Study: Half of labor income in Pikes Peak region tied to military, aerospace

May 12, 2014 Updated: May 12, 2014 at 6:08 pm
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photo - The first Stryker vehicle rolls off the ramp at Fort Carson the morning of Friday, February, 7, 2014. Eighty Stryker vehicles were unloaded from the Joint Base Lewis-McChord for the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team. The Strykers will be replacing Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles. Photo by Mason Trinca, The Gazette
The first Stryker vehicle rolls off the ramp at Fort Carson the morning of Friday, February, 7, 2014. Eighty Stryker vehicles were unloaded from the Joint Base Lewis-McChord for the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team. The Strykers will be replacing Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles. Photo by Mason Trinca, The Gazette  

The military and aerospace industries account for half of all labor income in the Pikes Peak region, according to a report released Monday by the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance.

The sector has 67,900 military and civilian workers who make an average of $54,900, and the combined impact of military and aerospace pumps $12.55 billion annually into the region's economy, the report found. That's 44 cents of every dollar generated in the Pikes Peak region.

The business alliance is making sure politicians see the survey so they know how important Pentagon cash is to the Pikes Peak region's economy.

"We've already sent this information to elected officials," Andy Merritt, the alliance's military expert, said Monday.

The analysis is part of a wider effort to show the military's impact in Colorado to galvanize support for troops and bases as the Pentagon mulls another base closure round for 2017.

Economist Paul Rochette of Summit Economics said financial thinkers in the Pikes Peak region knew the military had a big impact - estimated at 40 percent of the economy for at least the past decade - but didn't have numbers to back it up.

Of the jobs in the sector, nearly 40,000 workers are members of the military. Another 12,525 are civilians in Defense Department jobs, while 13,277 work for defense contractors and 3,198 are in aerospace.

"When you look at the military and aerospace, it is actually quite diverse within that sector," Rochette said.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to sign a pair of bills this week to boost support of Colorado's defense industry. One would pay for a statewide economic impact analysis of the military AND a second would bolster Colorado's lobbying efforts to attract military money.

In total, the report found, the military creates an estimated 105,000 direct and indirect jobs in the Pikes Peak region, with more than 37,000 in other sectors dependent on aerospace and military spending, including 4,746at restaurants and bars.

The true impact of the military and aerospace industries could be even larger than what the alliance's study found. Researchers didn't factor in military retirement checks to the Pikes Peak region or benefits paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The study also doesn't include money from the so-called "black budget", which funds top-secret military and intelligence programs.

The study is one of several the alliance hopes to complete in coming months, examining 10 sectors of the economy. Merritt said the goal of the surveys is to determine where the region's money comes from so those industries can be better supported by the alliance and local government.

The military aerospace study will also be used as part of a sales pitch for the Pikes Peak region, Merritt said. Next week, hundreds of aerospace executives will gather at The Broadmoor for the Space Symposium, the largest trade show in America for the satellite and space exportation business.

Merritt said the study will show businesses how much support they would see if they located in Colorado Springs.

"You want to go where something is strong and vibrant," Merritt said, practicing his pitch.

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