Economy & Economic Development  January 8, 2024

Tayer: Taking on headwinds

BOULDER — I was playing disc golf with a friend the other day — a favorite pastime, not typically enjoyed over the winter holiday break — when we joked about blaming every poor shot on the strong “headwind,” even if there were other factors at play. I tended to use the excuse most frequently when missing a makeable putt, knowing that overcoming the challenging headwind was really a factor of my failure to line-up the shot and release a determined throw at the basket chains.

Therein lies an analogy to our work on behalf of business and community interests at the Boulder Chamber: In the face of headwinds, determine your best shot and make a resolute throw toward your target. Here are a few examples:



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It doesn’t take long for just about every conversation regarding the state of affairs in Boulder to land on concerns about the homeless population in our community. There is always a genuine interest in helping those who find themselves without a place to call home, coupled with fears about personal safety and criminal activity. When conversation turns to solutions amidst the complexity of challenges, though, the headwinds often feel paralyzing. Choosing to take action, Boulder Chamber spelled-out its proposed best shot in the Homeless Solutions Policy Framework. The framework balances enforcement and support services, with an ultimate focus on permanent housing options. Since there may not be a single perfect recipe for success to such a complex challenge, we will always be open to evidence of a better direction.

Yet, we are resolute in our steps forward. We called for a day-services center, and we now stand in support of Boulder’s partnership with the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless to provide that facility. At the same time, the Boulder Chamber is making its own investment in additional staffing resources to address business concerns in this area with the policy framework as our target.

Office vacancy

With office vacancy rates in certain areas of town hovering at 30%, and predictions that those numbers may run higher with the termination of sublease arrangements, we need to act now to stand against these headwinds. 

It matters because so much of what makes Boulder special depends on the inflow of workers who traditionally filled those empty offices. They keep our beloved restaurants and retailers humming, and they fill the tax coffers that fund our prized community amenities.

It will take creativity and collaboration in responding to a challenge that is new to a generation more accustomed to the competitive tussle for open office space. The Boulder Chamber will be working with the Boulder Planning Department to secure greater flexibility in building uses. What was once a large office might find more tenants interested in smaller units, serve as co-working space or may be conducive to a housing retrofit. 

Rising commercial property tax rates, which impact the rents our businesses pay and are a barrier to closing lease deals, will also be in our crosshairs. 

I am certain additional creative solutions will arise from our direct conversation with commercial property owners and local businesses, and we intend to seek priority attention to them in the 2024 Boulder City Council agenda.

Workforce mobility

One of the lasting impacts of COVID has been increased traffic congestion. A combination of various factors, including reduced RTD service and disrupted work schedules, may be responsible for these headwinds. It’s a trend we need to tackle because, as one restaurant owner noted, his employees drive past many other restaurants and businesses looking for employees before they ever get to Boulder. He will lose those employees if their commute doesn’t improve.

With Boulder Transportation Connections, Boulder’s independent local and regional transportation organization, housed at the Boulder Chamber, we’re taking our shot at targeted solutions to these mobility challenges. 

As one example, BTC spearheaded a partnership with RTD, Boulder County and the city of Boulder that will pilot a new on-demand shuttle service for Gunbarrel, providing a convenient connection from regional bus service to local businesses.

We’re also proud that our advocacy has contributed to critical funding for improvements along the Diagonal Highway. 

Yes, the headwinds can be rough, but … let’s line up our best shots and send them flying toward our target, and positive outcomes, in 2024!

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
John Tayer is president of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce.
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