Colorado’s manufacturing gains attributed to solar industry

Amanda H. Miller
Jul 25, 2011

Colorado is one of the only states in the country to see an increase in manufacturing jobs this year, and industry analysts credit the growth the renewable energy and solar manufacturing plants that have moved into the state.

“We’ve been seeing so many job losses in most states,” said Jennifer Ratcliff, spokeswoman for Manufacturing News. “Colorado really stuck out.”

She said the vast majority of states reported losses in manufacturing jobs and only a few bright spots reported stability in their markets.

“So when we started looking into this, we thought, ‘wow,’” Ratcliff said. “There are even companies moving manufacturing operations from overseas to Colorado.”

Bright spots for the state include the openings of several renewable energy and solar facilities, with wind-turbine manufacturer Vestas establishing new locations in Pueblo and Brighton and planning to add 1,000 workers to all three of its Colorado factories by the end of 2011.

SMA America expanded its solar component manufacturing plant in Denver, and Fotowatio Renewable Ventures plans a new solar facility at Colorado State University. Solar panel manufacturer Abound Solar has expanded production at its Longmont plant, and Aluwind Inc., a manufacturer of parts for wind turbines, opened a facility in Castle Rock.

MNI reports electronics manufacturing remains the state’s largest industrial sector with 25,271 manufacturing jobs, up 4 percent over the past year, according to a release from Manufacturing News.

Employment in the second quarter of 2011 rose 1.1 percent. While that’s not a tremendous gain, Ratcliff said it’s something to be proud of in today’s economic climate, and it’s a sure sign that Colorado is doing something right to draw a new and growing industry to the state.

Most of the new manufacturing jobs seem to be coming directly from the renewable energy and solar industry growth, Ratcliff said.

“That’s pretty much what it looks like,” she said. “Although, we did see some new jobs in the fabricated metals, chemicals, rubbers and plastics. But that could be related to some of these green manufacturers.”

Companies seeing closures included RR Donnelly, according to the release from Manufactures’ News Inc, which closed its printing plant in Greeley, and Packaging Corp. of America, which shuttered its box plant in Windsor.

Northeast Colorado accounts for 133,006 of the state’s industrial jobs, up 2.4 percent over the year. Northwest Colorado accounts for 60,718, up 1.2 percent over the survey period. The Southwest region is home to 7,253 industrial jobs, with no significant change reported, while the Southeast is home to 6,149, up the most at 3.8 percent.

Pictured: Colorado thin-film manufacturer Abound Solar’s Longmont facility.

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