Exploring the Aerospace Job Market in Colorado

Jim Rice from Lockheed Martin Space Systems

Jim Rice from Lockheed Martin Space Systems

If you guessed that Florida or Texas has developed a lot of jobs related to the aerospace industry, you wouldn’t be wrong, but if you said that per capita, Colorado leads the country with the most jobs you could move to the head of the class. There are jobs to be had, even in rural areas of the state. That’s the basic message as outlined by Joe Rice, Director of Government Relations for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Littleton. He and others in related aerospace fields are visiting southeast Colorado communities and presented a mid-morning seminar in Lamar on Thursday, August 20 on how rural businesses can become sub-contractors and suppliers to the aerospace industry. Rice said most of the aerospace related business can be found in the Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs area. But he said the main companies have sub-contractor and supplier needs that aren’t being met. He explained a business potential exists outside the main corridor in Colorado. Another purpose is STEM education and the development of internships through the Roundtable program. “Our third goal,” he stated, “is simply to promote aerospace. It affects all of us directly in our daily lives and in some ways that we can’t even recognize.” Some examples he listed were cell phone and GPS development, miniaturized computer systems and even health related innovations that have been derived from concepts that created the Hubble Telescope.

PCDI Interim Executive Director, George Gotto

PCDI Interim Executive Director, George Gotto

PCDI Interim Executive Director, George Gotto, welcomed the gathering to the Aerospace Business Development Road Trip which is also visiting La Junta and Trinidad. Sponsored locally by Prowers County Development Incorporated, Lamar Community College and Southeast Colorado Economic Development, representatives from pure science fields, education and other related fields described how this decades old growth industry  has become stagnated due in part to a lack of citizen buy-in and financial cutbacks for NASA and other space-related enterprises.

Junior and Senior High Students from Eads High School

Junior and Senior High Students from Eads High School

Rice addressed an audience of local municipal and business leaders, as well as about two dozen Eads students involved in an Entrepreneurship Camp designed to teach marketing and business skills. He asked, “Which two countries have led the way to the exploration of outer space?” with the answer being the USSR and America. He asked a follow-up question of; which two nations now have the ability to put a human in space? The answer is the Soviet Union and China. “Since the retirement of the Shuttle, we no longer have the technical capability of sending our astronauts back into outer space,” he explained, comparing the national outlook for space exploration of the 1960s when it was at its peak with the moon landings, to a so-so attitude that has been represented by national funding for space programs such as NASA. Rice said a large part of Colorado’s economy is still space-driven, accounting for $24 of the $300 billion dollars developed through manufacturing in the state each year. He made a comparison of economics, “The U.S. spent $850 billion dollars several years ago on the bank buy-out and that is larger than the entire NASA budget since the organization was created over 40 years ago,” he said.

He explained that the image of large corporations employing hundreds of people isn’t really representative of Colorado’s aerospace manufacturing population. “There are plenty of business openings for operations that employ as few as ten persons and there can be a demand for them in rural areas, not just the metro markets,” he told the audience. One example of how diverse the economy can be was a firm that cleaned the sanitized scrubs worn by employees working in sterile environments. He explained that there is an unfortunate lag time between business startups which could supply an aerospace venture. “Usually some projects have been in the making for a decade which creates an information gap between businesses that could benefit from it.” He said the state economic development program is working on ways to provide more timely communication to open business doors earlier.

Cindy Novak, representing Manufacturer’s Edge from Boulder, described how her company assists manufacturing companies with onsite technical assistance and development of government, economic and educational partnerships. Kathy Garcia, Regional Director for U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, told the gathering she is compiling information from around the state for a future white paper from the senator, which will focus on business development rules and regulations that hinder more than help  get businesses started in the state.

Following the address at the Rodeway Cow Palace Inn, the group had a series of visits in Lamar with Dragon Wind Energy, Colorado Mills, C.F. Maier Composites, Lamar Airport and a renewable energy tour at Lamar Community College.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: BusinessEmploymentFeaturedLamar


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