Space industry packs economic punch in Colorado

May 18, 2014
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One trade show that begins Monday will punch $30 million into the Pikes Peak region economy.

That's for hotels, meals, rental cars, drinks and tourism associated with the 30th Space Symposium at The Broadmoor.

And that is like change between couch cushions when measured against the real impact of the space symposium and the aerospace industry here, experts say.

"The numbers are large," said Andy Merritt, the military and space expert for the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance.

A new study from the alliance shows that the aerospace and defense industries, including military spending, pump an estimated $12.5 billion per year into the Pikes Peak region economy.

The sector has an estimated 1,177 companies at work in the region and is responsible for just over half of the region's payroll.

The numbers aren't all space-related.

Included in the calculation is more than 20,000 soldiers and workers at Fort Carson, for instance.

But space business packs a substantial wallop, Merritt said. Colorado Springs is home to aerospace firms small and large.

If you throw in the rest of the Front Range, you have one of the largest space-based economies in America, said Jay Lindell, who promotes the industry in Colorado for the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

"We are No. 1 per capita in aerospace employment," Lindell said. "When I say that, it gets a reaction from people who don't realize how big aerospace is in Colorado."

Three percent of workers in the state are directly employed in aerospace jobs.

"If you look at space and direct jobs, there are 25,153 direct employees in Colorado," Lindell said.

Colorado's leadership in space owes its origins to decisions made at the dawn of the Cold War. Homegrown players include Ball Aerospace in Broomfield, founded in 1956.

Lindell and Merritt will be working to grow Colorado's space industry during the symposium.

They have meetings scheduled with space firms and will give a finely tuned pitch to draw more business and workers.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper will spend Tuesday at the symposium, where he'll pitch Colorado as a place to do aerospace business.

Lindell says it's worth it. Among the thousands who gather for the symposium are hundreds of corporate managers whose opinion of Colorado could boost business here.

And Hickenlooper, a Democrat, is delivering those executives a gift from the Colorado General Assembly.

Satellites, rocket fuel and a wide variety of space-related equipment will exempted from Colorado tax under House Bill 1178.

Just before lunch Tuesday, the governor will sign the measure into law at the symposium.

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