The Jan. 21, 2020 Information Item: Report on City of Boulder Small Business Support memorandum outlined the current assistance offered to businesses through the city's Community Vitality Department and its partners, challenges impacting small businesses, and areas where more can be done to support small, local businesses including nonprofits and women- and minority-owned businesses.

Excerpt from the Report on City of Boulder Small Business Support

As the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan (BVCP) provides, the city seeks to maintain a local environment conducive to the success and sustainability of businesses balanced by the needs and interests of the broader community of residents, workers and visitors.

Boulder is nationally recognized as an innovation and startup hub, and enjoys a robust local economy supported by the University of Colorado, federal labs, a well-educated and highly skilled workforce, and businesses representing a wide range of industries. An economically vital community where all residents and businesses can access and benefit from a healthy and sustainable economy that is innovative, diverse and collaborative is an essential component of the city’s Sustainability and Resilience Framework. The presence of a diverse mix of businesses contributes to the strength of the local economy and quality of life.

To support local economic vitality and address the needs of Boulder’s businesses, including small businesses and nonprofits, the Community Vitality Department establishes, leads and monitors the performance of initiatives that address economic challenges and opportunities. While other departments service and regularly interact with the Boulder business community, it remains Community Vitality’s role to provide direct services related to economic vitality and to fund and manage relationships with city partner organizations directly related to the success and sustainability of the local business community. Referenced collaborative partnerships expand the City of Boulder’s own reach while minimizing duplication of efforts in supporting businesses and, to name a few, include:

  • Financial support (rebates, loans and grants);
  • Information about the local business environment, including market and economic data;
  • Responses to questions, concerns and requests for assistance;
  • Workshops on a variety of business topics and consulting with industry experts; and
  • Workforce development programs.

While economic development and/or economic vitality services are relatively commonplace among municipalities in Colorado and throughout the country, Boulder’s economic vitality programs place less emphasis on attracting new businesses, and greater focus on retaining existing businesses and supporting startups.

Last year, programs and services provided by Community Vitality and the city’s economic vitality partners benefited more than 1,800 businesses, more than 80% of which were local small businesses or startups.

During a prior period of steady sales tax growth and relatively little loss of small and local businesses, Community Vitality Department funding allocated for Boulder’s core business support programs remained relatively flat with no significant program enhancements. Current funding also provides for 2.5 full-time employees (FTEs) in the department (only one of whom has economic vitality business support as a sole function) aided by the partial support of several other department staff otherwise responsible for special district management and department leadership/administration.