The Vermont housing market was the only one in New England to experience a year-over-year decline in both number of transactions, down -2.4 percent, and median price, down -4.3 percent, according to RE/MAX. Vermont’s median home price is $180,900, down from $189,000. This still places Vermont third highest in the region, behind only Massachusetts ($260,000) and Connecticut ($232,500).RE/MAX of New England Executive Vice President Jay Hummer said the number of transactions is encouraging, but there is still a gap between what buyers think their home is worth and what it will actually sell for. The RE/MAX of New England January Monthly Housing Report shows that year-over-year, the number of unit sales in every state in New England, except Vermont, is slightly higher than January 2011. New Hampshire and Rhode Island experienced the highest change in units sold with an increase of 16.8 percent and 17.8 percent, respectively. While the number of transactions remain relatively flat, prices continue to dip in every state in New England.‘The slight uptick in sales is encouraging as it means buyers are active in the market, however, we are still trying to find a balance between buyer expectations and market realities when it comes to pricing,’ Hummer said.
Representatives Peter Welch and Chris Gibson (R-NY) will join together on Tuesday for two bipartisan roundtables focused on expanding a successful veterans outreach program pioneered by the Vermont National Guard. The events will take place in Rutland and Saratoga Springs.Welch and Gibson are working to pass a bipartisan bill to expand nationwide the Vermont Guard Outreach Program, which provides assistancewith the post-deployment transition to returning service members and their families. At the roundtable in Rutland, Welch and Gibson will hear from service members and their families as well as representatives of the Vermont National Guard, Vermont Small Business Development Committee and Veterans of Foreign Wars to get a clear understanding of how the outreach program works and why it merits expansion. Welch and Gibson will then travel to Saratoga Springs to conduct the second roundtable of the day with veterans and service members from New York. The Congressmen will bring the information they gather back to Washington to continue the push to pass their legislation. Gibson sits on the House Armed Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over the bill.Office of Representative Welch. 3.12.2012.
Vermont Technology Alliance (vtTA) to better reflect the organizationâ s expanding membership and its mission to represent and support the stateâ s growing number of technology companies that are creating high-skilled, high-paying jobs. VtTA companies represent one of the strongest sectors of the Vermont economy. They have been adding jobs ‘even during the economic downturn ‘that earn higher than average Vermont salaries. For example, vtTA members Dealer.com added 250 jobs in 2011, Technical Connection placed 200 people in tech jobs in 2011, and MyWebGrocer added 63 employees in the last six months. The Vermont Software Developers’Alliance was formed in 2004 by entrepreneurs to foster a strong and growing software industry in Vermont, with a focus on common business interests and programs where members can share ideas, expertise and strategies for success. As the organization has grown, Vermont companies in other technology business segments have identified common needs and have joined or expressed interest in joining the Alliance. The name change reflects this expanded role and that the organization welcomes all Vermont technology companies as members. â VtTA is dedicated to helping and promoting Vermontâ s technology industry, creating technology jobs in the state, and advocating policies that strengthen Vermont technology companies,’said John Canning, president of the board. â Some think of Vermont only in terms of farming, skiing or maple syrup and are surprised to learn it also is home to cutting-edge software and technology companies that are creating innovative products and high-paying jobs. We want this important segment of the Vermont economy to be recognized, celebrated and supported.â The Alliance recently published the second edition of â Tapping Tech 2.0,’which highlights the positive impact of Vermont technology companies on the stateâ s economy, including these facts:· The average wage for a software company job in Vermont is $65,000 ‘25% higher than the Vermont median household income $51,841 (2010 U.S. Census).· The estimated revenue generated in Vermont by vtTA members in 2011 was $280 million ‘representing an 87% increase in just two years.