Northglenn businesses and workers got a glimpse of the region’s space-faring future Oct. 25 as the city honored local entrepreneurs. “I just wanted to give everyone a snapshot of what this all …
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Northglenn businesses and workers got a glimpse of the region’s space-faring future Oct. 25 as the city honored local entrepreneurs.
“I just wanted to give everyone a snapshot of what this all means and a look at what we can expect in this industry,” said Dave Ruppel, director at the Colorado Air and Space Port. Ruppel was the featured speaker at the Northglenn breakfast, held at the Ramada Plaza on 120th and Grant.
“It means a lot of jobs, lots of revenue coming back into the economy here,” Ruppel said. “There are over 500 aerospace companies in Colorado and a lot of them are in the metropolitan area here. Many of those companies are small, as few as ten people.”
The breakfast is an annual event that lets the city shine a spotlight on local businesses.
“I am thrilled we have the opportunity to bring our business community together each year,” said Northglenn Economic Development Manager Debbie Tuttle. “Our companies have chosen Northglenn for their business, and they support thousands of jobs, and make major investments into our community.
Categories ranged from home businesses, small businesses with as many as 20 employees, medium operations with up to 50 and large businesses with 50 or more employees. Categories also included rookie start-ups newer than two-years-old, young entrepreneurs, long-term operations that have been in operations for more than 20 years, businesses or entrepreneurs who have given back to the community through philanthropy or volunteering businesses that made a significant investment in the city.
A special award was given to the family of Robin Gayton, who started the popular Gayton Dance studio with her sister — and later her daughter.
50th anniversary in common
The event used Northglenn’s 50th anniversary as a city to compare itself to the space industry, with the 50th anniversary of NASA’s 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing. Ruppel led the group on a history of space exploration before the moon landing.
“When we look at all the things we accomplished, it all happened in a decade, from the time we launched the Mercury program to us standing on the moon,” he said. “We have entire programs now that take more than a decade to happen, so it was really remarkable to accomplish so much in such a short period.”
The decades since have been busy, with the U.S. Space Shuttle as well as the International Space Station.
“People think we got the Space Shuttle going and we were just treading water, staying in low Earth orbits and not doing anything big,” he said. “But I think that undersells the accomplishments of the shuttle program. Look at 135 flights, and a program that spanned 30 years and built a space station and really taught us about living in space. We have to take that into account because it set the stage for what comes next.”
Colorado’s Air and Space Port is one of 12 spaceports planned in the United States, and one of nine that will specialize in horizontal takeoffs. The former Front Range Airport near Watkins was certified as a site for spacecraft launches in 2018.
“We are one of seven facilities that are dual-use facilities, they are airports and spaceports both,” he said. “We are one of 11, but the only one in the middle of the country. When you look at our situation, surrounded by such a strong aerospace industry, that makes us a little bit unique. And it’s important if you want to be a commercial center for commercial space operations.”
The plan is to be able to offer commuter sub-orbital flights to the other side of the world, letting people to Japan for a meeting and be back before dinner time. It could also be used to reach space manufacturing sites in low orbits, he said.
“I think there a lot of opportunities as well, in other disciplines,” he said. “They are looking at uses in metallurgy and chemistry and pharmaceuticals and medicine — all the areas where building things in zero gravity has value.”
The Colorado port’s long runway makes it ideal for those uses.
“It’s one of the things you can do with a horizontal launch spacecraft,” he said. “If you want to do micro-gravity work now, the best place to do it now is on the space station, and it’s expensive to get there. But you will have four to five minutes of dedicated micro-gravity time on horizontal launch spacecraft and the price point is much better and you’ll be able to do it more frequently and bring it back to your lab afterward and work on it.”
The event also partnered with Northglenn High School STEM students and teachers. Students were challenged to come up with a design and product for event table centerpieces to represent the “One Giant Leap” theme. Two classes with 11 teams and 44 students participated in the challenge.
Students were also invited to the event to interact with the local business community and were recognized for their innovative ideas and products.
The city and the Northglenn Urban Renewal Authority gave awards and honors to 10 city businesses in as many categories at an Oct. 25 ceremony. Winners were:
Home-Based Business: SafePro Guard
Rookie Business: The Good Couch North
Small Business: Purple Moon Early Learning Center
Mid-Size Business: Gulfeagle Supply
Large Business: Lowe’s Home Improvement #0246
Longevity: Dodge Sign Company
Community Impact: Boondocks Fun Center
Investment: KFC #462
People’s Choice: Adjustments for Life
Young Entrepreneur: Northglenn High School student Luke Portner, Cash4rc
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