Colorado’s federal laboratories contributed $2.3 billion to the state’s economy during fiscal 2012, nearly double the amount five years previously, according to a new CO-LABS report.

The report quantified the economic impacts from Colorado’s 30 federally funded scientific facilities, which employed 7,966 people in 2012. It included the effects of the federal research facilities and their university affiliates have in Boulder, Jefferson, and Larimer counties, as well as the overall benefits on the state of Colorado.

In the five years since the report was first issued in 2007, the contributions to the state economy have grown significantly. In 2007, the first year the report was issued, the labs contributed $1.1 million to the state economy and employed 5,237 people compared to the $2.3 billion economic impact in 2012.

In 2012, the average salary and benefits for lab workers was $98,819 across all facilities, the report says, and $787 million in total salary was paid to lab workers.

The benefit of Colorado’s federal labs on Boulder County was $743.2 million in FY 2012. The National Institute of Standards and Technology Boulder lab provided  $187.7 million to the state economy, with direct and indirect employment of 1,325 workers, whose salary and benefits totaled $172,685, the report noted.

Yet the benefits of federal labs extend far beyond employment and state revenues, the report says.

“These auxiliary benefits include the emergence and existence of high-tech firms that locate near the facilities, collaborations with Colorado universities on cutting-edge research, experience for higher-education students through internships and part-time jobs, world-renowned research conducted in the state, and the economic stability common to federally supported programs,” the report claims.

Colorado ranks fourth in the country for its number of laboratories and seventh for federal laboratories per capita, according to the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer. In addition, in 2009, Colorado ranked second in the nation for funding from NASA, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Interior, and was in the top 5 for National Science Foundation funding.

The Colorado labs are partners in education through K-12 facility tours and graduate and doctoral programs. Also, numerous laboratories in the state collaborate with businesses on joint research and commercialization, including technology transfers, licenses, and spin-off companies, the report notes. For example, solar energy company SkyFuel partnership with the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has been an important part of the company’s success.

“SkyFuel’s proximity to NREL is important to our ongoing technology program, especially since NREL’s specialized test and measurement equipment has helped accelerate our path to product commercialization,” said Randy Gee, chief technology officer of SkyFuel.


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Chandler Harris is a freelance business and technology writer located in Silicon Valley. He has written for numerous publications including Entrepreneur, InformationWeek, San Jose Magazine, Government Technology, Public CIO,, U.S. Banker, Digital Communities Magazine, Converge Magazine, Surfer's Journal, Adventure Sports Magazine,, and the San Jose Business Journal. Chandler is also engaged in helping companies further their content marketing needs through content strategy, optimization and creation, as well as blogging and social media platforms. When he's not writing, Chandler enjoys his beach haunt of Santa Cruz where he rides roller coasters with his son, surfs and bikes across mountain ranges.