The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crises dominated virtually all aspects of life in 2020, and the virus’ impacts continue to feature heavily in 2021 as the Boulder Chamber puts forth its list of priorities in advance of the Boulder City Council’s annual retreat on Saturday.
While the emergence of a vaccine has brightened the prospects for many industries as the page is turned on 2020, the coronavirus continues casting its shadow on the Boulder business community. The chamber solicited direct input from 500 local stakeholders and conducted 50 focus groups to compile its 2021 priorities, which were communicated to Boulder municipal officials last week in the form of a letter signed by chamber leaders John Tayer, Lori Call and Andrea Meneghel.
The letter breaks those recommendations into the following subcategories:
- Small business assistance: Small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs have proven to be particularly vulnerable during the pandemic, the chamber wrote. “We urge you to prioritize financial assistance and resources that address the immediate needs of our small businesses and their employees.”
- Workforce support services: Like small businesses, lower wage workers and underrepresented populations were impacted disproportionately by COVID-19. “The workers staffing our restaurants, shops, and lodging venues were first in the unemployment lines, and their employers continue to struggle with reduced capacities,” the chamber said. “We urge City Council to support workforce development programming that helps align displaced employees with opportunities in other thriving industries.
- Community infrastructure: The pandemic “highlight[s] inadequate infrastructure conditions that have festered for far too long,” according to chamber. Because so many people have shifted to working from home, high-speed internet has become essential. “Without this access, vulnerable members of our community will fall farther behind. We, therefore, urge the city of Boulder to work with us in advancing public-private partnerships that expedite this critical infrastructure investment and secure low-cost, high-speed options for residents and businesses alike,” the chamber said. Additionally, the chamber is calling upon Boulder leaders to work with the private sector to secure “funding to complete mobility improvements for the Diagonal Highway and Colorado Highway 7.”
- Flexibility: Despite signs of hope, “there still is a great deal of uncertainty about the conditions our businesses will face in the ensuing months and years,” chamber leaders wrote. The city can reduce uncertainty for developers by streamlining the regulatory review and permitting processes. The city’s “exhaustive and inflexible regulatory permitting process precludes the creative, innovative solutions needed to meet an evolving economic landscape. Boulder’s extensive review and permitting processes also increase project costs.” The chamber argues that “streamlining efforts will address an unnecessary financial burden that can be the difference between business survival and closed doors.”
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