Aerospace

The fact that we’re a mile closer to space is just part of the story

The nine-county Metro Denver region ranks second in private-sector aerospace employment out of the 50 largest metropolitan areas, with 20,020 workers. Colorado is the second-largest space economy in the United States, behind California.

Metro Denver Aerospace Employment Snapshot
Direct Employment 20,020
Companies 130
Five-Year Employment Growth (2011-2016) 2.3% (-3.2%)
One-Year Employment Growth (2016) 1.9% (-0.9%)
Direct Employment Concentration (2016) 0.9% (0.2%)
Average Wage $133,840
Employment Concentration Ranking (Among 50 largest metros) 2
U.S. data in ( )

The region is a top aerospace location, offering:

  1. The ability to recruit and retain technical and scientific employees and entrepreneurial talent

    Of Colorado’s adult population, more than 39 percent have completed a bachelor’s or higher-level degree, making Colorado the second-most highly educated state in the nation behind Massachusetts. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey)

  2. Proximity to vendors and customers
    Colorado ranked third nationwide in National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) prime contract awards totaling nearly $1.8 billion in 2015, or 14 percent of the nation’s total. The University of Colorado (sixth) and Colorado State University (39th) ranked among the top 100 public educational institutions for NASA research awards in 2015. (NASA, 2016)    

  3. Proximity to colleges/universities
    Two academic institutions in Colorado offer nationally ranked aerospace programs or degrees:
    • The University of Colorado Boulder’s (CU Boulder) aerospace engineering sciences graduate program ranked among the top four programs in the nation by the National Research Council and eighth by U.S. News & World Report in 2016. (National Research Council, 2010; U.S. News & World Report, 2016)
    • The U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs ranked first in the nation for an undergraduate aerospace engineering program where a doctoral degree is not offered. (U.S. News & World Report, 2016)
  4. Low to moderate costs of doing business
    Colorado has one of the nation’s most favorable corporate income tax structures. The state’s corporate income tax rate of 4.63 percent is one of the lowest in the nation and is based on single-factor apportionment, which allows companies to pay taxes based solely on their sales in the state. (State of Colorado; The Tax Foundation)

It is this business-friendly atmosphere that has attracted the nation's top aerospace contractors to Metro Denver, including:

  • Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.
  • The Boeing Company
  • Harris Corporation
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Northrop Grumman
  • Raytheon
  • Sierra Nevada Corporation
  • United Launch Alliance

The Metro Denver and Northern Colorado region also has a strong cluster of companies involved in geospatial technologies, remote sensing, imaging, and related industries. Additionally, with major DoD, NASA, and commercial activities, Colorado is the U.S. center for military space. The state's four military commands—the primary customers for space-based research, development, acquisition, and operations—ensure industry growth.

In 2016, Front Range Airport continued the application process for certification from the FAA to operate as a horizontal-launch spaceport facility. The subsequent designation for Spaceport Colorado, which may be granted in 2017, fulfills a 2011 declaration by Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado’s intent to become a spaceport state. These efforts will increase Colorado’s competitiveness in the aerospace industry and support new opportunities in the future growth of commercial space research and transportation.

Aerospace Day at the Colorado Capitol occurs annually to recognize the industry’s importance to the state’s economic growth. In 2015, the Colorado Legislature formed a bipartisan Aerospace and Defense Caucus to further support the continued expansion of aerospace and defense within the state.