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Threat Defiance Report

Experts: Cybersecurity in city set to surge

Colorado Springs ranks 16th nationally in the new Best Cities for Cybersecurity Professionals report, and experts say it is uniquely placed for a surge in growth and recognition as a cybersecurity hub.

Personal finance website GoodCall.com analyzed data from 221 cities for the report, highlighting Colorado Springs’ excellent cybersecurity job prospects and desirable lifestyle — ahead of cities including San Francisco, Seattle, Santa Monica, Washington, D.C., and Denver.

What makes Colorado Springs outstanding for cybersecurity professionals? The list is long.

Local cybersecurity leaders point to the large military and government presence, the National Cybersecurity Center, Catalyst Campus, academic institutions active in cyber education and industry partnerships, cross-sector collaboration, broad political support for cybersecurity development, innovative local companies, workforce development efforts and low cost of living.

National Cybersecurity Center CEO Ed Rios said Colorado Springs stands out for the quality and depth of its cyber jobs market.

“We have within 65 miles of Colorado Springs six different military installations and one major government organization, all that are very dependent on cyber,” he said.

“That not only has its own organic needs, but it has created private sector support and companies and entrepreneurs that are necessary in order to present capabilities to those government and military installations.

“That in turn obviously creates opportunity and that’s a large reason why we see demand and — between here and Denver — over 10,000 cyber-related job vacancies.”

Rios said cyber professionals in Colorado Springs are working to match the fast pace of the industry and its challenges.

“What we bring is business accelerators … and business entrepreneurial opportunities that really are competitive to the rest of the nation and even to Denver,” he said. “We have tremendous growth opportunities and plenty of demand.”

Frank Backes, vice president of business development for RT Logic and Kratos, said Colorado Springs’ market leadership base is also a draw.

“There’s a confluence of demand and very high-end expertise that comes together in Colorado Springs in a way that other communities just don’t have,” Backes said.

He said critical components of the market leadership and customer base include Air Force Space Command, which develops cybersecurity strategy and is headquartered in Colorado Springs, Schriever Air Force Base’s satellite command and control infrastructure and market presence, as well as private companies driving the need for cybersecurity infrastructure.

COLLABORATION CULTURE

Much of Colorado Springs’ outsized cybersecurity success stems from synergy and collaboration at a level not seen in other cities, leaders said.

“If you want to be a mover and shaker in this town when it comes to information technology and cybersecurity, you’ve got to see who’s doing what, you’ve got to talk to them, partner with them, and you’ve got to help people solve problems,” said Shawn P. Murray, cybersecurity engineer and chief academic officer with Springs-based Murray Security Services & Consulting.

“What’s happening here is not the old humdrum stuff.”

Murray praised the Southern Colorado Technology Alliance’s work in examining government contracts and matching local companies to required skill sets.

“They’re saying, ‘Your company could go after this portion of it if you partner with this other company; we’ll help you write the proposal,’” Murray said.

“That’s innovative. That’s what’s unique about what Colorado Springs is doing. I travel all over the U.S. doing consulting and training, and I don’t see this anywhere else.”

Andrew Vance, principal cyber technology consultant at Vance Rodriguez Consulting, said “real, visible partnerships” across sectors are key to the city continuing to strengthen its position as a cybersecurity hub.

Vance said he had felt confident locating and developing his business in Colorado Springs because of the city’s public-private cybersecurity partnerships and the level of involvement of UCCS, the Air Force Academy, Catalyst Campus, the private sector and the legislature in supporting those relationships.

“That was enough for me to say not only is this great for Department of Defense professionals, but also for Millennials coming out of the academic institutions — they can see this is a good place to live and work,” Vance said.

Murray pointed to CyberWorx at the Air Force Academy, root9B and SecureSet as examples of Springs-based groups making their mark by keeping up with ever-changing skill sets, taking real world problems and reaching faster, more creative solutions.

“Those guys at root9B are doing phenomenal stuff — things that are not the norm,” Murray said. “They’ve changed the paradigm to better solve problems. Now they’re getting million-dollar contracts and working for Fortune 500 companies.”

Vance described the Springs cybersecurity community as “very passionate” about giving small businesses big opportunities, understanding their agility and usefulness, and helping them grow.

“From a small business perspective, we’re recognized by contracting companies and the Department of Defense as really innovative partners,” he said.

NATIONAL CYBERSECURITY CENTER

Rios said the National Cybersecurity Center participated as an “information sharing and analysis organization” for understanding the threat and adversarial technologies of cybercriminals and nation states.

A good example of public-private partnership, he said, is the cyber threat communication from both the federal government and the private sector that allows the NCC to present analyses, provide education and training, and develop research opportunities.

When renovations are complete at the NCC’s new facility in July, Rios said, the nonprofit will “be able to position with industry and academia even closer, and we’ll bring more capability in cybersecurity, economic development and workforce development to Colorado Springs.”

TIPPING POINT

Backes said the city is “right on the edge of that tipping point, where other communities across the country and globally recognize the expertise that exists in Colorado Springs, leading to … a permanent [cybersecurity] ecosystem here.”

The tipping point, Backes said, would not be measured in time but by “the right anchor organizations recognizing that the cybersecurity center of mass is in Colorado Springs.

“We need one weighty player — a Booz Allen Hamilton, a Lockheed [Martin], a Northrop [Grumman] — to step into our community and say ‘This is where we’ll put the center of [our] cybersecurity expertise,’” he said. “If one major player did that, the others would follow suit.”

Ed Anderson, executive director of strategic military, science, space and security initiatives at UCCS, said Colorado Springs would come to be recognized as a cyber center just as it had been recognized as a space center decades ago, citing the National Cybersecurity Center, academia focused on cybersecurity, a strong military presence and 105 cyber-related companies locally.

“The key piece is you’ve got the academia here who can provide the workforce. If you’ve got people who can do the job here, then that’s going to bring the private sector here to build upon that.

“There’s just no telling where it’s going to go, but it’s going to be big,” Anderson said.

Colorado Springs has one of the lowest unemployment rates for technology, Murray said, and not enough people to fill open positions.

“There is so much happening here, with the governor’s initiative to make Colorado Springs the cyber center of excellence, the mayor’s initiative on workforce development, with what’s going on at Catalyst Campus, with CyberWorx and C-TRAC [Center for Technology, Research and Commercialization] …,” he said.

“To me, this is the hub.”