· For every software developer hired, technology companies typically add an additional six non-technical support positions. To continue to deliver these results, vtTA has identified three key needs: 1) educated employees with strong foundations in science, math and technology who can fill current and future job openings; 2) continued investment in high-speed Internet broadband connectivity throughout the state as well as traditional infrastructure that enables tech companies to operate and stay in Vermont; and 3) improved access to financing to help Vermontâ s knowledge-based businesses get started and expand. In addition to promoting tech-friendly public policy initiatives, the vtTA sponsors a number of programs and offerings in support of its mission, including: Lunch and Learn ‘Monthly information sessions for Vermont technology companies and employees on a range of topics, from company profiles to public policy initiatives to business advice and education. Vermont Tech Jam ‘The Alliance is a founder of and participant in the Vermont Tech Jam ‘an annual fall conference and exhibition that showcases more than 70 Vermont technology and bioscience companies, and promotes technology careers and education. Tapping Tech ‘VtTA has produced the second edition of, â Tapping Tech’a 36-page, full color publication that highlights the positive impact of Vermontâ s growing technology businesses. Bentley Award ‘The alliance has created The Bentley Award, which offers cash, Apple iPads and technical expertise in support of specific projects focused on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) in Vermont K-12 schools. The awards honor the life of the late Bentley Seifer, who was the 12-year-old son of Julie A. Davis and Bruce Seifer, a founding member of the Alliance. The Vermont Technology Alliance is welcoming new company and individual members to join the organization. Details and the membership form are available at VtTA.org.About the vtTA The Vermont Technology alliance supports and promotes Vermontâ s thriving software and technical business community. VtTA helps its members share ideas, expertise, and strategies for success and works with business, government and higher education to advocate for policies and programs that strengthen Vermontâ s technology-based economy.More information about the Vermont Technology Alliance can be found at: · vtTA.org· facebook.com/VermontTechAlliance· twitter.com/VermontTechAlliance· linkedin/VermontTechAlliance May 17, 2012 â
For years, the Fellows Gear Shaper Building has loomed rundown and derelict along the Black River, a symbol of former Springfieldâ s glory as the machine tool capital of the world. The factoryâ s hidden creative possibilities were just waiting to be discovered. Now, nearly 40 years after the old factory closed its doors, those possibilities are about to be revealed. The 160,000-square-foot sprawling complex has a new name, a new look and a new purpose. The building, now known as One Hundred River Street, has been transformed into Vermontâ s newest venue for the arts. Inside, the Great Hall, a splendid, soaring space is about to be inaugurated as a great new venue for the arts, capable of showcasing large artwork and sculpture, performance art, dance, music and lectures. With the buildingâ s multi-million-dollar renovation nearly completed, the public is invited to the unveiling of the Great Hall at a reception slated for Friday, July 20, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at One Hundred River Street. The first group art show, Emergence, features works by artists from around Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine and includes sculpture, stoneware, tapestries, mobiles and more. The work on exhibit was chosen to symbolize the adaptive-reuse of the building, and, as boosters suggest, the re-emergence of Springfield. The Great Hall is the vision of Rick Genderson and John Meekin, the project developers, to create a public art space for Springfield with the idea that art creates energy. â It will become a town center and gathering space and help draw attention to Springfield as a destination,’said Genderson. â It’s an area that’s gotten kicked from everybody, and here you have this beautiful old building on a beautiful river with an exceptional space. It needed some help, the area needed some help, and you had some good people there who were willing to work on it, and we were willing to take a chance on it,’he said. The Fellows Gear Shaper Companyâ s legacy helps tell the story of Springfield. â The first time I toured the huge, light filled space that was to become the Great Hall, the 14-foot walls, the huge overhead timbers and the soaring ceiling, it inspired contrasting images of a Gothic church with clerestory windows and one of the sprawling, gritty workrooms of the industrial factory, Fellows Gear Shaper,’said Nina Jamison, founder of Gallery at the VAULT and coordinator of the Great Hall. â Springfieldâ s boom time echoed in our footfalls.