In the past five years, the Denver Metro Area and Colorado as whole has seen enormous growth. People from all over the country are moving to the Centennial State, and not just for the 300 days of sunshine each year. With an unemployment rate below the national average, newcomers are finding well-paying job opportunities with companies ranging from established corporations to cutting-edge start-ups in a variety of industries.
It’s not just individuals who are moving to Colorado—businesses are flocking there too. In 2016, Forbes ranked Colorado at #5 among the Best States for Doing Business, thanks in part to the low to moderate costs of doing business (2.4 percent below the national average). It doesn’t hurt that Colorado’s central geographic location makes for easy global access and direct access to a large and ever-growing customer base. A Leader in Tech and the Advanced Industries With the recent migration into the state, it’s no surprise that many of Colorado’s key industries are on the rise, including what the State terms its ‘Advanced Industries.’ Colorado considers the following fields to make up the Advanced Industries: aerospace, advanced manufacturing, bioscience, electronics, energy and natural resources (including Cleantech), infrastructure engineering, and technology and information. The economic impact of these industries accounts for nearly 30 percent of the state’s wage earnings, 30 percent of the total sales revenues across all industries within the state and nearly 35 percent of the state’s total exports.
By focusing on these industries, Colorado is developing a reputation as one of the best technology and innovation hubs in the country. Several household tech names have offices in the state, including Comcast, IBM, Verizon, and Oracle. But it’s not just tech giants: on average, there’s a new digital tech company launched every 72 hours in Colorado, and thanks to the high quality of life the Centennial State has to offer, there’s no sign of slowing down.
To continue to foster this growth, the state created the Advanced Industries (AI) Accelerator Programs in 2013 to promote growth and sustainability in these industries by helping drive innovation, accelerate commercialization, encourage public-private partnerships, increase access to early stage capital and create a strong ecosystem that increases the state’s global competitiveness.
As part of the statewide strategy to support these critical industries in their various phases of growth, the Colorado Office of Economic Development offers four types of grants as well as global business support. Grants are available for Proof of Concept, Early-Stage Capital & Retention, Infrastructure Funding and AI Exports. A network of consultants and an export training program are also available as part of the business support program to support these industries to tap into worldwide markets.
The AI Accelerator Programs are designed to promote innovation in Colorado by ensuring innovators and entrepreneurs in these sectors can compete in the state and around the world. And, in its relatively-short lifespan, the AI Accelerator is already finding success. Last year, the state awarded 71 AI grants totaling over $14 million. The AI program also generated 534 jobs 29 new patents filings. Out of the 10 metro areas with the highest tech start-up density in the U.S., Colorado is home to four, with Boulder, Colorado being ranked number one nationwide.
The support given to tech and innovation companies is helped further by the fact that Colorado has one of the highest per-capita concentrations of federal research facilities in the nation, which includes the Solar Technology Acceleration Centre (SolarTAC), the largest testing facility for solar technologies in the U.S. These laboratories are a huge economic driver for Colorado as they foster innovation and stimulate technology transfer between companies and local educational institutions. Growth in Advanced Manufacturing Furthering success within the Advanced Industries, Colorado is at the forefront of advanced manufacturing, and is focused on job creation in manufacturing through targeted recruitment of new manufacturers and the identification of business-to-business opportunities for existing manufacturers.
Colorado is on the radar of leaders in the industry – in October the State hosted GE Additive’s Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) course for a select group of Colorado manufacturing design engineers. The two-day training course, led by Chris Schuppe, engineering leader at GE Additive, provided an opportunity for Colorado companies to learn cutting-edge techniques that are expected to revolutionize the industry.
Manufacturers are also supported by the state’s central geographic location and extensive infrastructure to provide companies with accessibility and ease of deliverability across the nation and around the world. Alongside a strong supply chain, the state’s advanced manufacturing industry utilizes advanced technology to produce high value-added, precision products by highly-skilled workers. In fact, the average annual wage for manufacturers in Colorado is 43 percent higher than the average annual wage for all industries.
Colorado continues to pioneer the latest innovations in advanced manufacturing, an industry that is vital to the state’s economy. With a skilled, growing workforce and a diverse mix of nearly 6,000 manufacturers, Colorado is at the forefront of a market shift that is driving manufacturing back to the United States. Local companies use advanced processes and equipment to safely and efficiently make high-quality products, which serve a variety of business sectors such as electronics, energy, aerospace, biomedical, and food and beverage. With the ongoing, collaborative support of its public-private partners, Colorado is well positioned to further grow its advanced manufacturing industry, attract high-paying jobs and strengthen its competitive edge in the global economy.
Over the past five years, Colorado has made strategic moves to become the most business-friendly state. By capitalizing on the collaborative spirit of the people, the State has encouraged business and nonprofit communities to be engaged and work together with state government. Programs like the AI Accelerator are supporting growth and development across the State, making it the prime place for businesses to be right now.
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