As we approach the summit, we wanted to revisit the resilience sectors from the 2016 BoCo Strong Resilience Assessment. Looking at the qualities of resilience as well as the actions that we’re already taking in Boulder County helps to ground our conversations about the present and inspire our goals for the future.
The economic system is resilient when there is a diversified base of industries not overly reliant on any one sector of the economy, when capital is readily accessible, when the workforce is healthy, well trained and mobile, when businesses have continuity plans, and when businesses and markets can maintain function and absorb and rebound from stress or shock quickly.
What’s Already Resilient About the Economy in Boulder County
The County continues to grow economically and recover quickly from downturns. Local governments are fiscally healthy, despite the large public expenses incurred after the 2013 flood, and taxpayers approve sensible tax increases that support that fiscal health. Communities in the eastern part of the County are encouraging growth as high housing costs push people east from the larger towns. This is providing housing within the County for many who work in Boulder and Longmont. The County and many municipal governments continue to devote resources to acquisition and maintenance of Open Space to maintain economic and lifestyle values that voters continually say they want. This quality of life continues to draw new residents and businesses. Maintaining balance among economic activity such as oil and gas development, high tech and agriculture on the one hand and environmental concerns on the other are central issues for the County and municipal governments, especially in the east. The Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan, which is updated with public input every five years, makes development predictable and controlled, balancing economic, environmental, and lifestyle concerns.
What Should We Do to Increase Resilience?
Increase the preparedness of small businesses by helping them develop realistic business continuity and contingency plans. This will require developing materials and tools with a clear value-add, actively taking them to businesses, and providing incentives for engagement.
Develop improved emergency assistance for small businesses. One of the gaps seen post-flood was the need for a business recovery or resource center separate from regular Disaster Recovery Center. Small businesses need both temporary space to work and also information about options – loans vs. grants, requirements for loans, and support in handling the paperwork.
Improve agricultural disaster assistance programs at local and state level for farmers and ditch companies to manage economic downturns, drought, fire and flood, promote smooth emergency response, support local employment and tax generation, and protect health. This segment of the economy generally has less economic flexibility and federal disaster aid is often unavailable to them due to lack of understanding about how western water systems work.
Maintain sensible and predictable environmental regulation of the oil and gas industry to promote smooth emergency response, support local employment and tax generation, protect health, and prevent damage to the natural environment.
Increase vocational training opportunities, coupled with attracting and retaining businesses that use those skills. Help build capacity in communities that access vocational training to identify and avoid usurious training programs. Work with communities and businesses to identify opportunities to connect available labor with new business sectors.
Coordinate local governments in the region around planning for transportation, housing, and employment. Housing costs are beginning to affects employers. To maintain a robust economy and continued business development we need to connect jobs with housing. To avoid increasing traffic and parking issues, this will have to include a significant focus on public transportation options.
Prepare for likely future reduction in federal disaster response and recovery resources. The National Flood Insurance Program is increasingly in debt and the cost of disasters is going up. The Federal government is likely to reduce response and recovery resources in the future. We, as individual residents, as communities, and as local, county, and state government, need to be prepared for this possible future by understanding the resources we have drawn on in the past — for floods, fires, droughts, tornadoes — and identifying ways to reduce future impacts and streamline recovery. Key to this will be building local capacity, partnerships, and mechanisms for incorporating lessons learned.