Lockheed to build $350M satellite factory near Denver
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Lockheed Martin's Waterton Canyon campus. (Provided by Lockheed Martin via The Denver Post)

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Colorado ranks fifth among states for aerospace manufacturers, its highest ranking in the five years that accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers has conducted the study.

The state got high marks for its skilled labor force, its air service through Denver International Airport, availability of broadband internet service and reliable electric power, helping it move up from eighth place last year. Components measuring labor, other costs and tax policy slid down the rankings, but not enough to keep the state out of the top five.

Colorado’s ranking has improved every year since it started at 16th place in 2013. The state ranked 13th in 2015 and 2016 before breaking into the top 10 last year.

“This speaks to Colorado’s robust and dynamic economic growth and the increase in federal spending on aerospace in Colorado. Defense is 61 percent of all aerospace spending in the state,” said Jay Lindell, aerospace and defense industry champion with the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. “I am concerned about rising costs because part of our attractiveness has been a low cost of doing business. Affordable housing, infrastructure and (traffic) congestion may slow us down but haven’t yet.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers said the Colorado aerospace industry is “supported by its educated labor force and modern infrastructure, attracting several major aerospace contractors, including Ball, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon as well as Department of Defense military installations and command centers.”

The company cited three major expansions by Lockheed Martin, including a new $350 million plant for its Space Systems unit that will produce next-generation satellites, relocation of 650 jobs from Florida to Colorado to work on a major contract for the Trident II D5 nuclear missile and an expanded Autonomous Systems facility to better test drones.

Scott Thompson, who heads PricewaterhouseCoopers aerospace and defense unit, said Colorado “scores well across all our metrics but is strongest in labor and infrastructure. One of the things we hear from industry leaders is the availability of skilled labor — both engineers and tradesmen — is a much bigger concern than cost.”

The aerospace industry is booming on the commercial and military sides, with airline seats increasing by 7 percent a year over the past three years and the U.S. defense budget rising this year by 20 percent, Thompson said. That means aerospace and defense contractors are expanding, and PricewaterhouseCoopers’ study is designed to give them “a framework to decide where to put those jobs,” he said.

Washington state headed this year’s list after falling to 16th place last year. Texas improved to second from eighth, and Georgia ranked third after topping the 2017 list. Arizona also ranked ahead of Colorado at fourth place, while Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana made up the rest of the top 10.

The study also ranked countries, led by the U.S., unchanged from last year, and followed by Canada, Singapore, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. All but Singapore ranked in the top five last year, too.

Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234

Contact Wayne Heilman 636-0234

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Business Writer

Business Writer

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