The Chamber View: Big news for Colorado — big ties to Boulder

Scott Sternberg

Scott J. Sternberg
Executive Director, Boulder Economic Council

As executive director of the Boulder Economic Council, you’ll often hear me highlight the success of local businesses and research activities in terms of rewarding local job opportunities, higher sales tax returns and the pride of global attention on our life-enhancing breakthroughs. But there’s a broader story to tell about the scope of Boulder’s economic impact.

That wider impact has become even more apparent in recent months as we join with our statewide partners in pursuit of large state and federal economic programs and grants. Invariably, Boulder stands at the epicenter of our most promising proposals. The following are just a few examples to illustrate my point:

As long-standing members of the Colorado Space Coalition, we are grateful for the tireless teamwork put forth to re-establish the U.S. Space Command in Colorado Springs. Featured in this successful advocacy effort was Boulder’s position as an aerospace hub with an aerospace workforce that is 16 times denser than the national average. The ongoing efforts to maintain ties between our local aerospace businesses and other statewide industry leaders helped convey an attractive collaborative environment for the U.S. Space Command.

It was about a year ago that Congress passed the CHIPS and Science Act for the stated purpose of “advancing U.S. competitiveness through investments that accelerate the development of key technologies and address pressing societal and economic challenges.” The catalyst for achieving these objectives are federal grant opportunities titled “NSF Engines.” Once again, the same characteristics of Colorado’s aerospace industry helped the Pikes Peak region garner an NSF Engines development award for the Catalyst Campus for Technology and Innovation, an initiative that will further advance communication, big data and cybersecurity technologies.

More recently, the Rocky Mountain Innovation Initiative (dba Innosphere Ventures) was selected as one of 16 finalists in the NSF Regional Innovation Engines program. The proposal, titled “Scaling the Regional, Technology-Driven, Innovation Ecosystem in Climate Solutions and Community Resiliency in Colorado and Wyoming,” now moves to the next phase of consideration. With a long list of regional partners, including the city of Boulder, University of Colorado and many of our local federal research laboratories, this proposal represents a confluence of world-class science and practical approaches to affect change with pivotal ties to Boulder.

In May of this year, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) released a Notice of Funding Opportunity for Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs (aka Tech Hubs). The Tech Hubs program strives to leverage existing resources within a region to “drive technology- and innovation-centric growth and to catalyze the creation of good jobs for American workers.” With the submission deadline fast approaching, I can assure you that Colorado will put its best collaborative foot forward with a strong proposal, steeped in Colorado know-how and based on a long history of Boulder scientific breakthroughs and business development.

In total, the aforementioned funding and programmatic opportunities could bring hundreds of millions of dollars into our state with the potential for billions of dollars in economic impact. Contributing strongly to these efforts is Boulder’s amazing array of fundamental and “use-inspired” research, business savvy, entrepreneurial spirit and strong commitment to societal issues. In the upcoming months we will learn how our proposals fared and hope for some more big news for Colorado with big ties to Boulder.

Scott Sternberg is the executive director of the Boulder Economic Council and associate vice president for economic vitality.

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