With much of America including Boulder shut down with the spreading coronavirus pandemic, our local business community has acutely felt the loss of its customers and its community. But KGNU’s Roz Brown says there are many ways you help local merchants weather the storm.
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One month ago Boulder’s job market was named the hottest in the nation by the Wall Street Journal for a metro area under one million residents. Now, like the rest of the country, many businesses are closed, workers are laid off and the local economy is taking a hit. So how can Boulder residents help?
“Everybody can be doing their part right now to help our local economy,” said Yvette Bowden, assistant city manager and director of community vitality.
“Every dollar spent in the city, is helping the city right now,” adds Bowden.
It’s no secret that every time you buy something, a tax is added. All those lattes and bagels, bicycles and books add up – in fact, sales and use taxes collected from residents account for about half the city’s revenue, which in turn funds police and fire, roads, our libraries and open space among other things.
“Small businesses are a critical part of the city’s revenue, but more importantly they’re neighbors employing thousands of people in our communities,” notes Bowden. “Whether it’s helping people stay employed, be employed, or contributing to sales tax dollars, maximizing those dollars is important. People who can should also consider giving to the Community Foundation, which is raising funds for safety net organizations that are helping people stay fed, housed and taken care. So love local, whether it’s on the Pearl Street Mall, or just around the corner from where you are.”
While we’ve all been ordered to remain at home, leaving only to engage in activities or perform tasks critical to our health, Boulder city councilmember Rachel Friend says we can do our part to help local shops and restaurants.
“There is a push to love the local and buy gift certificates for local merchants especially,” said Friend. “And I think taking out and supporting restaurants is a good thing to do for those of us that can. And also the Pearl Street Mall where merchants are extra reliant on the tourism industry are going to be hit hard. They have a thin margin to begin with and when you take out the tourism dollars they are really going to be struggling, so it’s important if you can, maybe you could do some holiday shopping right now.”
Friend says Boulder is fortunate to have a diverse economy compared to many other cities.
“We absolutely are going to get through this, and Boulder is going to get through it better than a lot of places because we have a good financial reserve,” said Friend. “And we’re taking every step we can to make sure people are not going to be evicted or end up homeless or with huge financial shortfalls – we want to be able to stand up quickly when this is over.”
Friend, who has been sick herself but not had the COVID-19 test, says she ordered dog food from Amazon because she couldn’t get out. Love it or hate it, Amazon is one of the online companies that voluntarily submits sales tax dollars back to Boulder. But Bowden reminds us that online shopping is also a local option.
“Just because a store front is closed, doesn’t mean that they’re not currently selling online or you can’t buy online a gift card,” said Bowden.
She directs people looking for up-to-date information about what’s happening in Boulder to the city’s website at Bouldercolorado.gov.
“And that has tabs, including a business resource tab that small employers should be checking for emergency resources that we can make available – we’ll be posting all our news there,” said Bowden. “And there’s another tab there for employees for individual resources.”
While some beloved events have been canceled – the CU Conference on World Affairs, and others have been delayed or postponed – the Bolder Boulder and the Farmer’s Market, Bowden is confident Boulder residents will pull together and remember to “love local.”
“The recovery for our local economy whether you’re a small business or a big business is going to take all of us,” notes Bowden. “We have to be committed to make sure that Boulder stays the amazing, sustainable, beautiful place that it is, and we can all play a part in that.”