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Primary Employer Study

Primary Employer Study


The Economic Sustainability Strategy (Phase 2 of the Primary Employer Study) was adopted by City Council at its October 29 meeting. Please see the "Economic Sustainability Strategy" link for the document and "Oct. 29, 2013 Adoption of ESS" link for the memo to Council.

In 2012, city staff, along with the University of Colorado Leeds Business Research Division and the Boulder Economic Council, conducted a primary employer study identifying the issues, trends and needs of Boulder’s primary employers relative to the city’s existing industrial and commercial space.  In Boulder, “primary employers” are defined as companies that receive at least fifty percent of their revenue from outside Boulder County, thus bringing in a significant amount of “new money” into the Boulder economy.

The city realizes how very fortunate it is to have a dynamic and innovative business community. Successful business retention - and the growth of Boulder’s homegrown companies - is a priority for Boulder’s economic sustainability.  As a land constrained community, Boulder needs to be strategic about economic vitality. Some issues related to primary employers’ space, location, and expansion are purely defined by the market.  However, the city can have a direct influence on a number of important areas. 

Click the links on the right to get the complete study results.

The study resulted in the following statistics:

  • Approximately 554 primary employers
  • Estimated 26,059 primary workers
  • 84 percent  of primary employers have between 5 and 50 employees
  • 1,832 total commercial buildings in Boulder

The four key issues identified in the study were:

  • Availability of suitable space for expansion
  • Lack of flexibility in allowed uses
  • High cost of land / cost of doing business
  • Lack of amenities in some areas of the city

The results of the primary employer study were presented to City Council on August 28, 2012. To address the key issues identified by the study, staff recommended developing a “place-based” approach to economic vitality, improving city codes and process, and addressing broader policy issues.

The following next steps were recommended:

1.   Targeted improvements to codes and processes

  • Zoning uses and bulk standards
  • City review processes

2.    Develop a work plan for an Economic Sustainability Strategy

  • Zoning changes (use and bulk standards)
  • Financial tools to catalyze commercial upgrades
  • Area plans, with a focus on infrastructure and amenities
  • Implementation of adopted master plans
  • New incentives/funding to help retain primary employers

Economic Sustainability Strategy

Building on the key issues identified in the Primary Employer Study, an economic sustainability strategy (ESS) was developed by city staff, with input from local business leaders. The strategy will be used to guide the actions, work program, and efforts of the city and its strategic partners related to economic sustainability, and to integrate and inform other city plans and processes. It will help Boulder manage and react to change while maximizing the use of available resources, and to encourage and support the creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship that drive the city economy. The ESS will help direct the city’s economic vitality efforts over the next five to 10 years.

The strategy was adopted by City Council on Oct. 29, 2013. For more information, please click the links to the memo to Council and complete ESS document.