As local business and government officials campaigned in Washington, D.C., for Colorado Springs to become the permanent home of the U.S. Space Force, The Aerospace Corporation broke ground here Sept. 23 on what it called a “state-of-the-art research and development center.”
Local officials, as well as leadership from Space Command and U.S. Space Force, attended the event, according to the company’s news release.
“Aerospace’s facility will be the focal point for delivering technical expertise across the space enterprise to outpace threats to national security,” the release said. “The building’s digital engineering environment will enable high-fidelity analysis and physics-based modeling and simulations as well as development of tactics, techniques, and procedures that will provide insight into space warfighting.”
Aerospace’s president and CEO Steve Isakowitz called the facility a gamechanger for technical and simulation capabilities for the space warfighters.
“...Aerospace focuses on solving our government and industry partners’ most challenging problems,” he said in a release.
The new Aerospace Corp. building will connect to the company’s existing building near the Colorado Springs Airport. It was designed to accommodate up to 200 employees, the release said.
“We’re pleased to grow our role as a trusted technical partner to our government partners and industry colleagues in the Greater Colorado Springs defense and space community,” Jay Santee, Aerospace vice president for Space Systems Operations and site executive for Colorado Springs, said in the release.
Santee predicted the facility will boost the company’s economic impact by 75 percent and add 200 technical jobs locally.
“We’re pleased to grow our role as a trusted technical partner to our government partners and industry colleagues in the Greater Colorado Springs defense and space community,” said Santee.
Aerospace already employs 240 engineers, scientists and analysts at its current facility in Peak Innovation Park at the airport and at nearby customer sites. These employees primarily work for the company’s Defense Systems Group’s Strategic Space Operations division and the corporation’s national engineering technology hub, the Engineering and Technology Group.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said in a statement to the Indy, “The groundbreaking of the new Aerospace Corporation research and development facility is yet more evidence that Colorado Springs is the epicenter of military space and the best location to serve as the permanent home of U.S. Space Force. This new facility adds to our city’s already robust aerospace and defense ecosystem. Further, the creation of 200 new jobs and the potential for many more will continue to power our city’s economy and airport development.”
The Aerospace Corporation is a national nonprofit corporation that operates a federally funded research and development center and has approximately 4,000 employees nationwide with locations in El Segundo, California; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Colorado Springs and Washington, D.C.
The firm’s $100 million, three-story, 90,000-square-foot building, to be completed in spring 2022, is being built in the more than 900-acre Peak Innovation Park south of the airport, which also includes a massive Amazon distribution center and a site for defense contractor Northrop Grumman.
Peak Innovation Park is an Opportunity Zone under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which promotes investment in companies, programs and properties located in certain designated areas. In addition, those locating in the park can apply for incentives due to its status as a Pikes Peak Enterprise Zone, Commercial Aeronautical Zone, Aviation Development Zone and Foreign Trade Zone.
Urban Frontier, a local real estate development company, is the park’s master developer.
Last week, Reggie Ash, Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC chief defense development officer; Jeff Greene, chief of staff for Mayor Suthers; and El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller went to D.C. to meet with “key decision-makers and political influencers” about Space Command, the Chamber said in a release.
The command is currently based at Peterson Air Force Base for six years, pending a decision for its permanent location.
It’s part of the Chamber’s push to gain support politically, not only through those personal visits but through the work of three consultants retained to “assist with strategy, connections and messaging,” the Chamber said in a newsletter.
In addition, Suthers submitted a response to the Defense Department’s first questionnaire on Aug. 28, which was backed by Gov. Jared Polis.
“The Air Force should make the smart choice and select Colorado as the permanent home of U.S. Space Command. Whether it’s our resilient economy, our proud military heritage, our thriving aerospace industry, our terrific schools, or our highly educated workforce and esteemed research institutions, Colorado truly has it all,” Polis said in a release.
The chamber estimates the command would bring 1,400 jobs with $104 million in payroll and $450 million in economic activity. If that pans out, the command would become the 15th largest employer in the county.
Spin-off jobs would bring another $172 million in payroll and $556 million in economic activity.
“We’re actively sharing our message of Colorado Springs’ strengths through personal contacts and earned, paid, and social media,” the chamber newsletter said.
Like all airports amid the COVID-19 pandemic, though, Colorado Springs Airport has seen passenger traffic plunge, though August saw a rise in enplanements from July. Last month, 32,692 passengers boarded, and 64,621 traveled through the terminal.
Through August this year, the airport’s passenger count was 472,835, which is 56.1 percent lower than the same period in 2019.