Boulder: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

The predominant industries in the Boulder are science and technology related. Helped out by the research activity at the University of Colorado at Boulder, a large high-technology, electronic, and aerospace industry has developed in and around the city. The phenomenal growth of these industries attracted the establishment of defense contractors, applied and pure research centers, and satellite and communications companies, which bring millions of dollars into the local economy each year.

The technology boom has filtered down into other Boulder industries, increasing the city's manufacturing and retail base. Education, health care, and government are also important sectors of the Boulder economy.

Items and goods produced: electronic devices, space hardware, recreational equipment, natural and organic food products

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

Local programs

In an effort to reverse a downward economic trend early in the twenty-first century, the City of Boulder established an Economic Vitality Program in 2003. Guided by the Economic Vitality Advisory Board, the program's primary purpose is to attract new businesses and retain and expand existing businesses. Among the challenges it faces are Boulder's high facility costs, limited space for expansion, and poor condition of many older buildings. As a remedy, the program will apply industry-cluster initiatives—partnerships between businesses, government agencies, and research institutions involved in similar industries—to foster innovation and efficiency. The city's current clusters include software, bioscience, creative services, natural and organic food, and sustainable technologies.

The Economic Vitality Program also strives to make the local retail environment more attractive to Boulder's residents. The early 2000s brought the demise of the city's Crossroad Mall, due in large part to the opening of other shopping establishments in nearby communities. While retail sales for the larger region steadily increased, Boulder was losing $54 million each year in general merchandise sales from its residents, not to mention sales from shoppers visiting from other communities. To staunch the flow, the program intends to import the stores that are attracting Boulder's shoppers and to increase the number of unique shops that define the Boulder experience.

The program will also address other issues that hinder development in Boulder, including inconsistent, overly restrictive, and overly lengthy zoning and planning policies and procedures. A lack of available space is a barrier both for companies interested in establishing large complexes in the city as well as those seeking to expand their existing facilities, and may be remedied by a loosening of the city's restriction on building height. Transportation difficulties, particularly the limited parking availability, will also be considered.

Additionally, Boulder's Small Business Development Center provides valuable assistance to new and established small businesses. It offers three types of support: counseling, short- and long-term training, and access to such resources as market data, financing, and competitive information.

State programs

The Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade offers several types of incentives to attract and retain businesses. Its Infrastructure Assistance Program is designed to create new jobs, mainly in the low- and moderate-income ranges, in certain cities and counties within the state. Other business incentives include enterprise zone tax credits, local property tax incentives, and manufacturing revenue bonds.

Job training programs

The Small Business Development Center of Boulder provides both short- and long-term employee training to businesses seeking to expand or relocate to the area. Front Range Community College, through its Center for Workforce Development, offers a variety of training programs for both employer and employee. The Colorado Community College System has joined with the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade to administer Colorado FIRST/Existing Industry Customized Training Programs. These programs, which received $2.7 million in funding in 2004, are designed to fund employee training for transferable job skills to benefit the company's competitive strength as well as the employee's long-term employment opportunities.

Development Projects

The Economic Vitality Program that was established in 2003 has several specific development initiatives. Among them is the development of the Boulder Transit Village, an 11.2-acre site that will combine transit service, including commuter rail, with residential and commercial space. The first phase of the project is scheduled to begin in 2006, and rail service is expected within 10 years. A second project is Twenty Ninth Street, an 850,000-square-foot shopping complex built on the site of the former Crossroads Mall. This mall, expected to open in 2006, will be an open-air shopping and entertainment venue anchored by Foley's, a 16-screen cinema, and The Home Depot.

Boulder has a number of other development projects in progress or recently completed. The first phase of the One Boulder Plaza project, a combination of residential, office, and retail space, began in 2001, and the final phase began in the summer of 2004. The Northwest Parkway, a toll road linking Boulder to the Denver International Airport, opened in November 2003 after a decade of planning and a total investment of $190 million. The St. Julien Hotel & Spa, featuring 200 guest rooms and a 10,000-square-foot spa and fitness center, opened its doors in February 2005. Restoration of the Sunrise Circle Amphitheater on Flagstaff Mountain, originally built in 1933, will be completed in the spring of 2005. A $2.1 million expansion to the Boulder County Jail is expected to be completed in April 2005, while the construction of a $1.9 million detoxification center is expected to break ground later that year.

Economic Development Information: Boulder Chamber of Commerce, 2440 Pearl St., Boulder, CO 80302; telephone (303)442-1044; fax (303)938-8837; email info@boulder Economic Vitality Program, City of Boulder, PO Box 79, Boulder, CO 80306; telephone (303)441-3090

Commercial Shipping

Commercial air shipping is available from a number of carriers at Denver International Airport (DIA). Approximately 400,000 tons of U.S. cargo pass through the airport each year. DIA is a hub for United Airlines, which handles 500,000 pounds of freight and mail each day. Commercial cargo carriers include FedEx, UPS, DHL, and Airborne, though nearly half of DIA's air cargo is handled by passenger carriers. In 2004 the airport's cargo facilities completed an expansion, adding 288,000 square feet of space. The airport is the site of Foreign Trade Zone #123, as well as areas for U.S. Customs and Department of Agriculture clearance. Approximately 50 freight forwarders and customs brokers also serve in the area. Freight rail service from two major transcontinental railways is also available; more than one dozen motor freight carriers maintain facilities in Boulder.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Boulder business managers and owners cite a high quality of life and a talented work base among the advantages of doing business in Boulder. The workforce is educated well above the national average, as 66.9 percent of Boulder residents had received a bachelor's degree or higher degree in 2000, compared with 24.4 percent in the U.S. as a whole. The university and the many technology- and research-oriented companies draw a large number of college graduates and professionals into the labor market.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Boulder metropolitan area labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of non-agricultural labor force: 157,600

Number of workers employed in . . .

construction and mining: 6,500

manufacturing: 18,900

trade, transportation and utilities: 22,400

information: 9,300

financial activities: 7,600

professional and business services: 27,000

educational and health services: 16,400

leisure and hospitality: 15,800

other services: 4,900

government: 28,700

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $16.46 (annual statewide average)

Unemployment rate: 4.8% (January 2005)

Boulder: Economy

Largest county employers (2003) Number of employees
University of Colorado at Boulder 7,500
IBM Corp. 4,800
Boulder Valley School District 4,200
Sun Microsystems Inc. 3,200
Storage Technology Corp. 2,735
St. Vrain School District 2,400
Ball Corp. 2,250
Boulder Community Hospital 2,102
Electronic Data Systems Corp. 2,000
Level 3 Communications Inc. 1,900

Cost of Living

Boulder's cost of living is higher than in neighboring communities. According to the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, in 2001 the average price for a single family home in the city of Boulder was $472,169, compared with $343,000 in Boulder County overall. That same year, the average cost for a condo or townhome was $214,148 in the city and $183,722 in the county.

The following is a summary of data regarding key cost of living factors for the Boulder area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $311,194 (Denver metro)

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 104.8 (Denver metro) (U.S. average = 100.0)

State income tax rate: 4.75%

State sales tax rate: 2.9%

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: 4.61%

Property tax rate: $10.005 per $1,000 of assessed value (2004)

Economic Information: Boulder Chamber of Commerce, 2440 Pearl St., Boulder, CO 80302; telephone (303)442-1044; fax (303)938-8837; email