â Jamison wanted to honor the history of the building and the machinists by using the word great in its modern connotations of excellence in the title of Great Hall. A great hall in the middle ages was the main room of a royal palace or large manor house. At that time the word great simply meant big. With a soaring 25-foot ceiling and clerestory windows, the 150-foot-long by 45-foot-wide world-class public art space is unique in the region and will accommodate and compliment very large artwork and sculpture. When word got out about the Great Hall, via the Vermont Art Councilâ s website and other ways, the response was immediate from artists who had a difficult time finding display places for their extra-large work. â Within one month, a two-year lineup of shows was complete with both locally known artists and those who are more widely recognized, such as Fran Bull and Sabra Field,’Jamison said. Even before completion, the space spiked the creative juices in every artist who toured the Great Hall. Sculptor Carolyn Enz Hack decided to use her grant from the Vermont Community Foundation to create a sculpture in the Great Hall rather than at the more established Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. She is among the artists who are featured in the first exhibit, Emergence. Others include Patty Sgrecci of Brandon, mobiles; Rich Hearn of Chester, oil on canvas; Scot Borofsky of Brattleboro, enamel on linen; Robert Carsten of Springfield, pastel; Robert Oâ Brien of Perkinsville, watercolor; Oliver Schemm of Saxtons River, sculpture; Carolyn Enz Hack of Thetford Center, sculpture; Stephen Procter of Brattleboro, stoneware, and Tapestry Weavers in New England (TWiNE): Suzanne Pretty of Farmington, NH; Betsy Wing of Hartland; Sarah Robbins Warren of Jefferson, NH; Priscilla May Alden of East Boothbay Maine and Eve S. Pearce of Bennington, VT. The entire project is a model of redevelopmentâ the Great Hall is icing on the cake, said Bob Flint, Executive Director of the Springfield Regional Development Corp. â Itâ s leveraging this vital part of Springfield’s heritage to once again become a center of activity for the future.” Flint has been a prime mover in the effort to assemble the private investments and public grants that made the project possible. He said this far-reaching economic development project for the region and the state â will impact our economy in so many ways. Itâ s a home run.â In addition to the Great Hall, the mixed-use facility will include a medical center and space for retail and restaurants. Located on the Black River upriver from the impressive Comtu Falls, which cascade 110 feet down over a series of drops, One Hundred River Street stands at the entrance to the Designated Downtown of Springfield. A new 16â x32’historic mural by artist Jamie Townsend covers part of a long neglected building, an artistic â stepping stone’between the Great Hall and the heart of downtown. Historical information on the 1800â s Springfield to Charlestown NH Stagecoach is mounted next to the mural. Renovations under way July 2011.
Green Mountain Power Corp,Three Rutland nonprofits will be going solar thanks to $60,000 in grants from Green Mountain Power. Each nonprofit was awarded $20,000 to begin using the sun to create energy ‘and there’s still one more opportunity for another nonprofit to win a grant. The matching grants that will help these non-profit organizations build solar projects are part of GMP’s effort to make Rutland the Solar Capital of New England. ‘These non-profit groups will not only rely on the sun for a portion of their energy needs, they will help inform their clients and the general public about the benefits of solar energy,’said GMP President and CEO Mary Powell. ‘We want to demonstrate solar in a wide variety of settings, so we are particularly pleased to award these grants, which will support three very public projects and important local institutions.’ Grant winners are the Vermont Farmer’s Food Center on West Street, Rutland Regional Community Television on Scale Avenue in Howe Center, and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Hillside Road. Rutland-based Same Sun of Vermont will build the projects for the Vermont Farmer’s Food Center and Rutland Regional Community Television. USA Solar Store in Perkinsville will build the Good Shepherd project. ‘Each of these projects will have significant environmental and economic benefits for the nonprofits, and will help engage the community at large,’said Steve Costello, GMP’s vice president for generation and energy innovation. The Food Center is quickly becoming an important part of the western gateway to downtown Rutland, with hundreds of people visiting weekly. The TV station will document the installation of its new solar array and air programs about it multiple times on three cable access channels. Good Shepherd will use its array to teach students about energy at its Little Lambs Early Learning Center. Nonprofits interested in applying for the fourth $20,000 matching grant from GMP should contact David Dunn at the GMP Energy Innovation Center at 353-1456 or email [email protected](link sends e-mail) for more information. The deadline for applying is Aug. 27 at 5 pm. GMP already operates the 150-kilowatt Creek Path Solar Farm on a former brownfield; just received a permit for an 18-kW solar project on the roof of the planned Energy Innovation Center in downtown Rutland; purchased an interest in the 150-kW solar farm on the former Poor Farm off Woodstock Avenue; is in the planning stages for the 2.3-megawatt Stafford Hill Solar Farm on a former city landfill; has filed for a state permit for the 150-kW Solar Center at Rutland Regional; recently signed an agreement to build a 75-kW solar array on the College of St. Joseph gymnasium roof; and has just issued a request for proposals for an approximately 75-kilowatt solar project on the roof of the company’s Electrical Maintenance facility on Green Hill Lane.
