The Colorado School of Mines in the fall of 2018 became the first university in the nation to offer advanced degrees in space resources, and that focus looks like it is paying off by drawing the attention of firms in the emerging field.

Karman+, a space mining startup based in the Netherlands, is looking to plant its flag in either Denver, the United Kingdom or Luxembourg. To help sway the decision, the Colorado Economic Development Commission on Thursday approved $1.29 million in job growth incentive tax credits to the company if it creates 150 net new jobs over an eight-year period.

The jobs, which include engineering and marketing positions, have an average annual wage of $110,620 or 147% of the average annual wage for Denver County. Because the company is small, with four employees, and still unproven, the state put additional conditions on the award, including the company raising 15 million euros in capital by the end of the year.

Karman+ will study satellite and telescopic images of asteroids to determine their composition and suitability for onsite extraction in its early phase. Of the 200 billion asteroids identified over the past 50 years of surveying, only a tiny fraction, 26,000 have been defined as “near-Earth,” meaning a lot more work needs to be done to identify the best prospects, the company said on its website.

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Why look to space instead of on Earth? One reason is to source the materials needed for future space exploration in space — water, metals and minerals. Also, vital resources on Earth are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few countries. China controls 99% of rare earth minerals, while China and the Democratic Republic of Congo control 86% of the world’s cobalt supply. And when it comes to platinum, Russia, China and South Africa have a lock on the market, according to the company’s website.

The commission on Thursday also approved a smaller award of $1.2 million in job growth incentive tax credits to a San Francisco provider of cloud-based employee management software that is looking to create a new technology hub in either Denver, Atlanta or Austin, Texas.

The company, using the codename Project Myth, said it expects to create 399 jobs paying an average annual wage of $119,092. It currently has 264 employees, including two dozen who are in Colorado, said Michelle Hadwiger, director of global business development with the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade.

Hadwiger informed commissioners that four companies that recently received incentive rewards are about to make announcements in Colorado’s favor.

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