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Colorado Targets Aerospace, Bioscience, Clean Energy for Expansion

Jun/Jul 08
"Our good new stems from the new direction in the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (COEDIT) and the new administration of Governor Bill Ritter," says Matt Cheroutes, director of communications and external affairs for COEDIT. "Governor Ritter's Colorado Promise identified an industry-wide approach to economic development, choosing key industries for growth to set the course."

The governor has targeted tourism, aerospace, bioscience, and renewable/clean energy for expansion. In a survey of private aerospace employment, Colorado ranked second nationally, growing 12.9 percent from 2006 to 2007. Key firms in the state are Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp, and the Air Force Space Command.

In bioscience, "we have the opportunity to pull ourselves up to the next tier," says Cheroutes. The state is now home to more than 400 bioscience companies providing more than 16,000 jobs, with an average salary of about $70,000 per year. The governor recently signed into law the Colorado Bio Fund, pledging $26.5 million over the next five years to help fund early-stage companies, research institutions, and private companies. New facilities are poised to accommodate new growth. The former Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Aurora is being transformed into a life sciences community anchored by the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and hospital. Adjacent to this, Forest City Enterprises is developing a 160-acre private-sector bioscience park.

The "New Energy Economy" is expanding due to the state's "abundant renewables and traditional and natural resources, as well as intellectual resources," says Cheroutes. In February, ConocoPhillips announced the development of a new corporate training center and a Global Technology Center for alternative-fuels research and development in Louisville. Both wind and solar projects are in the works, with five ethanol plants now operating in Colorado and a sixth that broke ground this past March. The state also quadrupled the number of E-85 ethanol fuel pumps available to consumers in 2007, with more than 50 pumps now operational.

The legislative session, which ended in May, "had great success in passing economic development legislation," says Cheroutes, touting the most robust economic development package for the state in 20 years. The single sales factor method of calculation was instituted for corporate income tax instead of calculating payroll, property and sales. In addition, 30,000 more businesses will be exempt from the business personal property tax. Legislators also voted to loosen the requirement for the performance incentive fund because "the time requirement was often too fast for rural clients," says Cheroutes. A sales tax on aviation manufacturing, dubbed the "fly away tax," was also eliminated.