by Viola Gad September 10, 2013 vtdigger.org On a morning short on sunshine and long on rain, students from Middlebury College and Norwich University shared details of solar-powered houses the schools built and are shipping to an international competition in California. ‘Even though there is no sun out there today -’ these houses would work either way,’ Daphne Larkin, director of communications at Norwich, said Tuesday at the event outside the Statehouse in Montpelier.In a tent set up to fight off the rain, Governor Peter Shumlin and the presidents of Middlebury College and Norwich University spoke in front of an audience of about 60 people. The schools were selected for the Solar Decathlon, an international biennial competition put on by the U.S. Department of Energy since 2002. The finals are in Irvine, Calif., next month.The competition challenges collegiate teams to design and build houses that are cost-effective, attractive and energy-efficient, according to Jason Lutterman, of the office of energy efficiency and renewable energy at the U.S. Department of Energy.‘There are two things about Vermont that I think is striking ‘ the first, I think, is our ability to innovate, and these students have proven once again that we can out-innovate the rest of them,’ Shumlin said. ‘The second part is that we care deeply about our downtowns and our communities and what these buildings do is that they enhance these communities.’Norwich’s entry in the Solar Decathlon competition is called Delta T-90. Here it is loaded on a truck to be delivered to the contest in Irvine, Calif. Courtesy of Norwich UniversityThe home built by Norwich students Delta T-90, is a modular house designed to maintain 70 degrees indoors when it’s minus 20 degrees Farenheit outdoors. More than 60 students from six academic disciplines have been working on the house over the past two years and cost $700,000 to develop, according to Larkin.Middlebury’s home, InSite, has replaced the traditional solar panel roof placement with a green roof that insulates the house and helps it manage storm water. The home will be a ‘net-zero’ solar-powered home, built to produce as much energy as it consumes. The total project cost was about $1.4 million and more than 100 students took part, according to a news release from the college. About 50 of those students will travel to California in weekly blocks to present the final project, said Ari Lattanzi, a Middlebury student.Middlebury’s entry in the Solar Decathlon competition is called InSite. Courtesy of Middlebury CollegeThe Middlebury house will travel by rail to reduce its carbon footprint, which made the construction more complicated, Lattanzi said. Starting on Sept. 23, her team will spend nine days setting the house up.There is no cash prize for the competition, but there is a trophy and ‘the pride of knowing that you won,’ said Lutterman of the Department of Energy.The 20 finalists received up to $100,000 in grants from DOE to finish their projects, but additional costs were raised individually. The houses are rated for affordability and are not allowed to sell for more than $250,000.Previous homes have been sold to recover costs or raise money for future teams, but most of the houses are used for research and are displayed at their respective universities.The college offered resources in the form of faculty and space, but all other costs were covered by money raised from the community and private sponsors, said Ronald Liebowitz, Middlebury president.Over the two first weeks in October, the contestants will compete in 10 disciplines judged by 12 jurors who are ‘at the top of their respective professions.’ Each contest, which ranges from architecture to hot water to engineering, is worth a maximum of 100 points. The group that is closest to 1,000 points by the end of the month is the winner, according to the Solar Decathlon’s website.Three teams that made it to the final round are from outside the U.S. ‘ Czech Republic, Austria and Ontario, Canada.In 2011, the Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C., attracted more than 350,000 visitors. One of the purposes of the competition is to educate students and the public about the environmental benefits of clean-energy products, Lutterman said.Middlebury placed 4th in the Solar Decathlon in 2011, which was held in Washington, D.C. It was the first liberal arts college to be selected for the competition. This is the first time competing for Norwich.