Boulder Chamber Input on 2021 Boulder City Council Priorities

The Boulder Chamber sent the below letter to the Boulder City Council in advance of its 2021 retreat.

Dear Mayor Weaver and Boulder City Councilmembers,

Since COVID-19 first took root in our community – with its ravaging human health and economic impacts – the Boulder Chamber has worked collaboratively with City of Boulder staff and other business support organizations to meet the immediate needs of our local businesses and their workforce, in concert with efforts to reduce infection rates. The response actions have included everything from coordinating information resources and direct grant assistance, to regulatory reforms that facilitated safe and sustainable business operations. We thank the Boulder City Council for its partnership in this critical work.

At this time, while continuing our response to the immediate damage COVID-19 inflicts across our community, the Boulder Chamber is seizing the hope of brighter days ahead and that the vaccine disbursement allows us to accelerate our economic recovery efforts. This entails extensive data analysis based on the direct input we’ve obtained from more than 500 business leaders regarding their on-the-ground experience. To date, we’ve conducted 50 focus groups among 34 separate industry sectors, talking with organizations as diverse as aerospace and biotech companies, minority-owned businesses and independent small businesses, nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, banks, gyms, and hair salons. The insights gleaned from these listening sessions informs the following feedback the Boulder Chamber provides to the Boulder City Council as you prepare for your upcoming retreat to discuss your own actions and initiatives for 2021.

Support Small Businesses and Our Workforce

Small Business Assistance: Boulder’s resilience through this crisis and the speed of our economic recovery will depend on our businesses navigating this difficult period. Small and entrepreneurial businesses, especially vulnerable during this trying time, are a cornerstone of Boulder’s economy and community character. We urge you to prioritize financial assistance and resources that address the immediate needs of our small businesses and their employees.

Workforce Support Services: The economic crisis also disproportionally impacted lower-wage elements of our workforce, particularly underrepresented populations. The workers staffing our restaurants, shops, and lodging venues were first in the unemployment lines, and their employers continue to struggle with reduced capacities. We urge City Council to support workforce development programing that helps align displaced employees with opportunities in other thriving industries.

Invest in Critical Community Infrastructure

In many ways the societal and economic shifts we’ve witnessed as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic only serve to highlight inadequate infrastructure conditions that have festered for far too long. Immediate action is critical to regaining the economic vitality that supports quality services and assets that lift our community and gives everyone a chance to participate. Specifically, we ask City Council to prioritize the following community infrastructure investments:

High-Speed Internet Access: As remote work conditions become more common, the need for consistent, reliable internet service for every resident and business becomes an essential service. Without this access, vulnerable members of our community will fall farther behind. We, therefore, urge the City of Boulder to work with us in advancing public-private partnerships that expedite this critical infrastructure investment and secure low-cost, high-speed options for residents and businesses alike.

Mobility Improvements: With RTD service declining, we must respond with local investments that meet the mobility needs of our workforce. This includes a partnership with the business community in securing funding to complete mobility improvements for the Diagonal Highway and State Highway 7. We also need to pursue micromobility solutions, pilot initiatives, and mobility service programs that maintain local and regional connectivity.

Maintain Flexibility That Reflects the Evolving Business Environment

While our research and business leader input provides some indication of the road ahead for our economy, there still is a great deal of uncertainty about the conditions our businesses will face in the ensuing months and years. The City of Boulder’s exhaustive and inflexible regulatory permitting process precludes the creative, innovative solutions needed to meet an evolving economic landscape. Boulder’s extensive review and permitting processes also increase project costs. The uncertainty of the market requires nimble approaches, providing latitude for creative responses to changing conditions that ease the burden for businesses facing unprecedented economic conditions. That is why the Boulder Chamber continues to advocate for a priority focus on efforts to streamline our regulatory review and permitting processes. Streamlining efforts will address an unnecessary financial burden that can be the difference between business survival and closed doors. Applying these same streamlining goals to the housing development landscape will help reduce project costs and provide more affordable housing options for Boulder's working families.

Collaborate and Thrive

In the heat of the battle with COVID-19, it was collaboration amongst the City of Boulder, the Boulder Chamber, and our other business support partners that helped businesses navigate the public health guidelines, keeping employees safe and serving their customers. It also provided critical funding assistance and clarified regulatory restraints on business activity. While we can all take pride in the positive benefits of this collaborative work, we also know there is much more we can and must do to lift our businesses through this crisis and build back our economy. We believe prioritizing the above measures represent the most effective path forward. We are eager to partner with you in these efforts.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments as you prepare for your annual retreat, and thank you for your service to our community. Working together, let’s set our sights on making 2021 a year of recovery, resilience, and rejuvenation for Boulder.

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