Peace (and Shared Prosperity) Through Business – BizWest
As I watch the horrors unfold in Ukraine, I am also energized by the strength our Western alliance has shown in its unified response. It reminds me of my trip through Europe in 2003 and my introduction to the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, thanks to the German Marshall Fund and their Marshall Memorial Fellowship. A key message from the stock exchange: Shared economic interests have been the foundation of peace on the European continent since World War II. This same principle constitutes today the bulwark against a new Russian aggression.
Years later, with only a television connection to the terrible life and death struggles that Russia’s attack on Ukraine created, I draw a humble parallel between the same principles that unite the nations of Europe to our own efforts to establish ties of mutual economic benefit across the Boulder County region, with other quality of life benefits. Let me explain.
In the years following World War II, European political leaders sought ways to overcome centuries of turmoil by creating common interests and bonds. The momentum began in 1951 with the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community, then the enlarged European Economic Community in 1957, eventually evolving into today’s European Union. Founded on the common values of democracy and freedom, the basis of this European unity is the free movement of goods and services across national borders. It is this economic interdependence that most attribute to stability in a region mired in conflict since the fall of the Roman Empire.
No, regional interjurisdictional disputes across Boulder County have not escalated – at least in my understanding of our local history – into actual violence. Nonetheless, antagonism over everything from business and commercial development opportunities to the annexation of particularly coveted street corners has erupted into legal and political skirmishes. I read, with amused hindsight, an early 1900s battle between the Longmont Chamber and the Boulder Chamber to lure tourists through their respective communities by bringing them along Arapahoe Road or the present-day Highway 285 .
This competitive character is rooted in an old-fashioned view of zero-sum economic competition between communities in the Boulder County area. The reality is that this type of conflict is detrimental to achieving a broader vision of economic and community vitality. I will not take the space here to denounce the waste of resources and time associated with resolving disputes through our legal system. However, the damage of an approach to economic development that views surrounding jurisdictions only through the prism of win-lose competition has an even more pernicious impact on the decisions entrepreneurs make about where to locate their future businesses. operations and the regional capacity to secure the government. investment, whether for broader economic or community purposes.
With a new generation of leaders leading regional businesses and economic support organizations in Boulder County and our neighboring county of Broomfield, a new, enlightened perspective has also emerged. These leaders recognize that we live in an increasingly connected economic ecosystem, with businesses, customers and employees crossing political jurisdictions. The interests of these stakeholders transcend traditional jurisdictional boundaries, living their lives and conducting their daily activities throughout the region. In this environment, it is not useful for any of those working to improve the economic vitality of their respective communities to act as if they lived in isolated domains.
It is in this spirit that in 2016, several local chambers formed the Northwest Chamber Alliance to respond to these common interests. It is made up of eight county-wide and community organizations representing approximately 3,600 businesses and 370,000 employees. Our coordinated alliance approach has paid off. For example, we have been a united source of support for businesses throughout the COVID pandemic, we have collectively championed issues ranging from transportation funding and workforce development to e-sales and simplifying the use of taxes in the state capital, and recently we helped coordinate responses to business and community impacts from the Marshall Fire.
Of course, I am not claiming that our regional problems are in any way similar to the troubled history of Europe. But just as the EU seeks to transcend potential divisions through shared economic interests, we also seek, through the Northwest Chamber Alliance and other regional economic collaboration mechanisms, to leverage social goals. and shared economic resources to avoid the degrading effects of unbridled competition and, conversely, to inspire coordinated and mutually beneficial regional action. The common thread: peace and prosperity shared by business. . . and may they both continue to progress.
John Tayer is President and CEO of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at 303-442-1044 ext. 110 or [email protected]