has been wooing
aerospace companies for years, although the
state did not profess its love publicly until an airplane-pulled 24-meter banner over
Los Angeles
just before Valentine’s Day. “Colorado Loves California” proclaimed the banner. Full-page advertisements in the San Jose Mercury News, the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune carried the same message.

While this marketing campaign launched by the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. is hoping to attract jobs in a variety of fields, aerospace was one of the primary targets, said Janet Fritz, Metro Denver marketing director. “Our market research showed Colorado is a good match for California aerospace companies. We have similar industries, a highly educated work force and our business costs are lower.”

Even before the latest marketing campaign,
leaders made a concerted effort to bolster the state’s existing aerospace companies and attract new ones through organizations like the Colorado Space Coalition. That group, which includes leaders of state government, industry, university and military facilities, meets every two months to discuss topics ranging from restrictive export rules to science and technology education. The group’s common concerns and recommendations are then shared with the state’s congressional delegation. This unified approach has made a dramatic difference in the ability of
‘s representatives in
to respond to the needs of the state’s aerospace work force, said Colorado Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien.

One reason for this high level of attention is the significance of aerospace to the state’s economy as a whole. Colorado has 26,000 private-sector aerospace jobs and a total 170,000 aerospace-related jobs in government, the military, universities, research centers and companies, O’Brien said. For a state with 4.5 million people, those jobs, which generally offer high salaries and good benefits, are extremely important, she added.

is also home to the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the Air Force Space Command, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command. Because of these important facilities, people tend to think first of Colorado’s military space business and major government contractors – Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. of Boulder, and Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, ITT Systems Division and Boeing’s GPS Center, which are all located in Colorado Springs. However, the commercial sector is the state’s real growth engine due largely to the strength of businesses like GeoEye in Thornton, a major provider of satellite and aerial imagery for government and commercial customers, and EchoStar in Englewood, parent company of the satellite television broadcaster Dish Network, said Elliot Pulham, chief executive of the Space Foundation of Colorado Springs. “We have a lot of activity in engineering, software and applications,” Pulham added.

Between 2002 and 2007, employment at companies that manufacture aerospace parts and products in
jumped 17.6 percent compared with an 11.2 percent nationwide. During the same period, the number of aerospace companies in Colorado surged 36.7 percent. That compares with a 6.4 percent increase in aerospace companies nationwide, according Bill Chadwick, research director for the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) in

While there are no figures on the number of aerospace jobs that move to
, United Launch Alliance (ULA) provides one well-known example of this migration. When Lockheed Martin and Boeing merged their government launch operations to form ULA in 2006, engineering and administrative work was consolidated on the campus of Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver instead of in Huntington Beach, Calif., where Boeing Launch Services was based. Many ULA employees already were located in
and when the company needed to find a place for the new headquarters, the
area made economic sense, said ULA spokeswoman Julie Andrews.

Still, it’s not as though
is losing its aerospace industry, which employed 118,532 people in private-sector aerospace and defense jobs in 2007, according to AIA. In the public sector, California is home to NASA’s Ames Research Center, Dryden Flight Research Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as well as Edwards Air Force Base, Travis Air Force Base, Vandenberg Air Force Base and the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. Those facilities alone employ nearly 47,000 people. Aerospace has an annual economic impact of $53 billion for the state, according to a report prepared in November by the California Aerospace Advisory Committee for the state’s Economic Development Commission.

“It’s not surprising that other states would be reaching out to our companies,” said Andrea Seastrand, executive director of the California Space Authority, a nonprofit group based in Sacramento working to promote the state’s space business.

Nevertheless, state officials are aware of the importance of the aerospace enterprise and are concerned about maintaining aerospace jobs particularly in the current economic climate, Seastrand said. California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi traveled to Washington to speak at a March 9 meeting of the Aerospace States Association. In 2008, Garamendi also created
‘s Aerospace Advisory Committee to report on the health of the industry and make recommendations to strength it.

Aerospace, however, is only one of the many important industries in
, a state with a 2007 gross product of $1.6 trillion. Agriculture, tourism, biotech, nanotech and aerospace are all vying for the attention of state leaders. “It reminds me of stories of lots of children tugging at mom’s apron strings saying ‘Pay attention to me,’” Seastrand said.