As housing prices and cost of rent continues to soar throughout Colorado, so does the strain on our small businesses. The consequences of the housing crisis we find ourselves in ripples throughout communities across Colorado: hurting families, businesses and our economy.
I’ve lived and worked in Jefferson County for the last 25 years as the CEO of a manufacturing small business and I’ve experienced firsthand the ramifications of the housing crisis. While Jeffco is a beautiful place to live with local shops and scenic views, its housing expenses have risen to be 62% higher than the national average and the average rent for a one bedroom apartment is $2,171 – making it hard for my employees to live in the same community where they work.
The lack of affordable options places a heavy burden on my employees. Like many Colorado workers on the front range, my employees have to commute about an hour each way to get to work. Not only does that daily commute increase traffic on the highways during rush hour, it also forces my employees to absorb additional costs that hurt their ability to provide for themselves and their families. Our employees that live a distance from our headquarters and rely on child care are put in a difficult position.
A long commute is just one example among many of how the lack of affordable options hurts my small business. I’ve adapted to the needs of my employees by making their work schedules more flexible, but there’s a limit to how much my small business can bear. It’s become nearly impossible to keep up with the cost of housing, and adjusting salaries to accommodate unreasonably high costs of living is unsustainable and unfair to small business owners.
Other businesses in the manufacturing industry based in Golden have encountered similar problems and many have explored moving out of Colorado to reduce their overhead costs. If costs of living don’t come down, this could eventually trickle down to small businesses and incentivize them to leave in order to save money, hurting Colorado’s economy.
Small businesses make up about 80% of Colorado’s economy, and losing small businesses because of high costs of living will have lasting consequences for decades to come. If we continue moving in this direction, communities will lose vital subsects of professions and families will end up decentralized.
Jefferson County has been slow to react to the housing crisis despite housing many manufacturing businesses like mine, and it’s time for the state to work with communities across Colorado to create more affordable housing options. This problem has become too big for counties and cities to do this alone – and we need to solve the housing crisis now.
To address these challenges, we need to create more different types of housing that will help create more options for low- and moderate-income families. Solving the housing crisis should be Colorado’s top priority to help small businesses bounce back. By working together and investing in more housing options, we can create a more vibrant and sustainable community for all Coloradans.
Liz Geisleman is the CEO of Rocky Mountain Reagents in Golden and the former Board Chair of the West Metro Chamber and JeffCo EDC.