Brookings Convenes State Leaders to Capitalize on Colorado Aerospace Opportunities
Anchored by critical military installations, glistening clean rooms, and a dynamic GIS and earth-observation industry, Colorado possesses one of the most diversified, high-potential space economies in the nation, concludes a new study released by the Brookings Institution.
At the same time, argues the report, maintaining this preeminence in the presence of numerous disruptive global trends will require an aggressive collaboration of industry and government.
“Launch! Taking Colorado’s Space Economy to the Next Level,” the new report reflects extensive consultation with space industry stakeholders convened by the Colorado Blueprint’s Key Industries Network process and explores how Colorado can defend and extend its current position as one of the most multidimensional space economies in the nation. Part of Brookings’ new Advanced Industries Series, the report calls attention to one example of industrial concerns that play an inordinate role in building and sustaining regional and national economic competitiveness.
In this context, Brookings found that the Colorado space economy is a critical driver of economic growth in the state. Directly employing over 66,000 workers across the military, civil, and private domains, the full space enterprise in Colorado contributed some $8.7 billion in value-added output in 2011, in a performance that generated some 3.8% of Colorado’s private-sector gross domestic product. Given its links to numerous other state advanced industries including telecom, software, and advanced materials, the space sector is a major cross-cutting industry and driver of Colorado prosperity that helped to mitigate the effects of the recent economic downturn on the Colorado economy.
With that said, the new report identifies a number of disruptive “forces at work” in the global space market that could threaten the stability of the Colorado space industry in the near future. Such challenges include flat-lining government spending; the rise of new, more commercial actors and business models in the field; and a sharpening imperative to accelerate technology innovation and address a looming skills gap caused by an aging workforce.
Beyond that, the Brookings report details how Colorado should commit itself to preeminence in the space economy through a collaborative partnership of industry and government along six dimensions.
In this connection, the report challenges industry and government to work together with new urgency to:
- Consolidate and maximize the state’s position in the space economy, even as U.S. government space contracts decline
- Seize commercial opportunities in emerging new space, adjacent, and global markets
- Commit to innovation and owning the next great space technologies
- Improve the availability of risk capital
- Bolster the workforce pipeline to secure Colorado’s human capital advantage
- Intensify cluster dynamics
Mark Muro, a senior fellow and policy director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program and the project’s lead author, comments: “Colorado’s goal over the next five to 10 years should be simple and bold: Become the dominant center of innovation for the global space economy. However, achieving that goal is going to require a new, more commercial and entrepreneurial mindset as well as unprecedented commitment and collaboration at a moment of stepped up competition. ”
Muro continues, “A state that houses the only research institution in the world to have sent analytic instruments to all eight planets and Pluto can certainly reach a bold goal of global innovation preeminence.”
This report and emerging industry and state government responses was the subject of a major public forum in Denver hosted by Brookings in collaboration with the Colorado Space Coalition and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. The event featured comments from prominent business, civic, and government leaders and concluded with a keynote address from Gov. John Hickenlooper.
“The report from the Brookings Institution affords us the opportunity to capitalize on the strengths of Colorado’s aerospace sector and develop strategies to collaboratively address the challenges facing the industry,” Hickenlooper states. “This joint effort will help us communicate directly with industry to develop a strategic plan that demonstrates how Colorado is positioned to confront our challenges and ensure that we are at the forefront of cultivating a relentlessly pro-business environment in which advanced industries will thrive. Together with our partners in the aerospace industry, we will make Colorado the best state in the nation for business, while maintaining the highest quality of life.”