Technological advancement will continue as a benchmark, and interest in how it might pertain to a wide variety of social and industrial endeavors has sparked discussion and growth.
Symposium addresses future of work, tech in aerospace industry
Many representatives of Colorado’s robust aerospace industry agree that their beloved field and its future are marked with tinges of both promise and uncertainty.
“I’m excited to say that the day is dawning, particularly at UCCS but throughout the nation, where we’re beginning to see new opportunities — exciting ways ahead in the fields of engineering and applied sciences,” UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak said at a symposium hosted by the university.
But while opportunity and innovation abound, companies and organizations are preparing for large waves of retirements, continue to battle fiscal difficulties and strive to be more dynamic in a demanding age of technology advancement.
These were some of the issues discussed during technical workshops and panel discussions at the second annual Technical Symposium of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Rocky Mountain Chapter, which attracted about 175 attendees to UCCS on Oct. 25.
Although no panelists were prompted to address politics, many expressed concerns about how sequestration and other budgetary woes may affect the future of NASA, the defense industry and everything between.
According to data from the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis, Colorado’s space economy received the nation’s third-largest sequestration blow in 2013, with a $125 million direct impact, 2,121 lost jobs and a $292 million decrease in the gross state product.
“I would submit that there are many indicators that point to things moving in the wrong direction,” said Russ Anarde, Northrop Grumman’s corporate lead executive for Colorado Springs. “We need to address the situation in aerospace and defense in this country and in this state as a team sport.”
UCCS’s engineering department has doubled its student population in the past five years, increasing 17 percent this fall 2013 semester alone.
“It’s not all doom and gloom, especially for college grads,” said Mike Shilkitus, GPS operations director for Boeing Co. “The important thing to remember about times like these is that there have always been times like these, to one extent or another.”
Future’s now: Springs bioscience sector growing stronger
For the Regional Business Alliance, the 41 companies in the city’s bioscience sector represent both an economic boon and the chance to create a larger industry cluster that will bring high-paying jobs and high-tech expertise to the region.
From companies that develop stem-cell assays for research laboratories to those that manufacture tiny devices to assist in noninvasive surgical procedures, the Springs bioscience community provides about 7,500 jobs in the community, according to the Business Alliance.
Statewide, those jobs average about $82,000 a year each in salaries.
“The reason we are targeting biosciences is because they are a high-growth, high-value industry with potential,” said Dave White, chief business development officer at the Business Alliance. “Considering that some of our fastest-growing companies are medical-device manufacturers like Spectranetics and Bal Seal, it is important that we pay close attention to this industry.”
Spectranetics is one of a handful of publicly traded companies headquartered in the Springs, and it develops and manufactures single-use medical devices used in minimally invasive procedures within the cardiovascular system. Its products are sold in 40 countries and are used to treat arterial blockages in the heart and legs.
Bal Seal manufactures medical devices for orthopedics and drug delivery, as well as medical electronics for heart and neurostimulation. The company is in the midst of an expansion in northern Colorado Springs that will eventually bring hundreds more jobs to the region.
But the bioscience boom isn’t just happening here. All of Colorado is becoming better known as a hub for bioscience, said Steve Burdorf, COO of CEA Medical Manufacturing, a company that’s had its headquarters in the Springs for 24 years and has grown to around 240 employees internationally.
“It used to be you just heard about Utah or Minnesota, after California,” he said. “Now Colorado’s starting to make a name for itself.”