For immediate release: February 24th, 2015
Southern Vermont Legislators Propose Bill to Address Major Economic Development Challenges
Laura Sibilia (I) of the Windham-Bennington district and Kiah Morris (D) of the Bennington 2-2 district recently announced the introduction of H.271; an act relating to giving deference to regional planning and planners in mitigating adverse economic impacts of major employers.
The bill comes as a result of announced job losses in the two counties and directs the Executive and Legislative branches to give deference to an approved regional plan or a federally prescribed comprehensive economic development strategy in the event a major employer announces a plant closure, relocation or other significant change in activity that will impact the number of jobs or wages in the region.
“Laura and I have both participated in regional economic development planning efforts through our work. Comprehensive economic development strategies (CEDS) and regional plans created to help communities proactively plan for both economic growth and potential downturn.” Morris said, “Both plans require significant research and public input to develop strategies that are responsive to the needs of the areas affected. This bill is proactive to changing tides and empowers local efforts to remain resilient.”
Leaders from Bennington and Windham Counties have worked collaboratively for a number of years to develop clear objectives and plans that will strengthen the economy of the southern corridor. The regional plans include recommendations around business recruitment, needed improvements to local infrastructure and a regional marketing campaign. The proposed bill will put pressure on the administration to listen to those recommendations and increase communication between state and local leaders on those efforts.
The pair solicited 37 other House members to sponsor the tri-partisan legislation, including the entire Windham and Bennington County House delegations. Sibilia says the pair have heard from a number of legislators who are concerned about the job losses at Vermont Yankee and Plasan North America.
“With limited staffing at the state level, we are fortunate that Vermont contracts with both regional planning commissions and regional development corporations to develop and support regional plans that address strategic economic planning. As legislators, we often hear from our communities a belief that the administration does not hear our voices, and is not aware of the growing needs of our region. This bill effectively doubles the human resources that can be brought to bear on unified solutions and ensures that municipal, local business and non-profit voices are a part of the boots on the ground strategy development.”
Sibilia and Morris say they were pleased with the preliminary reception and input they received from the four Senators that represent the two counties. The next step for the duo is consulting with other house members on the possible formation of a regional caucus to enact and expand on existing development strategies they share.