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There's An App For That: Mobile App Industry Growing in Colorado

Colorado has emerged as a major center for development of mobile apps.

KUNC’s Erin O’Toole spoke with Boulder County Business Report publisher Chris Wood about the impact of this growing industry.

Erin O’Toole: Chris, a recent national study placed Colorado 15th in terms of the economic impact of the app industry. What specifically did the study reveal?

Chris Wood: It revealed that if there isn’t an app for that yet, there soon will be, Erin, because there’s a lot of app development occurring out there. The mobile-app industry supports more than 8,000 jobs in Colorado and produces an economic impact of $429 million.

That’s according to a study released by CTIA-The Wireless Association and the Application Developers Alliance. The study was conducted by South Mountain Economics, which estimates that there are 519,000 app-industry jobs in the United States.

O’Toole: That’s quite a lot! So Colorado ranks 15th in terms of overall economic impact… Is that about right, or are you surprised that we don’t place higher?

Wood: Well, in one measure, we do. You’re correct that we’re 15th in terms of economic impact. Our 8,000 mobile-app jobs pale in comparison with California’s 152,000. But when you measure what the study deems “app intensity,” where you examine what percent of the state’s workforce is involved, directly or indirectly, in app development, Colorado ranks 10th.

That tells me that the industry is growing here at a very fast pace, and, anecdotally, I can say that there certainly seems to be a lot happening in the sector.

O’Toole: So when we talk about the app industry, what does it look like? What types of companies are involved, and what sort of apps are they developing?

Wood:Those are great questions, Erin. I’m not an expert in this area, but to me, viewing this sector from the Boulder Valley, it seems that there are basically two types of app companies: those that produce apps for other businesses and those that create stand-alone apps to make money. We see a lot of each of those in Colorado, and especially the Boulder Valley.

I should note that this study did not break down the impact of the app industry within the state, but it’s certainly a significant player in the Boulder area.

O’Toole: Can you give us a couple examples of both categories?

Wood: Sure. When it comes to companies developing apps for other businesses, companies that had been engaged in web development have branched off into app development. Our own company has contracted with such a company to develop an app for our Book of Lists. I also know of a video-production company that has expanded into the app business and now does a majority of its business developing apps for clients.

On the other hand, you have a lot of companies that are developing stand-alone apps. We recently produced our IQ Awards, and the winner in the mobile-app category was Tagwhat of Boulder, which produces a dynamic mobile tour guide that feeds you information on the area around you, all through your iPhone or ‘Droid.

Another example is Boulder-based Mobiplug Networks, which recently raised $2.7 million. Mobiplug is developing a product that allows you to control locks, thermostats, lights and outlets at your house, all from your iPhone or iPad.

There also are a lot of companies developing games for mobile devices as well. I could truly sit here and give you dozens of examples.

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
Boulder County Business Report publisher Chris Wood helped create the Northern Colorado Business Report in 1995. He previously served as managing editor of the Denver Business Journal. Chris discusses regional business and economic issues in Boulder County every other Thursday at 5:35 and 7:35 during Morning Edition.
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