Economy & Economic Development  January 18, 2024

Polis urges state, local cooperation in State of State address at Boulder Chamber

BOULDER — Solving Colorado’s pressing problems, be they social or economic, requires increased collaboration between state leaders and their colleagues in local government and the businesses sector, Gov. Jared Polis stressed Wednesday when he gave a State of the State address at the Boulder Chamber. 

“As business and community leaders, your voices are very important in this,” he said. The broad focus of the administration in the new year is “moving forward not with what’s easy but with what’s hard. We want to help make sure that the climate to live and work and thrive in our state is better as we approach our 150th birthday.”

Here’s what Polis had to say about a few issues that are top of mind for many in the business community:

Workforce and labor

The workforce imbalance in Colorado, Polis said, isn’t typically related to a lack of jobs, but rather it’s a function of a lack of workers to fill existing job vacancies.

State and local officials, and their partners in the education and business sectors, must do a better job “making sure Coloradans have the tools and resources they need to fill in-demand jobs,” he said. “There are 1.8 job openings for every unemployed Coloradan, but that doesn’t mean that every unemployed Coloradan has the skills to get one of those open jobs. How do you bridge that gap?”

As part of this effort, the administration is “looking to expand the number of apprenticeships across the entire state,” Polis said. The focus will be on “really making sure that apprenticeship opportunities are available for people of all ages,” but especially for students and young workers.

Housing

Part of the reason why it’s difficult for businesses to fill job vacancies is that Colorado has a chronic housing availability and affordability problem. 

Polis attempted to address a major element in the housing-cost formula — property taxes — last year with Proposition HH, a tax-relief scheme that proved to be unpopular with voters in November 2023. 

“While we ultimately weren’t successful with a lot of the housing work last year, we’re a strong advocate … of meeting the housing needs of the businesses and residents of our state,” he said. 

Ideally, he said, Colorado could find a way to simultaneously improve its housing-affordability and commercial-vacancy problems.

“The obvious thing that we all know is that we have an undersupply of residential and oversupply of commercial. To the extent that we can redesignate commercial as residential, that’s a very good thing. But we can’t do that every time, and we can’t do it everywhere.”

While this concept has proven difficult to achieve across the nation, Polis’s administration does have plans to implement a tax credit program for property owners who convert their buildings. He encouraged local officials to explore methods of incentivizing conversions.

Housing affordability and homelessness are intrinsically linked, he said. 

“The statewide attention to the homelessness issue, which we are focused on, is on increasing the supply of housing,” Polis said. “… There’s a direct correlation between cities with high homeless rates and high costs. In cities where housing is more affordable, guess what, there are fewer people who are homeless.”

For those experiencing homelessness, the state hopes to improve collaboration with local governments and nonprofit groups to help provide more substance-abuse and mental-health support, he said. 

Transit 

As housing areas like Boulder increase, more workers are forced to live farther away, creating stress on the transportation system and making it more difficult to fill job vacancies.

Polis said a dual-approach to transit issues is necessary to make a dent. 

On one hand, the state needs more and better regional transportation options, such as passenger rail. 

The estimate that it will take until 2040 for a commuter-rail network between Boulder County and Denver to be in place “is unacceptable,” he said.

On the other hand, cities need to do a better job with land-use and planning efforts to ensure that development is guided in such a way as to encourage connectivity through a variety of modes of transportation for residents and workers.  

“Transit-oriented and connected communities can really create a better future for our state with reduced traffic, increased livability and reduced cost.”

BOULDER — Solving Colorado’s pressing problems, be they social or economic, requires increased collaboration between state leaders and their colleagues in local government and the businesses sector, Gov. Jared Polis stressed Wednesday when he gave a State of the State address at the Boulder Chamber. 

“As business and community leaders, your voices are very important in this,” he said. The broad focus of the administration in the new year is “moving forward not with what’s easy but with what’s hard. We want to help make sure that the climate to live and work and thrive in our state is better as…

Lucas High
A Maryland native, Lucas has worked at news agencies from Wyoming to South Carolina before putting roots down in Colorado.
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