Science and Technology
All across Colorado, companies, universities and federal laboratories are making critical advances in science and technology, educating future generations of engineers, researchers, CEOs and teachers in the process. (And we have many Nobel Prizes to show for it!) This base of talent is the catalyst for creating and recruiting new businesses to the state.
While there is no question that Coloradans are hurting as a result of global economic conditions, our state's diverse, high-tech, innovative and entrepreneurial workforce remains a bright spot. Our strength in fields like bioscience, aerospace, clean technology, defense, and information technology has translated directly into good-paying jobs for Coloradans and business investment in the state.
Our future as a state and a nation rests on our ability to stay on the cutting edge, to remain the world leader in discovery and innovation. Among other things, that means investing in science and technology and training future generations for the jobs of tomorrow. As a member of the Armed Services and Energy and Natural Resources committees, I'm working to ensure Colorado remains a national leader in this effort and is positioned to win the global economic race.
The ABCs of Colorado's Knowledge Economy
While Colorado benefits from broad expertise in science and technology – including over a dozen federal research laboratories in the state contributing $1.5 billion to Colorado’s economy – three sectors stand out in our burgeoning high-tech economy: aerospace, bioscience and clean technology.
Colorado has one of the top three aerospace economies in the country. We are home to three key military command posts (Air Force Space Command, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), and U.S. Northern Command), three space-related U.S. Air Force bases (Buckley, Peterson, and Schriever), and many of the nation's top aerospace companies. The University of Colorado receives more research funding from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) than any other university. In addition, the space industry brings thousands of high-paying jobs to Colorado: The average wage for an aerospace industry employee is more than double Colorado's private sector average wage.
Whether it’s building NASA’s next space transportation system, furthering commercial launch capabilities, or advancing earth science, space science and aeronautics, the future of space exploration is being built right here in Colorado. I am proud to support Colorado’s tradition of aerospace leadership.
I also have long been a strong supporter of bioscience and biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health and research institutions throughout Colorado. Medical research into treatments and cures for diseases and conditions are the keys to not only improving and saving lives but reducing health care costs for all Americans. In addition, more than 20,000 bioscience employees work at over 400 companies in Colorado.
The clean energy and technology sector – companies that produce energy from renewable sources or promote energy conservation or efficiency – grew by an astounding 33 percent in Colorado between 2005 and 2010, which was three times the national rate. That growth is due in no small part to the extraordinary work and access to talent at our universities and federal research labs, especially the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. Federal investments in clean technology research, combined with forward-looking energy policies like Colorado’s renewable electricity standard, have made Colorado a national leader in clean energy.
As your U.S. Senator, I will continue to strengthen our nation's research community, which in turn will help Colorado's economy.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education
The United States cannot remain the world leader in scientific discovery and innovation unless it continues to invest in educating Americans in science, technology, engineering, and math education – more commonly referred to as STEM education. It is imperative that we give our children the best chance to succeed in an ever-changing global economy. Yet despite the growing importance of STEM fields, American students continue to perform poorly on international tests of science and math compared to other industrialized nations. We must improve investments now to prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow - and that includes producing qualified teachers to guide them.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, I was a founding co-chairman of the STEM Education Caucus, and I am now a member of the Senate STEM Education Caucus.
Colorado’s aerospace industry is a critical component of the state’s economy. However, these companies are impeded by outdated and unnecessary export controls that put them at a disadvantage relative to foreign competitors. I supported legislation that would free these companies to more effectively compete in global markets. It is past time we updated these controls to improve national security and enhance our economic competitiveness. Similar legislation was eventually signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013.
I co-chair the bipartisan Senate Science and Technology Caucus with Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. The caucus educates Members of Congress and their staffs about issues important to the science and technology community by bringing some of the nation’s leading experts to Capitol Hill. Recent events hosted by the caucus focused on science, technology, engineering and math education, space technology and advanced computing.
Colorado is positioned to lead the country in renewable energy. That's why I joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in introducing the American Energy and Job Promotion Act. This bill will extend several key renewable energy tax credits, like the production tax credit for wind, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, and other renewables. This measure, and others that I have supported, could help Americans reduce their energy costs at home and at the pump. Clean energy has great potential in Colorado and the U.S. to create new jobs and help us win the global energy race - but this will not happen without support from the federal government.
Renewable energy is a crucial element of Colorado and America’s economic and energy future, supporting thousands of jobs while reducing impacts on the environment. I want to ensure that the tremendous growth in this field over the last decade continues into the next one. That is why I support extending key renewable energy tax credits, like the Production Tax Credit and Section 1603, to help to give the industry the certainty it needs for sustained growth that will create good, long-term jobs. These incentives are critical to help companies leverage private investment to create good-paying jobs in Colorado. I recently joined with several other Senators in sending letters to Senate leadership emphasizing the importance of these tax credits.
I joined with Governor Hickenlooper and the entire Colorado congressional delegation on a bipartisan letter to the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) urging them to move the National Solar Observatory headquarters to the University of Colorado at Boulder. AURA eventually selected the University of Colorado as the winner. The new site will employ up to 70 scientists, engineers and staff with an annual payroll of about $20 million, and will require cutting-edge facilities to develop advanced instrumentation and conduct solar research.