Scott J. Sternberg
Executive Director, Boulder Economic Council
At the time you read this, I will have departed the Boulder Chamber and leadership of its Boulder Economic Council (BEC) to join CU Boulder’s CUbit Quantum Initiative. While it’s difficult to leave a position that I’ve enjoyed immensely over the past three years, my transition gives me an opportunity to reflect on some common characterizations of Boulder’s unique economic ecosystem.
“The Boulder Bubble”
I most often hear this from fellow economic developers when working outside the city limits. I am quick to correct them. Yes, we’re surrounded by a ring of open space, but we also have a 55-foot building height restriction. That means you can best describe Boulder as a cylinder, versus a sphere, which a bubble connotes. Cheeky perhaps, but my point is that our productivity and global reputation far exceeds the volume we occupy. At the same time, we recognize that our success is tied to greater regional economic forces, that include public policy and business partnerships. That is why we will always resist the notion of Boulder as an isolated bubble.
“Boulder has always been incrementally more expensive”
During our routine business outreach encounters, we often hear about the cost of doing business here in Boulder. Those sentiments imply a risk of losing more cost-conscious businesses and a threat to the runways for our startup enterprises. While an issue I know the Boulder Chamber will always work to address, others recognize the extra expense of doing business in Boulder as a worthy investment in their success. They are here to gain access to ideas, talent, culture, experience, and sage advice. Our businesses often see high returns on this investment, especially when time-to-market is paramount.
“I obtained my first house in Boulder the old-fashioned way, I inherited it”
Blame our current housing crunch on the baby-boomers, as demographics suggest, for occupying homes that might better serve growing families and resisting additional development. There is no question that workforce housing is something that demands local and state-wide attention. Still, my Boulder Chamber colleagues and I are encouraged by the responsiveness to our advocacy for a local focus on mixed use development, attainable housing projects and a concerted effort to take a holistic approach to our sub-community redevelopments, including multi-modal transportation investments. I see a bright future where live-work-play communities generate both cultural and climate benefits.
“I came to Boulder X-many years ago and never left”
Whether to ski, climb, hike, bike or to catch a Grateful Dead show, we all have our stories about what first attracted us here. Or, in the event it was a job or education opportunity that first exposed you to Boulder, we all have our reasons for never leaving. For many of us, it’s the quality of life. In my role at the Boulder Chamber, I found my focus on Boulder’s active and vibrant community characteristics was a more compelling economic development tool than monetary incentives. Nearly every CEO or site manager will confirm that our environs are the basis for their workforce recruitment and retention strategies.
CU Boulder has always contributed to the character of Boulder and it’s an enormous point of pride that we’re recognized nationally for the strong “town and gown” relations we’ve nourished. As the next year will see the seating of a new CU Boulder Chancellor, inevitably the Boulder Chamber and our business community stakeholders will be engaged in conversations about the university’s future direction. A strong future for CU Boulder likely will entail accommodating an increase in enrollment accompanied by growth in research funding that drives so many positive economic benefits. As the keystone to Boulder’s economic ecosystem, I look to leadership across campus and the community to focus on keeping CU Boulder “Coming!”
“We Build Community Through Business”
I end with the tagline of the Boulder Chamber. It is a phrase I’ve repeated throughout my tenure. I truly believe that Boulder benefits from both a strong economy and the perspective of our business leadership. I’ve witnessed countless situations where the business community’s passion, ownership, commitment, and experience have coalesced in support of the greater good. Sometimes it’s part of a protracted process that is the hallmark of Boulder’s effort to get things right. I welcome that character of public debate but urge you to always invite the business community perspective to the table in support of the best results for our community.
I close by offering my thanks for the opportunity to have served this community in support of our collective economic vitality through my work with the Boulder Chamber and our Boulder Economic Council. Whatever they have to say about us, Boulder is an amazing community with a bright future ahead of it. You can quote me on that!