Colorado Springs: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

The economy of Colorado Springs is based primarily on the military installations in the area as well as on the aerospace and electronics industries and tourism. The military employs one fifth of the work force in the city. Fort Carson, a U.S. Army base, is the largest employer, maintaining more than 15,000 people on its payroll. The U.S. Air Force Academy, Fort Peterson Air Force Base (AFB), and the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) are also major employers.

Colorado Springs is a center for space research. The city is the site of the Combined Services Space Center and the Consolidated Space Operations Center, which are involved in the Strategic Defense Initiative and handle military missions of the Space Shuttle. The U.S. Space Foundation (USSF) and the Space Commands at Peterson AFB also provide a conducive environment for developing future space-related projects. As a result of growth in the aerospace industry, several high-technology firms have been attracted to Colorado Springs. Hewlett-Packard and 17 other major electronics companies, combined, employ nearly 10,000 workers.

Since the turn of the century, when the city's grand hotels made it famous, Colorado Springs has been a major tourism center. Pikes Peak and the natural beauty of the surrounding area drew over 6.2 million visitors in 2003; the U.S. Air Force Academy is the main man-made attraction in the state. The city's average gross income from tourism is near $1 billion, providing a substantial boost to the construction industry.

Items and goods produced: advertising film, granite, concrete, dairy products, brooms, novelties, chemicals, pottery, bricks, airplane engine mounts, machine tools, shell fuses, electric motors, castings, electronics, plastics, steel culverts, printed and published works

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

Local programs

At the local level, El Paso County contains an Urban Enterprise Zone offering state and local credits for new jobs, investment, and research and development expenditures. The Greater Colorado Springs Economic Development Council will package private and public incentives for relocating or expanding companies that are tailored to the specific needs of the company. The private sector and government in Colorado Springs cooperate to encourage new business and industry through such incentives as low corporate tax rates, a Foreign Trade Zone, and training programs. The Colorado Office of Business Development and International Trade offers services in bringing national and foreign investment to the state.

State programs

In 2004 Forbes magazine rated Colorado Springs the 24th Best Place for business in the entire country. There are numerous venture capital firms throughout the state, including the Colorado Quality Investment Capital Program.

Job training programs

The Colorado Flexible Industry Related Start-up Training program is available to assist companies; Pikes Peak Community College has its Corporate Workforce and Economic Development Center for delivery of training funded under this program. The Pikes Peak Workforce Center helps with placement, job matching, and training workers. The Colorado Office of Business Development and International Trade offers Colorado First grants for new businesses and Existing Industry grants for training and staff retention purposes.

Economic Development Information: The Greater Colorado Springs Economic Development Corporation, 90 S. Cascade Ave. Suite 1050 Colorado Springs, CO 80907; telephone (719)471-8183; fax (719)471-9733; email csedc

Development Projects

Development in the downtown area is booming due to the Colorado Springs Downtown Partnership. The Depot Arts District is planned to offer affordable housing, studio, and retail space. Palmer Village will be a new neighborhood in the Southwest Downtown Area, bringing urban renewal to an underused area. The Pikes Peak Outdoor Market, featuring dozens of vendors selling Colorado produce, free-range meat, fine art and crafts opened on 2004, with an indoor market opening in 2005.

Three business parks on the north side of Colorado Springs saw considerable activity in the late 1990s and early 2000, with commitments by several large "new economy" companies. Progressive Insurance will build a 150,000 square-foot data center near its recently completed call center in 2005. Intel Corp. opened a new manufacturing operation; software giant Oracle Corp. constructed a building to house its customer support center; financial investment firmT. Rowe Price built a 147,000-square-foot building for a customer service center and planned additional space in the area; and mountain bike equipment maker RockShox Inc. moved its San Jose, California, headquarters and manufacturing operation there. In 2004, Configuresoft relocated its corporate headquarters to fit its expansion. Also on the city's north side Focus on the Family, a media and publishing ministry, completed a $12.6 million expansion, and Compassion International planned a $23 million headquarters. Developers have been so impressed with the economic health of Colorado Springs and with the quality of the companies that have moved in, that more speculative space is planned.

Commercial Shipping

Established as a Foreign Trade Zone, Colorado Springs is a link in the country's import-export shipping network. Eight air cargo carriers operate from Colorado Springs Municipal Airport, and the metropolitan area is served by two major rail freight lines. About 20 motor freight carriers ship goods through terminals in the city.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Colorado Springs boasts a youthful, well educated, willing labor force. Sources of labor include former military personnel, military dependents, retirees, college students, and commuters from other Colorado cities. Labor/management relations are described as excellent; there is a low level of unionization throughout Colorado.

The population of Colorado Springs grew 27 percent between 1990 and 2000, and the number of high-tech jobs in the city has grown greatly in that time. These factors have spurred a shortage of affordable housing and a demand for skilled workers; rapid growth has also begun to strain the local infrastructure. This, in combination with other factors nationwide, is expected to slow local growth.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Colorado Springs metropolitan area labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of non-agricultural labor force: 247,900

Number of workers employed in . . .

mining and construction: 15,900

manufacturing: 20,100

trade, transportation and utilities: 39,300

information: 9,900

financial activities: 17,200

professional and business services: 35,500

educational and health services: 23,600

leisure and hospitality: 29,700

other services: 14,200

government: 42,600

Average minimum hourly wages of manufacturing workers: $ 16.13

Unemployment rate: 5.4% (December 2004)

Colorado Springs: Economy

Largest employers Number of employees
Fort Carson 15,159
U.S. Air Force Academy 6,410
Peterson AFB/NORAD/Space Command 5,542
Colorado Springs School District #11 3,440
Memorial Hospital 3,100
Penrose-St. Francis Health Services 2,981
City of Colorado Springs 2,424
Hewlett-Packard 2,200
Schriever AFB 2,107
El Paso County 2,029
WorldCom 2,000
Amtel 1,850

Cost of Living

The following is a summary of data regarding key cost of living factors in the Colorado Springs area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $250,088

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 96.0 (U.S. average = 100.0)

State income tax rate: 4.63%

State sales tax rate: 2.9%

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: 2.5% city and 1% county

Property tax rate: ranges between 59 mills and 90 mills depending on school district and other special taxing districts; the average in 2003 was 67 mills. The 2003 residential assessment rate for taxes due in 2004 was 7.96 percent of market value

Economic Information: The Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, 2 North Cascade Avenue, Suite 110, Colorado Springs, CO 80903; telephone (719)635-1551; fax (719)635-1571