One of the pieces of legislation I was particularly proud of working on last year was the creation of the Southern Vermont Economic Development Zone and the Southern Vermont Zone Committee. Over the course of much of the session, Rep. Oliver Olsen of Londonderry, Rep. Kiah Morris of Bennington, Senator Becca Balint and I worked to get language recognizing that the loss of jobs and visitors to Southern Vermont over the last decade needed focused attention.
Since my days at the Southern Vermont Deerfield Valley Chamber, I have been working with colleagues across Southern Vermont on projects linking the two counties including collaborative summer event marketing, individualized flood recovery business assistance and developing the collaborative Southern Vermont Sustainable Marketing project with all of the Southern Vermont Chambers. The reason for these larger reason efforts was always the same – working together we were able to pool resources for greater impact.
Late last week the Southern Vermont Zone Committee released it’s report including a number of findings and recommendations to move the two county region forward. Included in the report:
- Building upon the work done by Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies (SeVEDS), develop a Southern Vermont Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for the Zone. A CEDS can open the door to federal funding for Zone economic development that far exceeds Vermont’s capacity to assist.
- Develop a state inter agency council for the Zone to help recruit and grow businesses by streamlining regulatory, financing, and hiring processes
- Fund the southern Vermont Recruiting and Marketing campaign designed to bring people to the Zone as visitors, residents and workforce.
- Ensure a broadband financing plan that builds on the infrastructure already in place, for review by December 2016
- Provide our students with exposure to the “world of work” early on and expand the Windham region’s internship program to apprenticeships for high schoolers, early career and mid-career adults
I am pleased with the work the Zone Committee has produced in their report to the House and Senate Economic Development Committees, and grateful to have had such talented Vermonters leading and participating in this effort. I hope you’ll take a look and share your thoughts on opportunities you see for Southern Vermont to work together and continue improving the economic climate.
The photo below is from a state economic development policy conference I attended in November. The question posed is a popular one! I wonder if we are telling the right story about the job opportunities that exist here.