Report: Aviation led 2017 industry growth in Metro Denver, aerospace concentration ranks first in the nation

February 22, 2018

DENVER – Feb. 22, 2018 – Aviation was the nine-county region’s fastest growing cluster in 2017 and was among five of the 13 clusters/subclusters that grew by nearly 5 percent or more between 2016 and 2017, according to the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation's (Metro Denver EDC) 12th-annual Industry Cluster Study released today. Six of the 13 clusters/subclusters grew over 20 percent between 2012 and 2017.

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The study, completed by the Metro Denver EDC's Chief Economist Patty Silverstein and Senior Economist Lisa Strunk, of Development Research Partners, analyzes nine leading industry clusters in the nine-county region, offering an in-depth, competitive analysis of the major industries contributing to the employment base and ongoing economic expansion.

Aviation was the fastest growing cluster in 2017, posting 5.7 percent employment growth between 2016 and 2017. Aviation employment grew for the sixth-consecutive year in 2017. The nine-county region is home to over 20,140 aviation employees in close to 680 companies.

Metro Denver’s airport system has a regional impact of nearly $28 billion and supports more than 195,750 jobs in all industries. Denver International Airport (DEN) is one of the world’s busiest hubs. In fact, 2017 was another record-setting year for DEN passenger traffic, topping 61 million passengers.

Metro Denver ranked first in private-sector aerospace employment out of the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, with 21,090 workers. Employment increased for the third-consecutive year in 2017 and grew at its fastest pace since 2007, rising 5.5 percent between 2016 and 2017. Colorado ranked first in the nation for its employment concentration of private sector aerospace workers.

IT-Software was the fastest growing cluster between 2012 and 2017, rising 32.2 percent compared with 26.1 percent nationwide. The region’s enviable reputation as a growing startup scene, coupled with a talented high-tech workforce, creates a premier hub for the industry.

“Twelve of the 13 clusters and subclusters expanded, making this the one of the best years of growth since we started tracking Metro Denver’s industry clusters,” said Lisa Strunk.

New data highlights that Metro Denver’s leading industries are also among the best performing in the nation, with six of the 13 clusters/subclusters ranking among the top 10 in employment concentration, led by aerospace (first), beverage production (second), and broadcasting and telecommunications (fifth).

The analysis also includes industry descriptions, largest companies, employment concentration rank compared with the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, and detailed industry news and developments.

“The Metro Denver region’s economy is strong, growing, and well diversified,” said J. J. Ament, CEO of the Metro Denver EDC. “The Metro Denver EDC, led by Colorado’s most engaged companies, is proud to release this comprehensive study on what is making the economy strong and where there are areas for improvement. This incredible research will guide the efforts of the Metro Denver EDC as we work to strategically attract high quality jobs and companies who can help build strong communities going forward.” 

Metro Denver and Northern Colorado Industry Clusters - Competitive Advantages
(one-year/five-year employment growth in parentheses):

Aerospace - The region ranked first in private-sector aerospace employment out of the 50 largest metropolitan areas, with 21,090 workers. Colorado is the second-largest space economy in the United States, behind California. (5.5%/7.3%)

Aviation - The industry cluster includes companies that manufacture aircraft and provide air transportation services, with DEN serving as the major economic engine for the region’s aviation industry. Three reliever airports and five general aviation airports are strategically located throughout the region. (5.7%/23.1%)

Beverage Production – Colorado craft beer has grown to a $3 billion industry, nearly tripling its economic impact since 2014. Colorado craft beer has the highest economic impact per capita of any state.  (4.7%/29.4%)

Bioscience – The bioscience cluster includes more than 16,100 bioscience workers in nearly 730 companies. Bioscience employment grew 7.5 percent over the last six years, compared with 5.4 percent nationally. (medical devices & diagnostics (0.9%/6.6%); pharmaceuticals & biotechnology (4.4%/1.1%)

Broadcasting and Telecommunications - The region is an established, nationally recognized center for the cluster and is the largest region in the United States to offer one-bounce satellite uplinks to six of seven continents in one business day due to its unique geographic location in the Mountain time zone. (0.8%/1.7%)

Energy – The energy cluster includes more than 51,280 cleantech and fossil fuels workers in nearly 3,480 companies in the region. Across Colorado, the energy industry supports 260,880 workers in all industries earning $14 billion annually. Federally funded research facilities contribute $2.6 billion to Colorado’s economy annually. (fossil fuels (-0.2%/4.6%); cleantech (1%/20.5%)

Financial Services - The nine-county region is a global epicenter for financial services activities in three key market segments: banking and finance, investments, and insurance. Investments posted the strongest growth among the three subclusters in 2017. (banking and finance, 3.3%/0.4%; investments, 4.9%/27.9%; and insurance, 0.9%/11%)

Health care and Wellness - The region is the health care and wellness center of the Rocky Mountain West and has one of the most active and fit populations in the nation. With an employment base of over 222,700 workers in 21,160 companies, the health care and wellness cluster is the region’s largest cluster in terms of employment. (3.8%/24.1%)

Information Technology-Software - The region is a top location for young entrepreneurs and tech professionals, and ranks among the top regions that foster entrepreneurial growth. The region had the eighth-highest employment concentration out of the 50 largest metropolitan areas. (5.3%/32.2%)

Learn more:

» Infographics
» Metro Denver & Northern Colorado Industry Cluster Study (PDF) 

See the full reports on metrodenver.org.

Media contact: Sam Bailey – Vice President of Economic Development, Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., 303.620.8025.

About the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation 
The Metro Denver EDC is the nation’s first regional economic development organization and the largest privately funded economic development organization in Colorado. The Metro Denver EDC focuses on six areas to expand the economy in the nine-county region: national marketing, new and existing business, mobility, DEN/international air travel, tax reform and special opportunities. The organization also leads four industry-focused affiliates: the Colorado Energy Coalition, the Colorado Investment Services Coalition, the Colorado Space Coalition, and the Metro Denver Aviation Coalition. The Metro Denver EDC is affiliate of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. For more information, see or follow us on Twitter and Facebook. To get involved visit us at www.metrodenver.org, or email at info@metrodenver.org.