its time.”
Fiberforge was founded in the mid-1990s as an offshoot of Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), the environmental think-tank based in Old Snowmass. A spokeswoman for RMI said the institute had no comment on Fiberforge’s affairs.
They company’s mission was to manufacture strong, ultra-light parts for cars, planes and other modes of transit that could lead to dramatic increases in fuel efficiency.
Fiberforge was often cited as a novel example of an environmentally responsible tech firm — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper toured the company and delivered a speech there in 2011.
More than a week before the company’s June 11 closure, as top executives scrambled to find investors who could infuse Fiberforge with cash, major operations already appeared to have ceased — there were few cars in the company parking lot during business hours, and a “for sale” sign was staked into the front lawn of the firm’s 24,000-square-foot plant on Devereux Road near the Colorado River.
Dave Cornelius, the company’s former president and CEO, told the Aspen Daily News two weeks ago that the company was working to find investors or a buyer with “a stronger manufacturing capability” than Fiberforge.
“The strength of Fiberforge is its engineering development,” Cornelius said at the time. “Ideally we would combine with somebody who has more manufacturing, and maybe a global sales and marketing capability.”
Repeated calls to other Fiberforge executives were not returned.
The company’s journey as a private firm began in 1999, when it spun off from RMI and began to develop a now patented process for manufacturing thermoplastic parts. The process involved combining carbon fiber and thermoplastic resin to form strong, light panels called “tailored blanks” that could be molded for all manner of applications.
Over the years, the company made door panels for U.S. military transport trucks, handles for kayak paddles, seat frames for passenger cars and a suite of other products, many of them prototypes.
“It’s sad — these were high-tech jobs, and high paying jobs for this area,” said Marianne Virgilli, president and CEO of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.
“With Fiberforge, what’s really impactful was that they showed so much promise, and they were ingenious in developing products that were innovative and environmentally conscious,” said Virgilli.
The Aspen Daily News could not confirm speculation that the company’s closure was spurred by the loss of a major military contract — in 2008 Fiberforge won a contract to produce 20,000 military backpack frames for the Montana firm Mystery Ranch, as well as one to make floor panels and other parts for the CH-53K, a Sikorsky helicopter used by the U.S. Marine Corps.
Calls to both Mystery Ranch and Sikorsky were not returned.
Victor, whose firm now controls Fiberforge’s assets, said he still hopes to find a buyer willing to acquire the company and maintain it.
He speculated that one of the company’s former clients, like an aerospace or automotive company, may be interested in buying the firm.
Failing that, however, he’ll oversee the auction of the company’s assets to the highest bidder.
“We have three or four employees staying on board to help wind it down,” he said. “And we’ve already had people express interest in seeing the property.”