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Space Symposium highlights Colorado as second-biggest 'space economy' in the US

There aren't any space launch pads in the Rocky Mountains, but the state is considered the second-largest aerospace economy in the US
Posted at 7:20 AM, Apr 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-10 09:33:37-04

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The total solar eclipse wasn’t the biggest space-related event to happen in Colorado this week.

The 39th Space Symposium is in full swing at The Broadmoor and Cheyenne Mountain Resort until April 11, with 12,000 people from 40 countries converging in Colorado Springs for everything “space” related.

The event, put on by the Colorado Springs-based Space Foundation, highlights how pivotal Colorado and the Pikes Peak region are to the aerospace and defense industry.

Heavy-hitting companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Ball Aerospace, Sierra Nevada Corporation and United Launch Alliance all call Colorado home or have a large presence in the state.

The sheer number of space-related companies and jobs in Colorado makes it the second-largest aerospace economy in the United States, according to the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT).

“Colorado is the space state,” Vice President of Strategic Communications and Outreach with the Space Foundation Rich Cooper said. “When you take a look at the military facilities that are located here throughout the state, you look at the incredible caliber of the research institutions that are here, then the number of aerospace companies, both well-known and emerging players.”

The aerospace and defense industries are closely intertwined, which is one of the reasons Colorado has become such a hub for the space industry. The state boasts multiple military installations and is the permanent home of Space Command. Through the years, this has created a space “ecosystem,” as Cooper and others have put it.

There are 350 aerospace and defense companies in Colorado, which collectively employ about 37,000 people, according to recent data from OEDIT and the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation (EDC). The workforce in these sectors has grown 32.5% from 2017 to 2022.

The industry had a $12.7 billion output in 2022, OEDIT noted in a 2023 cluster study.

In the Pikes Peak region, the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC said there are over 149 commercial aerospace and defense companies. These companies employ over 18,000 people and saw the job growth hit 28% from 2018 to 2023.

These companies provided an economic output of $2.7 Billion in 2022, the Chamber and EDC said.

It’s worth noting these economic numbers can change and vary based on the source. The way the chamber and EDC collect data has changed in the past year, so they said it’s now more difficult to track the economic and jobs data outside the commercial sector. But historically, the chamber has said aerospace and defense companies comprise over 40% of the local economy.

“You look at the ecosystem that we have here, Space Foundation to Catalyst Campus, there are so many others who accelerate the business that we do here,” Chief Operating Officer for the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC Jim Lovewell said. “So it's natural that large companies, mid-sized companies, small companies, and small startups would like to come here. Because they can see the elements that are going to propel their success.”

Lovewell said every year, some conversations start at the Space Symposium that carry on throughout the year, making Colorado Springs and the state top of mind for the top players in the aerospace and defense industries. In turn, that can lead to more economic output in the region and across Colorado.

“If you are someone who's working in this industry, and you're not in Colorado Springs, we want to share how many things are going on here,” Lovewell said. “And then also with that ecosystem in mind, this is a place to not only do business but really have your business accelerated.”

Space Symposium highlights Colorado as second biggest 'space economy' in the US