I read today in the Daily Camera that the City of Boulder is considering offering incentives to businesses to get them to stay here. The article cited a few businesses that have left town in recent years: Leopard Communications, Noodles & Co., GE Access, etc. Many of these businesses were founded right here in Boulder, but they no longer call it home. It also cites businesses who have moved in to Boulder, or will be in the near future.
This talk of incentives is encouraging. I’m sure there are many in Boulder who don’t like the idea. They want business to “pay its own way”, paying for the external development needs that are needed to support their business, and the community that surrounds them. As much as that would be ideal, the facts are it’s just cheaper to operate elsewhere, and if businesses don’t see that the city is trying to “sweeten the deal”, and they see that other cities will, they’re going to move to the more attractive locale. That’s just reality. It’s not fair, but what is in this world? Fairness is something that we can strive for, but let’s not let some abstract notion of fairness be the enemy of the greater good. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing either, just a compromise. The article is right that there are amenities in Boulder that can’t be found in other parts of the state. It can use that uniqueness to its advantage. Boulder may not feel comfortable offering all the incentives that other cities do (I’m not saying it has to implement them all), but it needs to recognize it needs a good tax base as well in order to fund its operations. If people can live and work here, they’re more likely to shop here–that is, if they can find what they’re shopping for–increasing the city’s sales tax revenue.
Boulder can only do so much, because it has effectively constrained its own growth, due to the green belts that surround the city. Even if it were to offer irresistable incentives, Boulder would not experience the same kind of economic growth that surrounding cities have been experiencing over the past year. There just isn’t enough land for everybody, unless by some miracle Boulder were to suddenly moderate its fear of sprawl. The planned “transit center” may be what’s ultimately needed to really grow the economy here, since it could create a multiplier effect–bringing in more consumers from outside the city.
I look forward to seeing what the City will offer, and see what effect it has on stemming the “exodus” of business.