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Colorado’s Space Economy Ready For Blast Off

Lockheed Martin
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Colorado’s Congressional Delegation is praising a new Brookings Institution report highlighting the state’s growing ‘space economy.’

According to the report, Launch: Taking Colorado’s Space Economy to the Next LevelColorado’s aerospace industry employs over 66,000 workers and contributed $8.7 billion to the state’s economy in 2011. That’s around 3.8 percent of the state’s entire private-sector gross domestic product.

While Colorado has one of the strongest aerospace sectors in the country, there remain challenges to continued growth. In a statement, the Congressional delegation says the report underlines a need for better coordination between  industry, state and federal leaders to help improve the state’s aerospace economy.

“…We must redouble our efforts to ensure that Colorado remains a leader in aerospace and a welcoming environment for high-tech job-creators. We are dedicated to continuing to work in a collaborative, multifaceted manner that will keep Colorado at the forefront of development on this new and exciting frontier."

The delegation also plans to host regular conference calls and meetings with industry leaders to improve communication between Washington and Colorado aerospace businesses.

The report found three major findings:

Colorado possesses one of the most diversified, multidimensional, and high-potential space economies in the nation. However, while significant opportunities are emerging, a set of disruptive forces at work in the global space market have exposed a number of competitive challenges for the Colorado industry. Given these challenges as well as its many strengths, Colorado should commit itself to preeminence in the space through a collaborative partnership of industry and government along six dimensions.

The Boulder County Business Report, reports the growing sector could stall if it fails to adapt to fewer federal contracts and competition.

Emerging trends include a changing customer base that relies less on government programs and more on providing services to private companies, the report said. Colorado's dependence on military and civilian government contracts could leave it exposed to budget cuts. "Although Colorado firms badly need to pivot into emerging new markets that are less dependent on federal support, the state space industry has not moved aggressively in this direction as yet and actually lags on some indices of competitiveness when compared to its peer states," according to the report. Colorado also is lacking in venture capitalists looking to invest in space and a looming shortage of engineers as the workforce ages and retirees aren't replaced. To retain its position, companies in the state must continue winning government contracts while continuing to innovate.

The report finds Colorado’s space economy stands ‘at a point of tremendous opportunity and peril,’ and must successfully navigate political and economic uncertainty to remain a viable economic driver for the state.

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