Someone (really) cares about small businesses and nonprofits

Many agree on the need to support small businesses and nonprofits in Boulder. We all recognize that they are important providers of jobs and services. Many of our small businesses also are the startup enterprises that serve as the dynamic foundation for our innovation ecosystem. And finally, we recognize that they are the places we shop, the restaurants we frequent, and the sources of support for our neighbors and causes that move us. All of this is important, but often less understood is the critical role small businesses and nonprofits play in our economic welfare. Though our larger companies offer a diversity of opportunities and economic value, the Boulder Economic Council’s Market Profile reminds us that small businesses represent the majority of employers in our community. In many instances, too, our locally grown small startup businesses become the larger corporations that balance our economic ecosystem. And with respect to our nonprofits, a recent statewide report illustrated their economic punch, finding that they account for more than 5 percent of the gross product, including more than $4 billion in wages. Given the clear interest we all have in protecting our small business and nonprofit base in Boulder, it’s disappointing that so many recent policy directives are aligning against them. First, due to the unavoidable law of supply and demand, policies that increase the cost and limit the scope of commercial development and re-development will force our small businesses and nonprofits to compete for higher priced office and retail space. I’ve heard some opine that those added costs, in this case from the linkage fee increase, would be negligible — in about the 5 percent range. For small businesses and nonprofits, whose profit margins typically are quite tight, that magnitude of increase could be devastating. Self-imposed limits on commercial space development aside, our small businesses also are suffering from the impacts of enormous increases in property tax liabilities. The compounding effect of a strong economy and limited new commercial development has helped drive an increase of nearly 50 percent in assessed value for commercial property over the past four years. With these taxes trickling directly down into lease rates, it’s no wonder that some of our favorite independent local stores and restaurants have been forced to close. Finally, it’s important to note that small business and nonprofits often bear the greatest brunt from the forces that are impacting Boulder’s access to workforce talent. High housing prices and difficult commutes into Boulder make it difficult for any business to recruit employees to fill open positions. The challenge can be even greater for small businesses and nonprofits that lack the capacity to offer the same salaries and benefit packages of their larger peers. It’s not surprising, therefore, that a recent Jobs Report from the National Federation of Independent Business found that 21 percent of small business owners cited difficulty finding qualified workers as their “single most important business problem.” In the face of all these headwinds, the Boulder Chamber isn’t just talking about its…

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