Scott Sternberg: Industry Partnerships for Economic Vitality
Every business in Boulder is important. Each is working to address a societal and/or customer challenge, and each is contributing to the strength of our economy.
Fortunately, though, Boulder isn’t a single company town where our collective welfare depends on the fortunes of one business. The vitality of Boulder’s economy is rooted in a variety of industries featuring clusters of related businesses and associated support services.
Correspondingly, the economic vitality work of the Boulder Chamber and Boulder Economic Council is focused on a “whole industry” approach to business support.
We regularly meet with individual business leaders and respond to their specific needs. However, we are most efficient and effective when we facilitate dialog within business sectors to identify common wants and needs. In this way, we can target the top industry-wide concerns for resolution and develop programs that support growth of an entire industry. We find that this approach has the added benefit of building networks of mutual support among our business leaders.
The Colorado Workforce Development Council supports this same whole industry approach through the Next Gen Sector Partnership Community of Practice protocol, an initiative of the Institute for Networked Communities. At its core, the Next Gen model dictates that businesses literally sit at the center of the room in facilitated industry discussions. Supporting community entities, such as economic development, education, and other government support agencies, are relegated to the sidelines, taking notes, and ultimately assisting with the implementation of programs and/or actions that the business leaders determine are best suited to meet their industry needs.
There are many examples of how this model generates tangible outcomes. In recent years, a local healthcare sector partnership, led by the Boulder Chamber, collectively agreed that they were experiencing a shortage of medical assistants (MAs). This determination led to the establishment of a formalized MA apprenticeship program at Front Range Community College which is now celebrating its third year connecting employers with apprentices. Aspiring medical assistants now have a direct path to employment and the healthcare industry has a continuous resource for a high demand skill.
Late last year, local advanced manufacturing companies, through a sector partnership facilitated engagement, identified that their largest challenges lie in the areas of workforce development and supply chain optimization. Following the Next Gen Sector Partnership model, we are now forming action teams to tackle each of these specific challenges with specific ameliorating actions. This work is ongoing and most likely will result in the creation of programs intended to meet the immediate needs of many local manufacturing companies.
As market conditions shift, our local businesses will always be challenged with growing their networks and expanding and re-skilling their employee base. To support these efforts, the Boulder Chamber is committed to continuing our sector partnership facilitation role. Throughout this year, we plan to expand into the information technology, food and beverage and professional services industry sectors.
Additionally, we also will reconvene the health care industry to continue their problem-solving dialogue. Creating conditions that are favorable for industry resilience and growth is economic development at its purest. Whether the solutions take the form of apprenticeships, marketing, political action, or other initiatives that directly support local industry, our sector partnership model has a proven track record of effectively addressing local business challenges.
So, while we will still take those calls from individual business leaders and respond to their specific needs, the Boulder Chamber and BEC are most proud of the connections we are making and the partnerships we are building within our varied industries for collaborative action and mutual support that advances our collective economic vitality.