Nonprofits  December 1, 2023

Tayer: Boulder lights its beacon of resilience

“This beacon of hope calling out to each of us to remain hopeful about our future.” – U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse

The Boulder Star is shining brightly above Boulder following the 76th annual lighting of this community treasure. The lighting ceremony followed a traditional pattern, including sincere expressions of gratitude for the military veterans who preserve our freedom, a stirring rendition of the national anthem, thoughtful addresses from elected officials and holiday salutations. [You can watch the full ceremony here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XXEbvNhdNI.]

What made this year’s lighting ceremony particularly special, though, was the premier of “Beacon,” an orchestral tribute to the Boulder Star composed by University of Colorado College of Music professor Jeff Nytch. In speaking about what inspired him in his work on Beacon, Nytch offered that the Boulder Star is the “heart and soul” of Boulder, in that it serves “as not just a celebratory sign, but also a symbol of solidarity and strength in the community.”

As we close out 2023, I say . . . “Let that Boulder Star shine!”

I’ve sensed a bit of mopiness across town this year. After a period of economic and social exuberance that followed the return to an open society from the pandemic lock-down, we’ve had a rude awakening to some new realities. Topping the list for our business leaders: The remote working trends are keeping office vacancy rates high; rising interest rates are suppressing business investment; a sustained deficit in housing is pinching our workforce; and, the seemingly intractable challenge of homelessness creates a dissonance between our instinct to care for those less fortunate and concerns about broader community impacts.

Tayer, John 2022
John Tayer, Boulder Chamber CEO

On a personal note, this year’s election left me concerned about what lies ahead for our democratic institutions. I’m not talking about the outcome or the new ranked-choice voting system (about which my friend, Andrea Meneghel, observed, “If your candidate won, you probably like it.”) Of more consequence for me was a taste of the same puerile and divisive vitriol in our first head-to-head contest for mayor that we experience in other more partisan races. It will force us to remain vigilant against the conditions that are undermining faith in our nation’s democratic institutions. 

Against this backdrop, though, there are the beacons of hope and symbols of this community’s underlying strength. Industry sectors as diverse as aerospace, optics, and biotechnology are frothy with external investment. Boulder is at the center of new frontiers in quantum mechanics and climate science. Our university is attracting record research funding, a harbinger of future innovation and entrepreneurial enterprises.

And let’s not forget the “Coach Prime effect.” Our partners at Visit Boulder estimated that the economic impact of just the first four home football games was a total of $77.8 million. Whatever the final season numbers, the point is that our businesses enjoyed the tremendous benefit of full hotel rooms, packed restaurants, and bustling retail stores. That’s along with $100 million in estimated television exposure for our beautiful town which, undoubtedly, will have longer tail economic benefits. 

Further, as Coach Prime himself notes, we shouldn’t only measure the benefits of his gridiron leadership in economic terms. “I’m seeing more African Americans than I’ve ever seen before sprinkling throughout the stands and the stadium and at restaurants and everything, and I absolutely love it.” I love it, too, and I’m pleased to see so many of our civic and business institutions putting their shoulder to the wheel in our collective efforts to overcome past diversity, equity and inclusivity deficits.

Sure, just like the highs and lows we experienced throughout the Colorado Buffaloes’ football season, the expectation is that our economy is in for a rocky ride over the course of the next year. Yet I’m bullish. With my more appropriate focus on our economic fortunes (though I feel similarly about our football team’s future under Sport Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year, Coach Prime), I observe such positive assets as the strong underlying framework of our diverse economy, new investments in arts and culture, the demonstrated public support for our research university, the determination to implement balanced solutions to homelessness, and the proud stewardship of our beautiful natural environment. That is a recipe for long-term resilience.

So, as we launch from a period of thanksgiving into the holiday season, I urge our business leaders and residents to take solace in the symbol of resilience the Boulder Star represents and the many reasons for hope we have of even brighter days ahead for our economy and community. Happy Holidays!

John Tayer is president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at 303-442-1044, ext. 110 or john.tayer@boulderchamber.com.

John Tayer
John Tayer is president of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce.
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