Composite business makes Gunnison home: Has 100 employees with capacity for 300 | Sanpete Messenger

2022-07-15 07:35:11 By : Ms. Sgaier Truss

            GUNNISON—In early February, a new manufacturing business, Future Comp, officially moved into its new facility in the Gunnison Industrial Park.

            The company, using the same composite technology that has been the basis for ACT Aerospace and Christensen Arms, currently employs about 100, with the promise of more to come.

            A lot of the technology Future Comp uses comes from the Christensen family’s experience with composites. “But a lot of it is innovative and new,” says Jace Ellsworth, human resources director for the new company.

            The 100,000-square-foot building is designed for up to 300 workers. Whether you are graduating from high school or a more seasoned worker, there are opportunities for everyone, Ellsworth says.

            For some, the opening of Future Comp has provided an opportunity to move back to Sanpete County after moving away for school or work.

            To understand how Future Comp came to be, you have to go back to the mid 1980s. That’s when Roland Christensen, who grew up in Fayette, got a doctorate in engineering from the University of Utah, worked in the aerospace industry in Salt Lake County, and invented a prosthetic foot (which he later patented), decided he wanted to move back home.

            “I always wanted to come back here and repay the good people of this valley,” he said when he and his wife, Julia, received the Gunnison Valley Yule Candle in 2014. “I wanted to start the companies here so people would not have to leave the area to find work elsewhere.”

            In 1984, he started producing prosthetic feet in his garage in Fayette. Later, with others, he came up with the idea of manufacturing high-tech hunting rifles and established what is now Christensen Arms, a company that has been in business 27 years.

            Subsequently, he bought a faltering company that was blending fiberglass with other materials to make exceptionally strong poles for street lights and Greek-style columns for homes and buildings. The company was called Applied Composite Technology (ACT).

            Christensen moved the prosthetic company to Gunnison near to where the fiberglass composites company was located. Before long, he started using aspects of composite technology to make helicopter and airplane parts. The aircraft-parts business developed into ACT Aerospace, which has been in business 20 years.

            In time, Roland Christensen sold the prosthetics business and discontinued making the light poles and construction products. Meanwhile, he brought composite technology from ACT into his Christensen Arms company. In 2009, he moved Christensen Arms to the Gunnison site. That gave Roland Christensen two companies based in Gunnison.

            Meanwhile, his son, Jason, also an engineer, came up with plans to use composite technology to make parts not just for aircraft and rifles but for a broader base of consumer products, notably sporting goods.

            In April 2020, Jason Christensen incorporated Future Comp. In 2021, he started building the 100,000-square-foot building that now fronts on U.S. 89, giving the Christensen family three business sites in Gunnison.

            According to Ellsworth, Future Comp products start with a material called carbon fiber, which the company purchases from other suppliers. Some of the material comes in sheets. Other times, it comes in bulk and is about the consistency of wood chips.

            A machine shop at Future Comp makes molds for consumer-product parts. The carbon material is mixed with plastic, dropped into the molds, heated at high temperatures and compressed at high pressure. The result is a solid product with a hollow core. The item coming out of the mold is lightweight, yet meets government and industry standards for strength.

            Craig Baker, vice president of business development and operations, moved to Sanpete County two months ago from Colorado to work for Future Comp. He is excited about the future.

            “We are a young company . . . it is so unique and challenging,” he said.

            One of the main things that manufacturers are looking for when they work with Future Comp is how to reduce the weight of their product but still have great strength. While Future Comp is currently focusing on sporting goods, Baker said, it is open to all types of industries. “Just the other day we were talking with someone in agriculture. We want to work with different industries from across the board.”

Where traditional composite manufacturing companies struggle to use materials and energy efficiently, Future Comp’s processes, based heavily on the years of experience in the Christensen companies, reduce waste and are environmentally friendly, Baker said.

            On top of being efficient, Baker said, the company works to be environmentally, socially and governmentally compliant, also known as ESG. That helps it appeal to socially conscious investors.

            “We are growing every day, and we hope to continue to grow and make amazing products,” he said.