The Boulder Chamber, after months of listening to and working with business and community leaders in focused conversations, recently announced a major initiative — “Boulder Together” — to help address three persistent and urgent issues: inadequate affordable housing, insufficient transportation options and a dearth of qualified people to meet our workforce needs, across all industries, for today and tomorrow.
In many ways, Boulder Together represents the reassertion of a leadership role for the businesses community that has lied dormant in recent years, but has well-established roots in shaping the community we love. It may seem like a humble beginning, but the cornerstone for founding of the Boulder Chamber entailed a paradigm shift in diversification of our local economy through business community inspired construction of the Boulderado Hotel. Consider further what Boulder would be today without business leaders from the Boulder Chamber stepping forward to purchase the land that facilitated development of the first federal laboratories. These are community shaping legacies, and there are many more to recount, which are arguably every bit as pivotal as open space preservation to shaping our cherished community fabric.
So why do we step forward today as Boulder businesses to reassert our historic leadership position?
While owning a building seems like something every successful business should do, that’s not always the case. For many companies, it makes more sense to continue leasing space, freeing up time and capital that can be better utilized in other ways.
The issues of housing, transportation and workforce readiness have never been more pressing and demand immediate action.
Traditional civic processes, while properly deliberate by nature, are often further handicapped by political divisiveness and limited public funding.
The dynamic, innovative nature of the business world is well-suited to develop programs, systems, and tools that offer immediate relief and long-term solutions.
Stated most succinctly by Gerry Agnes, Elevations Credit Union president and Boulder Chamber Board director, in a recent Daily Camera article on Boulder Together, “This is about figuring out how we marshal the assets of the business community to make a significant impact on . . . (the future of) the community as a whole.”
Aside from the historic legacy of business leadership in our own community, business helping resolve big community needs is not a new concept. Examples abound across the Front Range, such as the Fort Collins business community advancing programs to educate and train the local workforce. The Longmont business community is bringing innovative financing proposals and technical expertise to the table in the drive to expand housing options. And it’s Denver business leaders at the forefront in addressing regional and statewide transportation issues.
And Boulder businesses are already taking initiative on their own. One example is Google’s $41.7 million investment in financing for affordable housing. Other companies are taking action to make work commutes more convenient through the exploration of creative final mile systems that improve transit effectiveness. And in the workforce development arena, one only has to turn to the 2017 Boulder Chamber Innovative Business of the Year, Techtonic Group, and their apprenticeship program that is increasing STEM opportunities outside of the traditional education system.
As business leaders take more responsibility to address the greatest challenges of today through Boulder Together, we won’t be going it alone. In the spirit of the proverb — “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” — we understand that collaboration is the most effective way to develop more effective long-term solutions. That’s why the Boulder Chamber takes such pride in its partnership with the Community Foundation to develop a diverse pool of tomorrow’s leader through the Boulder County Leadership Fellows program. That same spirit was demonstrated in the recent panel the Boulder Chamber sponsored for the CU Conference on World Affairs, titled, “Community Collaboration Across Sectors,” featuring business/nonprofit/public sector examples of cooperative efforts for the common good.
Because of the urgency of the issues we’re highlighting through Boulder Together, the need for solutions is similarly urgent. That is what we, as business leaders, along with our local partners, commit to achieve over the next four years. In many ways, it is the fulfillment of our Boulder Chamber tagline, We Build Community Through Business. Boulder Together, though, is not the exclusive domain of business leaders. Instead, it represents a coupling of the renowned Boulder innovation ecosystem with our culture of collaboration and civic ingenuity to address our most pressing challenges.
We owe it to ourselves and to our community to come together in tackling the challenges of today for a brighter, Boulder future.
John Tayer is president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at (303) 442-1044, ext 110 or firstname.lastname@example.org.