Learning from Boulder, CO

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with the owner of a small but growing computer animation/games development firm located in the province.  We were talking about his industry in New Brunswick and opportunities for growth.

We talked about the example of Boulder, Colorado which has built up a very strong base of high tech industries (biosciences, IT and aerospace) in a fairly remote place (relatively speaking). 

The Boulder, CO Metropolitan Statistical Area has a population of just over 280,000 and it claims to have over 16,000 people working in IT at an average wage of over $100,000 per year.

I think they do just about the best job of integrating quality of life as a business attraction feature of any place I have studied.  Reading their promotional materials, you would want to move there – and you would be sure that you could attract top notch employees there too.

The old line from the 1990s that quality of life is a secondary consideration because the guys making the decision about where to invest will not be relocating – is losing its resonance.  Companies now know that being in a location that can attract people is fundamental to long term success particularly in knowledge-intensive industries.

3 thoughts on “Learning from Boulder, CO

  1. I knew you’d go there sooner or later as I’ve been keeping an eye on Colorado as a state New Brunswick can definitely mimic. Or at least try to mimic. Not only does Colorado have some of the lowest business and personal taxes in the country, they have firm laws in place which allow citizens to keep checks and balances on their state legislators. My favorite (this will come as no surprise to those who know me) is the Tax Payer Bill of Rights [TABOR] which prevents politicians from raising state or local taxes without voter approval. Plus, any annual revenue increase (adjusted for inflation and population growth) must be refunded. Additionally they have a statute in place that does not allow general-fund spending increases of more than 6% over the previous year’s budget, unless they go towards transport or capital projects. Not bad, huh!

    Furthermore, they have recall legislation in place that would allow citizens to remove a public officials from office for blatantly governing against the will of the people. One wonders if the citizens would have exercised their constitutional rights here in NB had they had such recall legislation in place. 😉

  2. One point missed above is that TABOR was actually suspended in a referendum. It proved so disastrous for Colorado that in a referendum people voted to suspend it for five years in order to try to undo some of the damage.

    That WAS bad, and I’m even a big supporter of direct democracy. If you’ve ever been to Colorado you’ll know that people don’t flock there for their democratic instruments-half the US states have almost virtually identical ones.

    Colorado now is practically an adjunct of Hollywood. Virtually every week there’s a film festival somewhere. However, the point about other considerations is a good one. Like I’ve said, I know many torontonians who moved to Miramichi to work and Fatkat and just loved the city. They raved about it, particularly on their blogs.

    As i’ve said before, the recreational facilities in the town of Oromocto where I grew up is enough to make most cities in southern ontario green with envy. It was always sad to see posters on here badmouthing the ‘laid back’lifestyle of the maritimes, as though the way to prosperity is to try to be as messed up as ontario.

    I think a very interesting project would be to track every graduate of the animation school in miramichi and ask them where they are going and what they are doing, and whether its possible to do it in NB.

  3. If we could promise excellent services – health care, schools, etc. – then our natural advantages give us an almost unparallelled quality of life. And this in turn will, if properly marketed, eventually support a base in high tech.

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