CU, Boulder leaders join college town officials for recovery roundtable

BOULDER — Boulder prides itself on being unique, but the home to the University of Colorado has a lot in common with similarly situated college towns across the country when it comes to bouncing back from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Boulder Chamber leaders joined city officials and University of Colorado economics experts Tuesday for a roundtable discussion on the recovery with counterparts from Ann Arbor, Michigan; Ithaca, New York; and State College, Pennsylvania.

In some ways, college towns such as Boulder had certain advantages during the pandemic, said Richard Wobbekind, executive director of CU’s Leeds Business Research Division and a senior economist at the university.

For example, much of Boulder’s workforce is employed in tech-related industries that allow for a smooth transition to remote work. 

But on the flipside, the shutdown of the campus had an outsized impact on the city and its economy because tens of thousands of students and staff “weren’t in town to be spending money,” Wobbekind said. 

The city, university and business community leaned on one another during the pandemic and presented a “unified face” amid the recovery, Boulder Chamber CEO John Tayer said. 

This collaboration comes as no surprise, given the long history of close ties between CU and the city’s corporate class. 

For as long as both have existed, the business community has benefited from the workforce talent pumped out by CU, while the student and faculty body have found a nurturing environment in Boulder when it comes time to spinoff and scale up. 

During the pandemic, city, chamber and CU leaders were meeting as often as everyday to assess the COVID-19 situation, forecast fiscal impacts and brainstorm solutions. 

“Safety was first,” Boulder assistant city manager Yvette Bowden said of the government’s initial priority.  

“Now we’re moving on from those immediate responses,” and starting to focus more heavily on the long-term recovery process, she said.

“We’re thinking about inclusive recovery,” Bowden said.

Boulder has struggled with inclusivity in the past, particularly when it comes to the housing market, which is often accessible only to the very wealthy.

“It’s difficult to recruit folks if they can’t find homes to rent or buy,” Tayer said.

In order to achieve its inclusive recovery, Boulder must reckon with its housing affordability problems, business and CU officials said.

BOULDER — Boulder prides itself on being unique, but the home to the University of Colorado has a lot in common with similarly situated college towns across the country when it comes to bouncing back from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Boulder Chamber leaders joined city officials and University of Colorado economics experts Tuesday for a roundtable discussion on the recovery with counterparts from Ann Arbor, Michigan; Ithaca, New York; and State College, Pennsylvania.

In some ways, college towns such as Boulder had certain advantages during the pandemic, said Richard Wobbekind, executive director of CU’s Leeds Business Research Division and a senior economist at the university.

For example, much of Boulder’s workforce is employed in tech-related industries that allow for a smooth transition to remote work. 

But on the flipside, the shutdown of the campus had an outsized impact on the city and its economy because tens of thousands of students and staff “weren’t in town to be spending money,” Wobbekind said. 

The city, university and business community leaned on one another during the pandemic and presented a “unified face” amid the recovery, Boulder Chamber CEO John Tayer said. 

This collaboration comes as no surprise, given the long history of close ties between CU and the city’s corporate class. 

For as long as both have existed, the business community has benefited from the workforce talent pumped out by CU, while the student and faculty body have found a nurturing environment in Boulder when it comes time to spinoff and scale up. 

During the pandemic, city, chamber and CU leaders were…