Looking back to Aug. 9, 2018, I remember the trepidation I felt of the unknown outcome resulting from the traffic diversion off the interior roads of Boulder City and on the freshly built Interstate 11. Would businesses close immediately? Would residents now be able to utilize the retail, dining and services on the (Boulder City) Parkway? Would the novelty of the adventure of a new freeway wear off soon? Would Boulder City have done enough preparation for what lay ahead?
Many businesses relied on sheer volume from cars and visitors to retain the type of sales they had come to know pre-I-11. Those who knew their business well did arrange to relocate to other locations outside of Boulder City. Considering they had negotiated new lease terms prior to the opening, we can believe they were fully aware of their clientele and knew they had to make changes.
One positive element to the building of the new interstate highway was the length of time we all had to prepare for its opening, and those owners used that knowledge to plan for what was good for their companies.
Other business owners found themselves needing to reinvent themselves to attract a new, more intentional guest that would exit the I-11 onto Boulder City Parkway. It was not an easy time for anyone, and all businesses found themselves operating differently from years previous.
This opportunity gave owners the chance to evaluate, adjust and implement ways to help build the post-I-11 destination that the community of Boulder City was always meant to be. Owners pulled together for marketing ideas and assisted to build each other up. City leaders communicated strong messages of assistance and a belief that this was going to be a turning point for the business community as well as the residents and tourists. Plans were executed and strategies were put into play, and we all came together as one to assure the success of our great city.
After the first year, a look back revealed reinvention, strength in a combined voice, renewed connections with neighbors and even competitors, fresh advertising, new sales techniques, improved use of technology, greater customer service, and a commitment by residents to truly support and promote the chant of “shop local.” We didn’t just hear rhetoric, we saw action.
Each one, both business owner and resident, pitched in to do their part to help while the challenges were real and then reap the rewards from the contributions. We saw some casualties and those did hurt, but we also gained a great deal as a community in both ease of movement and a greater quality of life.
It seems that same spirit and energy has been stacked upon other great projects like the beautiful complete streets project, the new businesses opening in Boulder City, and the forthcoming of more heritage tourism via the railroad tracks. In the last three years, the trepidation I felt had dissipated as I realized I just needed to have a little more faith in the strength and determination of Boulder City entrepreneurs and loyal residents.
In the 18 months that followed the I-11 opening, I had a humbling experience watching the building of our great tourism destination.
We had 25-plus years in discussions and planning for I-11. We had around 25 days and weeks to prepare for the devastation of a pandemic. Trepidation was replaced by sheer bewilderment of what to do in the middle of a complete shutdown and the unknown of exactly what the present and future would hold.
My faith in the ability for Boulder City businesses to stay open and thrive, that I had abandoned once in our preparation for I-11, was needed tenfold with each of the governor’s directives. This new trial is still playing out and the “end of the story” is still ahead. But considering our history, the loyalty of our residents and the entrepreneurial spirit of business owners, we have seen ribbon cuttings and grand openings of new businesses in the midst of this latest crisis.
We have new tourism projects and historical revitalization happening now and in the near future. Boulder City doesn’t just sit back and let the bad days take over our lives. We band together and set the trend for improvements and resiliency. We look for solutions that strengthen the business community, provide opportunities and support for those owners, and add to the quality of life for each of us.
We prove that freeway bypasses and pandemics may set us back, cause stress and frustration, and even business closures, however, they will only be temporary setbacks. We seem to use the energy required to survive by turning it into the grit and gumption we need to again rebuild and reinvent ourselves into a stronger, fuller, richer and more robust city with many engaging activities and businesses to intrigue repeat guests and develop loyal visitors.
Building Destination Boulder City began in the 1930s and will continue building for many years to come, through both the good and the bad. We are grateful for the positive things I-11 has brought to Boulder City, including the coping mechanisms we have developed to combat the negative side effects we have encountered. We will do the same with our handling of the pandemic. I have renewed faith that the entrepreneurs, employees and community leaders of the Boulder City of today will again find creative and rewarding ways to be successful in the continued building of Destination Boulder City.
Jill Rowland-Lagan, CEO of the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce, is the third of four generations in Boulder City. She loves cooking, jet skiing and hanging out with her family. Her personal motto is “A diamond is merely a lump of coal that did well under pressure.”