Whither professional services?

Boulder and surrounding communities always seem to bounce back from economic setbacks. A diversified economy means that even as one sector might contract, others might expand. And the region has seen waves of Big Tech companies emerge to snap up vacant space or build new facilities. (Think Google, Twitter, Apple, Microsoft, et al.)

But several recent losses point to the need to avoid complacency, especially in the critical professional services industry, which includes law firms, accounting firms, architecture and other disciplines.

Here are some of the losses over the past year:

• OZ Architecture, which had long maintained a Boulder office and one of whose founders contributed to design of the iconic Pearl Street Mall, has consolidated its offices in Denver, vacating its former space at 2206 Pearl St. The consolidation was spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, a spokeswoman told BizWest.

• Crispin Porter + Bogusky, a Boulder-born advertising agency that provided marketing for some of the world’s leading brands, vacated its headquarters in Boulder’s Gunbarrel neighborhood and relocated to Denver’s Lower Downtown.

“There are lots of great memories and 14 years of CPB history in Boulder, but our future lies in Denver,” CP+B managing director Ryan Skubic said in a statement provided to BizWest in January.

• Cooley LLP, a law firm focused on intellectual property that long maintained its Colorado office in Broomfield’s Interlocken business park, announced in April 2020 that it would move the office to downtown Denver. Cooley’s more than 40 local attorneys and more than 50 staff members have since made the move.

“The location will support the firm’s future growth and provide greater opportunities to collaborate with clients,” the company said at the time.

Professional scientific and technical services contributed 17.1% of all jobs in Boulder County as of the fourth quarter of 2020, according to the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages Program at the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. The county had 4,766 employers from that sector. The average annual wage for the sector was $149,864, with 30,798 jobs.

The 2021 Colorado Business Economic Outlook, prepared by the University of Colorado Boulder Leeds School of Business, expressed optimism about the Professional and Business Services sector:

“The sector continues to be a strength within the Colorado economy — it is the largest private sector, with 20% of total employment,” the report noted. “The highly skilled and highly educated workforce has allowed the sector’s employees to quickly adapt to remote work, mitigating the pandemic’s impact. In 2021, a continued pandemic could dampen business services demand and staffing, which could influence employment, but Colorado’s position as one of the most innovative, educated, and entrepreneurial states bodes well for continued growth in the sector.”

But while remote work has helped sustain the sector, it also has contributed to some consolidation away from Boulder and Broomfield counties. Employees working remotely helped drive the decision to consolidate OZ Architecture’s offices in Denver, the spokeswoman told BizWest.

That also means that some of the effects of consolidation in Denver might be mitigated. Some OZ employees continue to live in Boulder, for example, so their salaries will continue to benefit the Boulder Valley economy.

Christopher Wood can be reached at 303-630-1942, 970-232-3133 or cwood@bizwest.com.

Boulder and surrounding communities always seem to bounce back from economic setbacks. A diversified economy means that even as one sector might contract, others might expand. And the region has seen waves of Big Tech companies emerge to snap up vacant space or build new facilities. (Think Google, Twitter, Apple, Microsoft, et al.)

But several recent losses point to the need to avoid complacency, especially in the critical professional services industry, which includes law firms, accounting firms, architecture and other disciplines.

Here are some of the losses over the past year:

• OZ Architecture, which had long maintained a Boulder office and one of whose founders contributed to design of the iconic Pearl Street Mall, has consolidated its offices in Denver, vacating its former space at 2206 Pearl St. The consolidation was spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, a spokeswoman told BizWest.

• Crispin Porter + Bogusky, a Boulder-born advertising agency that provided marketing for some of the world’s leading brands, vacated its headquarters in Boulder’s Gunbarrel neighborhood and relocated to Denver’s Lower Downtown.

“There are lots of great memories and 14 years of CPB history in Boulder, but our future lies in Denver,” CP+B managing director Ryan Skubic said in a statement provided to BizWest in January.

• Cooley LLP, a law firm focused on intellectual property that long maintained its Colorado office in Broomfield’s Interlocken business park, announced in April 2020 that it would move the office to downtown Denver. Cooley’s more than 40 local attorneys and more than 50 staff members have since made…