Aerospace & Aviation Industries Fly High Despite Pandemic Pressures

Opportunity and innovation are guiding growth in two of Colorado’s leading industries, aerospace and aviation. At the Pioneering the Next Frontier Development Council event on Nov. 10, area industry experts shared how the Metro Denver area and Adams County, in particular, are front and center to capitalize on the enormous potential of the two industries.

Ryan Nalty, Director of Economic Development/Deputy Director of Adams County’s Community and Economic Development Department, moderated the program and Q&A. He updated participants on the activity at Adams County’s Colorado Air and Space Port (CASP), one of 12 FAA-licensed spaceports in America.

With 400 acres of developable land, existing runways and a tower, and close proximity to Denver International Airport (DEN) and the metro area, CASP has a real strategic advantage due to its location, said Nalty. CASP’s subarea plan was approved in early November, a master plan will be completed in early 2022, and four national/international firms are either testing or planning operations at the space port.

“We do see the space port as a real, thriving strategic area for us to focus on because not only does it help to propel us into the 21st century but it also creates 21st-century jobs for our residents that are stable and sustainable,” explained Nalty

Denver International Airport (DEN) Chief of Staff Cristal DeHerrera, said the pandemic actually sped up the airport’s growth. DEN now ranked as the third-busiest airport in the world, with 55.2 million passengers forecasted in 2021 and 72.8 million anticipated in 2022.

“I think this really speaks to how the airport has been able to recover, how the region has also been able to thrive and leverage some of Colorado’s best assets to help us get to this place,” said DeHerrera.

Noting that the airport should hit 100 million passengers in 2032 or 2033, DeHerrera said DEN is now preparing for the future through its VISION 100 plan. One part of that plan includes developing a new Aviation Center of Excellence where it will invest in and “power its people” through an onsite place for training, career pathways, and resources for growing diversity in its workforce.

Vicky Lea, Director of Aerospace & Aviation for the Metro Denver EDC said that while the aviation industry employment was severely impacted by the pandemic, the number of aviation companies actually grew by 100 in the Metro Denver region in 2020. Notably, Adams County has seen a 39% increase in aviation companies during the past five years.

The state’s aerospace industry bucked pandemic trends and experienced significant growth in 2020, according to Lea.

“In terms of what’s driving this growth, much of it comes down to the prime contractors and their success in winning major federal contracts, and in some cases, companies are consolidating operations for major programs here in Colorado. A lot of times it’s for reasons of efficiency, but a big part of it is also because of the proximity to talent and this incredibly robust and connected aerospace ecosystem,” said Lea.

The corporate headquarters of prime contractor Maxar—which designs and manufactures satellites and spacecraft for communications, earth observation, exploration, and on-orbit services and assembly—is located in Westminster/Adams County. The company anticipates a noteworthy 2022 with launches planned for its WorldView Legion satellites.

 DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL EVENT - Pioneering the Next Frontier