While the national unemployment rate hovers around 8.2 percent, Boulder's unemployment rate has consistently beaten the national average for the past three years. That's not to say that the city hasn't been impacted by the recession. It has, but not to the extent of other cities.
I'd like to say it's because Boulderites are an incredible breed of entrepreneurs, our businesses are savvy, and we saw it coming in time to prepare. But other cities also have great entrepreneurs, and strong businesses.
So what's working for Boulder? It's our focus on the total package.
Boulder is a lifestyle. People want to be here for the recreation, the culture and the opportunity to be a part of something with global impact. The Boulder culture is not about competing with other cities to attract the biggest employers. It's about keeping the businesses we already have, finding the right mix of companies to complement existing businesses and creating a culture of innovation that grows new companies.
Boulder creates and enhances our culture of innovation in several significant ways:
- We enhance quality of life attributes. Boulder's vibrant community depends on careful attention to creating, protecting and sustaining an environment that provides recreational amenities, supports biking and alternative transportation modes, and ensures a high quality of life that attracts and retains a talented pool of creative workers. Boulder has carefully preserved more than 45,000 acres of open space and built an infrastructure that fosters alternative transportation for commuters and access to Colorado's great outdoors. This attention to "Life in Boulder" is a tremendous asset when recruiting businesses and employees who want to take it to the next level.
We provide sponsorship support and active engagement to key industry clusters -- clean tech, natural and organic products, digital media and active living -- all of which have a large number of innovative, small start-up companies as well as mature, larger companies that work together to nurture local growth and success.
The city partners with private and public business-support groups -- the Innovation Center of the Rockies, the Small Business Development Center, Colorado Labs, the University of Colorado, the Boulder Chamber -- to ensure collaborative approaches and problem solving in support of business growth and retention. It's not up to any one organization to create a solution. We collaborate -- the support groups and the companies who call Boulder home. Some of the strongest board rooms are the many coffee shops across the city where entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies brainstorm new innovations and mentor start-ups.
City staff pays attention to the space and amenity needs of fast-growing companies. Boulder is careful to consider how the city's zoning regulations can better respond to the needs of these companies in a manner consistent with other community values. In 2012, the city is conducting a Primary Employer Study and Economic Sustainability Strategy that gathers input from businesses and informs area master plans for future development or redevelopment.
Boulder leads a coordinated and targeted business outreach program. City staff, the Chamber, the Boulder Economic Council and Downtown Boulder meet regularly with the management of Boulder's primary employers to learn about the companies' needs and plans and to work on business retention and coordination of business resources to support these companies.
Boulder's focus on the total package is working because we're not just a job, or just a nice place to live. We're a diverse community focused on business retention, a culture of innovation that attracts entrepreneurs and fully committed to pushing the envelope in business and recreation. It's win-win for residents and employers.