Boulder County’s economy is at an all-time high – but what does that mean and what does the future hold?
This was the vein of discussion at the recent Boulder Economic Summit held on May 17, which featured a prominent line-up of speakers and panelists, and drew a rapt audience of top business, civic, and community leaders in Boulder County.
This signature event presented by the Boulder Economic Council entitled “Peak Economy?” was held in CU-Boulder’s Glenn Miller Ballroom. The summit reviewed the current boom in the Boulder economy from multiple perspectives and questioned how long the expansion can last as well as what the opportunities, challenges, and consequences are.
It also spotlighted fundamental questions about the vision and identity of Boulder, centrally, what kind of business climate and community are we shaping for the future?
The summit was kicked off with an introduction by Executive Director of the Boulder Economic Council, Clif Harald; President & CEO of the Boulder Chamber, John Tayer; and Senior Manager at Macerich, Kim Campbell, who welcomed the attendees, thanked sponsors, and introduced University of Colorado Boulder Chancellor Dr. Philip DiStefano as the opening speaker.
Dr. DiStefano discussed CU-Boulder’s role as a pipeline of talent and major employer in the local economy. As with the Boulder economy, CU-Boulder is booming. This year, CU-Boulder received a record number of applications – 34,000 – only 6,400 of which were accepted. The school’s goal to have strong academics and diversify the campus as well as to become a leading public school for entrepreneurship is on track. There has also been a huge increase in graduates in the area of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), which is a fast-growing sector of the Boulder and national economy. The school was also able to fix tuition for residents for four years, an accomplishment no other college in the country can claim.
A highlight of the summit, keynote speaker and Associate Director of the Business Research Division of CU-Boulder’s Leeds School of Business, Brian Lewandowski, addressed historical national business cycles of growth and recession starting post-WWII until today. He said that according to key indicators, there is no prediction of negative growth in the economy, but rather slow positive growth, and that Colorado – and Boulder – are outperforming the nation post-Great Recession in every metric. Click here for his presentation.
The panel which followed, “Boom! Expansions, Acquisitions, and Investments,” focused on the stories behind the recent growth and acquisitions of leading-edge Boulder businesses including speakers Chris Moody, Twitter; Darren Dasburg, AstraZeneca/MedImmune; Derek Kraus, NetApp/SolidFire; and Scott Reardon, Zayo Group – and why these companies chose to stay in Boulder County.
Afterwards, lively and research-driven break-out sessions with four panels examined crucial economic areas:
Breakout 1: Where’s the money/financing?
Moderated by Kim Campbell, Macerich
Gretchen Wahl, First National Denver
Ceyl Prinster, Colorado Enterprise Fund
Peter Adams, Rockies Venture Club
Steve Hughes, Sunrise Strategic Partners LLC
Danielle Osler, Senator Bennett’s Office
Breakout 2: Where’s the commercial space?
Moderated by Liz Hanson, City of Boulder
Jeff Wingert, The W.W. Reynolds Companies
Becky Callan Gamble, Dean Callan & Company, Inc.
Jason Kruse, The Colorado Group
Breakout 3: Where’s the talent in full employment?
Moderated by Kendra Prospero, Turning the Corner LLC
Lisa Lovett, CU-Boulder
Andy Dorsey, Front Range Community College
Nora Rossman, Celestial Seasonings
Angie Lull, Boulder Medical Center
Breakout 4: Where’s the housing?
Moderated by Stephanie Iannone, Housing Helpers
D.B. Wilson, RE/MAX of Boulder
Blake Schaefer, Elevations Credit Union
Betsy Martens, Boulder Housing Partners
Leslie Durgin, Boulder Chamber
Wrapping up the morning, the closing plenary session entitled “Does Growth Pay Its Own Way?” was a provocative and riveting discussion about the economic costs and benefits of expanding business development in the city. With a diverse exchange of viewpoints, panelists exposed the complexities of balancing the benefits and impacts of growth in a sustainable and thoughtful way. They also asked how Boulder as a community can leverage the creativity and innovation it is known for to design and direct the city’s future.
Closing Plenary: Does Growth Pay Its Own Way?
Danica Powell, Trestle Strategy Group
Susan Richstone, City of Boulder
Overall the Boulder Economic Summit is a pivotal event, which brings together leaders from all sectors of Boulder’s community to consider crucial economic issues and envision a collaborative approach to advancing Boulder’s economic prospects.
Learn more at:
Boulder Economic Council: http://bouldereconomiccouncil.org/about-the-bec/
Boulder Chamber of Commerce: http://boulderchamber.com/