1985 - Bears ran wild through economy as layoffs mounted
The county’s unemployment rate hit 7.5 percent, a 40-year high, and more than 2,300 workers lost their jobs.
The dramatic downturn in the county’s business fortunes began at the end of 1984, when Louisville-based Storage Technology Corp. stripped itself of more than 1,000 workers. In January 1985, the beleaguered tech giant added another 1,000 pink slips.
In Longmont, disk-drive maker MiniScribe also continued shrinking its workforce. In early fall 1984, it had laid off about 530 workers. In January 1985, it laid off another 450 and shipped its manufacturing to Hong Kong and Singapore.
Smaller companies followed in the majors’ workforce-reduction footsteps, and commercial and residential real estate began to suffer.
Ray Tallman started an effort that changed the lives of literally thousands of Boulder County’s laid-off workers. He had been manager of human resources and corporate administration at StorageTek until he was laid off at the end of 1984. At the time, he also was on the board of the Boulder County Mental Health Center.
Tallman and Phoebe Norton, director of the center, got together with the county’s Private Industry Partnership and created the Employment Transition Program, which initially was an all-volunteer effort. Tallman set up town hall-type meetings and invited laid-off people to come and discuss their needs. The information gleaned from the meetings became the grist for the development of a comprehensive job search workshop to which those who had been laid off were recruited. All who went to the free workshops were given the opportunity to have several sessions with mental health counselors, also at no charge.
Tallman traveled statewide with what he called resume books and put on a job fair. Companies from other states came and ultimately hired hundreds of the county’s unemployed high-tech workers. The U.S. Department of Labor got wind of the program and funded it to the tune of $1 million.