Local leaders, state representatives and industry partners gathered Tuesday at the up-and-coming tech enterprise Catalyst Campus to celebrate its grand opening and hear more on the impact its developments will have in Colorado Springs and across the state.
Business and civic supporters attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony, technology tour and open house at 555-559 E. Pikes Peak Ave., and listened to Gov. John Hickenlooper describe how Catalyst’s collaborative space, R&D labs and cyber and space operations center will be substantial in leading cyber and job creation throughout the state.
Although the campus is still in its first phase — with construction teams working around the clock on renovation projects — the former Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad depot is already home to more than a dozen technology organizations. Developments such as the FourFront Fuse Impact Center and collaborative space “are the first of many to come and create jobs,” said founder Kevin O’Neil.
“They will create a lot of jobs. We will bring in support services and make sure the engineering companies and technology firms succeed,” he added.
With major cyber initiatives like Catalyst Campus, the Air Force Academy’s Air Force Research Laboratory and the National Cyber Intelligence Center at UCCS, “you really get a catalytic effect and synergy that you wouldn’t otherwise get,” Hickenlooper said.
With 938 days left in office before the end of his second term, Hickenlooper said his focus between now and the end of 2018 is on two initiatives: to make Colorado the center of cyber in the U.S. and to advance workforce training and development in the state. The governor also noted that Catalyst Campus — the first of its kind — will play an integral part in the progression of both efforts.
Hickenlooper said 77 percent of youth will not receive a four-year college degree, yet across the state, businesses lack employees in mid-skilled positions, including cybersecurity.
But with developments including the FourFront Fuse Impact Center at Catalyst and the new skills-based online platform Skillful, co-created by LinkedIn, connecting educators, employers and job seekers, “for the first time we are really addressing the backing of workforce training and development,” Hickenlooper said.
Using Skillful, students who are just entering the workforce or professionals interested in a different career are able to gain a deeper understanding of the exact jobs and pay linked with specific skills, and employers are able to get a clearer view of employees they plan to hire, Hickenlooper said.
“The cost of hiring people who don’t fit is very expensive for our businesses,” he said.
The governor also made reference to The Business Experiential-Learning Commission’s efforts to create youth apprenticeship programs and courses designed to support businesses where students are working.
Along with that, he made note of the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry’s “Launch My Career Colorado,” a new online resource that provides students detailed information on careers, salaries and housing costs.
“Along with Skillful, it’s really going to allow our kids to take much more responsibility for their own careers,” he said.
The Fuse Impact Center at Catalyst is a part of the FourFront Colorado project, a public-private partnership intended to strengthen the resiliency of manufacturers across the state, said Tim Heaton, president of the Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Alliance.
It’s been the first launched in the state, with more to follow in Grand Junction, Loveland and Denver. Funding for the project was provided by the Department of Defense and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, according to Heaton.
“We want to change the way we go about workforce development,” Heaton said.
“We want to put an end to the inflationary practice of buying our workforce, such as by stealing the guy from across the street by paying them 50 cents more an hour,” he said. “It’s not healthy or good for the economy.”
Hickenlooper said Catalyst Campus is a nexus in many different ways.
“At the heart of it, it’s tying together advanced manufacturing, cybersecurity and innovation,” the governor said. “There is no other state doing this at the scale in which we’re going, and it’s going to make a difference.”
Since 2015, more than $8 million has been provided to the campus from private donors, grants and sponsorships to fund its staff, infrastructure and programming.
More than $1.6 million has been committed to establish its Cyber and Space Operations Center, which will be Catalyst’s second grand opening, scheduled in the fall.