Colorado builds more than spacecraft: State's innovative partnerships develop aerospace talent and industry capabilities

4/3/2017

This week, space professionals, innovators, and entrepreneurs from around the world will come together at the 33rd Annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs to explore the future of all sectors of the space industry.

Located one mile closer to space, Colorado's aerospace companies, education institutions, and state leadership are growing aerospace talent and capabilities as the state's aerospace industry continues to expand.  

In 2016, the number of Colorado aerospace companies grew by 5 percent, and the state is now home to nearly 500 companies and suppliers providing space-related products and services. Eight of the nation's leading aerospace contractors are headquartered in Colorado, along with major U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) facilities, NASA research and development activities, and top-ranked universities for aerospace. Collectively, these groups are leading the country's space projects and creating a strong ecosystem for startups, research, and training in the sector. 

"Colorado's aerospace economy continues to stand front and center on the global space stage," said Governor John Hickenlooper. "Our world-class companies, leading university programs, and high-level research facilities provide diverse opportunities in the aerospace industry that reinforce our global competitiveness."

The dynamic collaboration between industry, education, and workforce development in Colorado is a powerful driver of growth and investment in Colorado aerospace, and a key component to its status as the second-largest space economy in the United States.

For example, with funding from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, Blackfox Training partnered with Lockheed Martin to create a first-of-its-kind program that trains veterans with skills and certifications in critical electronics assembly work for a career path in the aerospace/defense industry. Additionally, startup company York Space Systems—which plans to build 150 to 200 satellites a year— is moving its headquarters and manufacturing facility into the Metropolitan State University of Denver's new Aerospace and Engineering Sciences Building.

"York Space Systems believes in Colorado's future as an aerospace hub, and this partnership presents a unique opportunity to support the training, education, and employment of future industry professionals," said Dirk Wallinger, CEO and co-founder of York Space Systems. "The public-private partnership agreement with the University will not only further the growth trajectory for the community, but provides students with a unique, hands-on opportunity to be a part of the future of aerospace engineering and technology."

Colorado is also continuing to grow its aerospace capabilities is through the state's Advanced Industry Accelerator (AIA) grant program, which increases access to early-stage capital and encourages public-private partnerships among the state's advanced industries, including aerospace.

Since 2013, the AIA program has awarded more than $35 million to nearly 230 organizations. Among the aerospace-focused initiatives funded through this program, Faustson Tool, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., and Lockheed Martin, contributed more than $4 million in cost share to create the Alliance for the Development of Additive Processing Technology (ADAPT) center, a world-class characterization center for additive materials headquartered at the Colorado School of Mines.

Other Colorado initiatives drive collaboration among industry stakeholders, researchers, and educators. The University of Colorado Boulder's AeroSpace Ventures (ASV) initiative brings together aerospace engineering and earth and space science faculty, students, and industrial researchers to solve complex problems leading to new discoveries and innovations. The Catalyst Campus for Technology and Innovation, based in Colorado Springs, is developing a collaborative infrastructure program for the aerospace and defense industry—a campus where industry, workforce training, entrepreneurs, and venture capital—intersect with the diverse resources of a technology campus to create community, spark innovation, and stimulate business growth.

"The Colorado aerospace community—large, small, public, and private—is committed to working together to grow our talent pipeline," said Jay LindellColorado's aerospace and defense industry champion. "It's because of this collaboration that Colorado is fostering innovation and leading groundbreaking projects for the space industry."

To learn more about how Colorado is growing talent for its diverse space economy, visit the Colorado Space Coalition's website at www.spacecolorado.org.

About the Colorado Space Coalition
The Colorado Space Coalition (CSC) is a group of industry stakeholders working to make Colorado a center of excellence for aerospace. CSC members--including space companies, military leaders, academic organizations, research centers, and economic development groups--promote Colorado's significant space assets as well as advancing legislation vital to industry growth and success. The CSC is an industry affiliate of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation. To learn more, see www.spacecolorado.org and www.metrodenver.org/CSC.

Media contact: Janet Fritz – Senior Director, Marketing and Technology, Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., 303.475.4194