Boulder County Localization Study

For Immediate Release:

Contact:

Michael Brownlee, Localization Partners LLC, tel 303.494.1521, michael@transitioncolorado.org

Steven Hoffman, Compass Natural Marketing, tel 303.807.1042, steve@compassnatural.com

Boulder County Localization Study Shows 25% Local Food Shift Could Create 31,000 New Jobs in Colorado

Increased food localization could add 1,700 new jobs in Boulder County, 24,000 in the Front Range and 31,000 in the state of Colorado. The effect of a 25% shift in food localization could produce $137 million in annual gross domestic product (GDP) for Boulder County, $1.6 billion for the Front Range, and $2.2 billion for the State of Colorado, says the author of a new research study funded by Transition Colorado and Boulder County.

Boulder, Colorado (September 7, 2011) – Boulder County could achieve a 25% shift towards food localization that would create a 14% increase in job growth and an additional $12 million in annual tax revenues, says economist and food system expert Michael Shuman. 

Shuman presented his initial findings on September 1 in Boulder as part of EAT LOCAL! Week, an event produced by Transition Colorado to raise awareness of local food issues. Shuman’s Food Localization Study, funded by Transition Colorado and Boulder County, focuses on the potential economic impact that increased self-reliance in a local food economy would have on Boulder County, the Northern Colorado Front Range and the state of Colorado. 

The study revealed that although the food industry accounted for only 5% of the economy in Boulder County, 13 counties in the Front Range, and for the entire state of Colorado, the impact on GDP would be significant. 

Potential to Add $2.2 Billion to the Colorado Economy

In achieving 25% food localization, Boulder County’s GDP would increase annually by $137 million, $1.6 billion for the Front Range region and $2.2 billion for all of Colorado, according to the study. In a downturned economy these numbers could create the growth that government leaders have been searching for and citizens desperately need, said Shuman. 

“Our goal at Transition Colorado is to provide Colorado counties with the tools they need to create resilient, self-reliant local food economies. The initial phase of this study has shown us that a 25% shift toward food localization creates jobs and tax revenue, and moves us toward a more sovereign, secure food system,” said Michael Brownlee, co-founder of the nonprofit Transition Colorado. His organization is coordinating the second phase of the study, the development of a comprehensive strategic plan to actually achieve an average of 25% food localization in Boulder County by 2020.

Shuman and Brownlee agree that becoming self-reliant in food means meeting consumer demand for food products locally. The goal is to source raw materials, commodities and finished goods as locally as possible—first from within the county, then regionally and throughout the state. It also means buying these products from locally owned businesses. This keeps the circle of money in the community, which increases fiscal health. “Localization is not about spending more money on food but building community wealth through local sourcing,” said Shuman.

Shuman has become known as an authority on how to build local economies. He is the Director of Research and Economic Development at the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE). He holds an A.B. with distinction in economics and international relations from Stanford University and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. Shuman has authored three books on his subject matter, and has completed several local food studies in communities across the United States and the world. Regardless of the assignment, Shuman’s goal to promote community-based development is clear. His mantra: “Live Local, Think Global.”

“According to US Department of Agriculture data, Colorado citizens spend $12 billion per year on food, 97% of which is imported from outside the state,” said Michael Brownlee. Shuman regards these trade imbalances as food “leakages” which could also be viewed as opportunities to expand existing businesses or to establish new businesses that would contribute to a diversified local food system. This in turn creates growth, including jobs, by meeting an already existing demand, Shuman said.

Another factor behind food localization that many Boulderites might find interesting is the potential effect on food prices. As local production increases, prices for locally produced food—which is usually of higher quality—will become subject to greater competition, allowing the market to largely dictate price. At the same time there are other benefits including a reduction in distribution costs and the resulting carbon footprint. Other major benefits include rural development, public health and a potential halo over Boulder’s global image, according to Shuman.

How to Finance the Local Food Shift

As vibrant as the “buy local” sentiment is in Boulder County, Shuman believes there are ample resources to pursue these opportunities and diversify the local economy. Boulder, the Front Range and Colorado can create a secure and sovereign food system that will mitigate the local impacts of the global food crisis, he said. 

According to Shuman’s calculations, Boulder County residents currently have $34 billion in short-term and long-term savings. The shift to a 25% localized food system would require an estimated $126 million in capital investments—equal to just .5% of long-term savings or 1.7% of the short-term savings, he projected. This largely means asking community members to minimally reduce their investments in Fortune 500 businesses and directing these funds instead into local food and farming enterprises. A 1% Fund for Local Food could be developed to raise the funds and help people initiate self-directed IRAs, another growing financial trend, Shuman suggested.

About Transition Colorado

Transition Colorado is a nonprofit 501c3 organization committed to fostering self-reliance among local communities in Colorado and beyond. Transition Colorado is the producer of the annual EAT LOCAL! Week, held this year in Boulder on August 27 – September 4, 2011, to educate the community and celebrate and promote the development of local food economies. The organization has recently launched Localization Partners LLC as a for-profit company seeking to catalyze investment in local food and farming enterprises through joint ventures and small-scale investments. For more information visit www.transitioncolorado.org or contact Michael Brownlee, tel 303.494.1521, michael@transitioncolorado.org.