Governor Shumlin kicked off Vermont's First Economic Summit in Rutland yesterday by signing a new downtown development law.Yesterday I traveled to the Paramount Theater in Rutland for Vermont's First Economic Summit. Where else but Vermont could a small business owner like me elect to join the Governor, many of his Cabinet members and some of the most successful CEOs in the state to brainstorm about our economic future? New York? California? I don't think so. Only in Vermont.
Anyway, about 125 people gathered to discuss the opportunities and challenges of doing business in America's greenest state. On one hand our taxes are high, environmental regulations are onerous and the cost of living is barely affordable for most workers. But, somehow we love to live, work and play here anyway.
So we looked at why that is and listed a lot of benefits that Vermont has to offer: beautiful scenery, short pleasant commutes to work, relaxed pace, local economies, vibrant farmers markets and co-ops, fabulous farm to plate restaurants, skiing, hiking, fishing, camping, nice neighbors, working landscapes, clean lakes, rivers and streams, sustainable development and so on. Not to mention easy access to government officials!
Then the task was reconciling the pluses and minus' of Vermont's economics in terms of concrete fix-it strategies. We broke out into small groups to focus on: workforce development, the Vermont brand, Vermont infrastructure, Global competitiveness, Innovation and a few other topics. I was lucky to find myself working in the Vermont Brand group with Kathleen Wanner of the Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association VWMA, Lynette Kemp of Vermont's Department of Taxes (we tried not to hold that against her) and Colleeen Leonard, Vermont's Working Lands Policy Administrator from the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.
At the end of the day all of the small groups presented their ideas and recommendations to a plenary session and we discussed plans to follow through both formally and informally. Now our challenge is to make things happen in a way that preserves Vermont's pristine rural character and brings economic prosperity to all it's citizens. Think it's doable?
You can read more about the Economic Summit on Vermont Digger.
Robin Scheu, Executive Director at Addison County Economic Development Corporation led the break-out group working on defining Vermont's brand. I worked with Kathleen Wanner of the Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association VWMA (the only one looking at you), Lynette Kemp of Vermont's Department of Taxes (we tried not to hold that against her) and Colleen Leonard, Vermont's Working Lands Policy Administrator from the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.