The Boulder Valley is well known for many things, whether it’s our environmental-friendly people and companies, our highly intelligent and educated work force, the University of Colorado, our scenic countryside or our fairly wealthy population. But none of these individual characteristics alone can define our community to the world. What is the Boulder Brand? Or, better yet, what should it be? Even the city of Boulder is seeking ideas from the public on the Boulder brand in hopes of passing a bond measure in 2012 for a capital project that’s in line with whatever brand idea is chosen. In an effort to make our community more aware of the Boulder Brand ideas being discussed for the city and the Boulder Valley as a whole, RE/MAX of Boulder will feature organizations’ brand proposals in its e-zine over the next several months. We hope these articles are informative and that you feel welcome to provide your feedback to RE/MAX as well as to the organizations and your local government.
We start with “Sustainable Boulder: Locally grown humans,” proposed by The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County.
Brand Boulder as the best at cultivating its children
Boulder is known for its well-educated work force, for its “green” initiatives and living, for its wealthy and happy population, for leading the “new-energy economy.”
But what many don’t know about Boulder, says Morgan Rogers, is that its most precious resource – its children – is being neglected.
Rogers is director of The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County’s Civic Forum. The foundation is a central clearinghouse for community service, improving the quality of life and building a culture of giving by funneling grants to Boulder County nonprofits, facilitating local philanthropy, and promoting community research and advocacy to determine what forms of outreach have the biggest impact.
The foundation would choose to promote a branding of Boulder that would focus on closing the achievement gap between the community’s children from low-income families and those from more comfortable living situations. A brand of “Sustainable Boulder: Locally grown humans,” Morgan says, would encourage people to put their time and money toward Boulder’s children.
“We get a lot of recognition and accolades nationally … and they’re all true,” Rogers says. “But when you look at those accolades, most of them are a result of imported humans. We import our educated workforce. How did we get to be the smartest city in America? We’re bringing in people who were educated elsewhere.”
Citing statistics from the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, Rogers points out that Boulder has one of the widest achievement gaps in the state between students who are doing well and those who are struggling; Colorado is 48th in the country for K-12 funding; and is 48th in higher-education funding.
While Boulder’s per capita personal income is among the top communities in the nation, our poverty rate is the same as the nation’s (15 percent), and a growing number of children are living in poverty – now 17 percent, or one out of six children – and are at a higher risk of dropping out of school, she says, citing U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
“I think what we have had locally is hidden poverty” that many in the Boulder community haven’t seen or been aware of, Rogers says. “If we’re the best at all those other things, why can’t we be the best at educating all those kids? We should be the best at supporting our poor.
“We’re importing work force and wealth, but we’re leaving more and more children growing up here behind,” she notes. “Really, the future of our quality of life is at stake if we continue to go down the road we’ve been going down.”
And those children who are doing poorly in school or even dropping out are not leaving Boulder, she says. People in poverty aren’t able to purchase as many goods and services, homes and or contribute as much to the economy. Instead, Boulder is seeing increased demands for support from government and nonprofit services.
“We’re not exporting our poverty,” Rogers says. “For the long-term economic picture, we can’t sustain high levels of achievement as a community if we’re increasingly turning out kids locally who are not graduating from high school. It threatens our quality of life: our quality of life is at stake if we become a community of the very rich and the very poor.”
And such a community, with schools filled with children who are bored or struggling, will be less attractive to the educated and wealthy, and Boulder is risking pushing those already here away, she adds.
Boulder could continue to compete to bring smart, wealthy people from elsewhere here, or it could educate its children, build its local work force, and provide career paths for its younger generation, she adds.
The community needs more middle-income jobs, Rogers says, identifying health care and clean technology as two industries it could grow to provide employment for the middle class.
Branding Boulder as a community invested in its children would motivate people to do their part to close the achievement gap: mentoring a child, investing in work-force development, recruiting diverse leaders, giving to nonprofit organizations, and serving on boards, parent-teacher associations and rotaries.
“We want the whole community to embrace this responsibility,” she adds. “No matter your motivation, it’s compelling because of the long-term effect on economy.”
For more information about the Community Foundation of Boulder County and its mission, visit http://www.commfound.org/home.php.