Colorado now has the nation’s second-largest aerospace economy — led narrowly by California — and Colorado Springs companies are reaping the rewards this year, winning new contracts and expanding operations.

According to the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC’s newest data, the aerospace, aviation and defense industry is “the region’s leading economic engine, accounting for 44 percent of the Colorado Springs economy with more than 105,000 employed in the industry and an annual economic impact of more than $12 billion.”

Home to five military installations, Colorado Springs’ aerospace, defense, cybersecurity, IT, data storage and software companies are growing alongside its military population.

“As Colorado Springs’ place in our nation’s much larger aerospace defense mission continues to grow, so do the opportunities open to us,” Rich Burchfield, chief defense development officer for the Chamber & EDC, said in an email. “The Chamber & EDC acts [as] a thread between our business community and the Colorado Springs military complex and defense industry, providing forums and platforms for engagement and development.

“An example of this is the Chamber & EDC’s Military Affairs Council. Comprised of approximately 200 business professionals, many of whom served in the military themselves, the MAC offers the opportunity to better understand our Colorado Springs military environment. What comes out of it are the relationships, and in some cases, local small business finding a foothold into the military industry.”

KRATOS EXPANSION

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Last month Kratos Defense, which specializes in satellite technologies, broke ground on a major Colorado Springs expansion that will nearly triple its capacity to 450 employees locally, from its current 180-person maximum.

The company is creating a 10-acre campus and a new three-story, 91,000-square-foot building, which will incorporate the current facility occupied by Kratos’ subsidiary, Kratos RT Logic.

The campus will include a new and expanded global Network Operations Center, described as “the central nerve center” for Kratos’ worldwide radio frequency sensor network.

“Colorado Springs has a great depth of aerospace talent, which is the core enabler for growth,” said Phil Carrai, president of Kratos’ Technology and Training Solutions Division. “We recruit against the top high tech companies in the country and having the backdrop of the Colorado Springs environment and the support of the local community is incredibly important.”

Carrai said the campus expansion shows Kratos’ commitment to continued growth in Colorado Springs.   

$93M CONTRACT FOR BOECORE

Also in July, Boecore announced it won a five-year, $93 million contract from the Air Force to provide near-real-time early warning information of ballistic missile launches to the U.S. and to foreign partners.

The Shared Early Warning System (SEWS II) Engineering and Contractor Logistics Support contract is the largest in Boecore’s history.

According to the company’s news release, the win expands Boecore’s role in designing, developing, maintaining and securing critical command and control, missile defense, radar and satellite systems.

Boecore has grown by 60 people in 2017 and expects to hire another 50 by the end of the year to support the SEWS II contract and other expanding programs.

With a reputation for innovation, responsiveness and reasonable costs, small defense businesses are attractive to defense industry partners and to the military, Boecore CEO Kathy Boe said.

“With the threats in the world there is a great need for bringing solutions and quickly deploying them, and that bodes well for small businesses,” she said.

“… Right now Colorado Springs is one of the hottest markets and our defense business sector is growing in the city. Our economy is doing great, which is attracting the workforce we need — and the new younger workforce brings good technology discriminators.”

New acquisition for Braxton

Earlier this week, Braxton Science & Technology Group announced its acquistion of Ingenicomm, a Virginia-based provider of ground system electronics and engineering services to the global satellite spaceflight markets. The move marks Braxton’s fifth purchase in five years.

“Ingenicomm’s products have an unmatched operational pedigree with many of the most prominent space missions of the past three decades, including the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope, New Horizons, and a plethora of others,” said Ken O’Neil, BSTG’s president & COO, in a press release announcing the purchase.

Following the acquisition, Ingenicomm will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of BSTG, according to the company. 

“BSTG and Ingenicomm’s complementary market footprints make this acquisition uniquely advantageous,” said Amit Puri, president of Ingenicomm in the release. “By leveraging each company’s respective strengths, we can offer superior solutions across the entire global aerospace market.”

Ingenicomm was represented by Holland & Knight LLP and the transaction was facilitated by Bluestone Capital Partners.  BSTG was represented Sparks Wilson P.C. and the transaction was facilitated by The O’Neil Group Company.  The transaction was financed by a partnership between Vectra Bank and First Western Trust.

HONEYWELL LEAVES A SPACE

Not every company has ridden the burgeoning aerospace industry to permanent success in the Springs.

In June last year, Honeywell Technology Solutions lost the contract to consolidate work on the Air Force’s main satellite control network, potentially worth $445 million. Even before the contract went to CACI International, Honeywell notified the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment that it would lay off 232 workers in Colorado Springs.

Honeywell began laying off Springs-based workers in August 2016, and more than a year later the facility at 1110 Bayfield Drive still stands empty.

It is currently advertised for lease, offering 30,000-100,000 square feet for manufacturing, research and development, warehouse or office use. Calls for more information were not returned.

VECTRUS CONTRACT

In July, Vectrus Systems Corp. won a $97 million Air Force contract to provide base operations support services to Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., one of the U.S. Air Education and Training Command’s largest technical training wings.

Vectrus will provide installation and mission operations management, installation and facility engineering and emergency response management, grounds maintenance, supply services, vertical transportation equipment, human resources support and weather services.

CATALYST ACCELERATOR

In a potential boost for the aerospace, homeland security and defense industry, Catalyst Campus opened applications Aug. 21 for the inaugural Catalyst Accelerator, set to kick off in January 2018.

The new defense and national security accelerator “promotes technology advancement for the warfighter and the transfer of government technology to the commercial market,” according to its website.

A collaboration between Catalyst Campus, the Center for Technology, Research and Commercialization, and the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center, Catalyst Accelerator is partnering with the Air Force Research Lab Space Vehicles Directorate for this firstaccelerator cohort.

The call for applications says Catalyst Accelerator is “seeking commercial solutions to address the ability to monitor earth’s terrestrial environments with the objective of providing improved global weather data and products to support the warfighter.”