Expanding BCBR’s scope, reach, influence
At the time, we saw an opportunity to fill a void in terms of providing business news to a growing business community.
Most coverage provided by the local daily newspaper at that time was stock market related and missing out on documenting and telling the stories behind the growing and substantial business activity in the county.
The Business Report was providing much needed basic information about businesses in the city of Boulder. One of the first things Fred — who was working with SAI and came on as an owner of BCBR Inc. — and I set out to do was expand the publication’s scope from just Boulder to Boulder County. We changed the publication’s name to the Boulder County Business Report to reflect the expanded coverage area. We wanted to include Longmont, Broomfield, Louisville and Lafayette. We also changed the format, began adding editorial content and set out to expand circulation.
One of the key challenges was convincing businesses — the sources for our stories and our potential advertisers — that there was a demand for business news, and that advertising in the Report could be beneficial to companies that wanted to reach other businesses in the area.
In the mid-1980s, high-tech companies in the Boulder area were a well-kept secret, but the tech community already was a key cog in the local economy. IBM already was here, having arrived in the 1960s, and new companies were emerging and creating good-paying jobs. This also was driving both commercial and residential real estate markets.
Forty-five days after the acquisition of the Business Report, we began reorganizing and reformatting the paper.
I remember spending a lot of time out of the office during and after business hours making my pitch to business owners and executives. I visited every bank president, as many CEOs who would spare me some time, and real-estate developers and builders such as W.W. Reynolds Co., to give them a heads up of our vision. We wanted to make BCBR the area’s business news center and showcase high tech and the service industry that supported it. We wanted to be the link that allowed local businesses to get to know each other.
In order to make the BCBR visible to the business community, I and our small staff became involved in a variety of organizations and frequented as many after-hours events as we could. I became a member of the Boulder Development Council that provided us with a forum to be in contact with business people. It was there we were able to pick up story content and advertising opportunities. At the time, there was no Facebook, no email, no Twitter. We needed to be there to know.
We also began publishing business-to-business directories, compiling the data by calling every company. We introduced a biotechnology directory in 1986 and published a comprehensive Boulder County Manufacturers Directory in 1988. Of the 8,500 businesses in the county at the time, more than 500 were manufacturers employing approximately 31,000 people.
Another big challenge was finding salespeople who understood the newspaper business and specifically, the business community. We were fortunate to have Jeff Schott, who started at the Business Report as a reporter, make the switch to sales. He truly was a diamond in the rough, exactly what we needed. He was a natural salesman, and I daresay the paper would not have survived if it weren’t for Jeff. As most people in the Boulder Valley business community know, Jeff went on to become a co-owner with Jerry W. Lewis when the papers owners were ready to exercise their exit strategy in 1988.
The two and one-half years I spent as publisher of the Business Report are a bit of a blur as I try to recall them. But one thing stands out: the vibrancy of the business community in the Boulder Valley. I was fortunate to witness its dynamic growth firsthand.
Rhett D. Speer was part owner and publisher of the Boulder County Business Report from March 1986 to December 1988. He currently is managing partner of RD Speer Associates LLC, based in Boulder.