‘Our house left the campus on trucks this morning,’ said Shannon Sickler, a student representative for the Norwich project. ‘I’ve been working with this project for over two years, so it’s very exciting that we are finally getting there.’Norwich President Richard Schneider (center) speaks during a send-off news conference outside the Statehouse on Tuesday with Gov. Peter Shumlin and Middlebury President Ronald Liebowitz. Photo by Viola Gad/VTDigger
Vermont Business Magazine Castleton University’s Castleton Polling Institute released its “Vermont Issues Poll” today. As is generally the case, jobs and the economy are seen as the most important problem facing the state of Vermont. The recent Castleton Poll found one-third of all respondents citing the economy as the most important issue facing the state. This is the issue most on Vermonter’s minds. The Poll also asked questions about a possible Ethics Commission, legalizing marijuana, and school district consolidation.Figure 1 illustrates the range of responses to this open-ended question.Figure 1. Vermonters views on the most important issue facing their stateIncluded in the “other” category were a wide-range of responses that touched on concern for the state’s infrastructure, abortion, partisanship, and concern for the state’s senior citizens. While in total they represent a large number of respondents (14 percent), no single issue within this group overall represents more than 2 percent of the total sample.The economy and taxes and spending were more likely to resonate with older respondents, while drugs and opiate addiction as an issue was more likely to resonate with younger Vermonters; Figure 2 illustrates these difference. The economy is seen as more salient as one’s level of education increased, and conversely, taxes and spending is seen as less salient as education levels rise. Figure 2. Importance of three major issue areas, by age Figure 4. Perception that there is a need for a state ethics commission, by party MarijuanaSupport for legalizing and regulating marijuana if Vermont for recreational use has remained steady since the last time that Castleton put the question to the general public. In February 2015, a Castleton Poll found a slim majority (54 percent) favored and 40 percent opposed legalizing marijuana; in the poll that just concluded September 14th, we found 56 percent favor legalization and 34 percent oppose. The percent without an opinion on the matter rose slightly from 6 percent to 10 percent, but this difference is not significant. Overall, support remains level even as talk about taking the issue up in the next legislation session increases. Castleton will release more data on support and opposition to marijuana legalization in a later and more extensive report. Source: Castleton University www.castleton.edu/about-castleton/the-castleton-polling-institute(link is external) 9.23.2015 Act 46The Castleton Poll asked respondents, “The Vermont legislature passed and Governor Shumlin signed Act 46, a law designed to encourage and help local school districts partner together to create districts of at least 900 students. How familiar are you with Act 46?” Given the brief introduction to the question, 12 percent said that they were very familiar with Act 46, and 48 percent said they were somewhat familiar. Forty percent of Vermonters are completely unfamiliar with Act 46. Regardless of familiarity with Act 46, a clear majority (59 percent) favor state actions to encourage consolidation of schools. There is no clear relationship between respondents’ familiarity with Act 46 and their support of state actions to consolidate schools.There is also little differences in support for school consolidation by political party affiliation or by one’s level of education; however, age appears related to ones views on the issue; 54 percent of those under 45 years old support consolidation, compared with 61 percent of those age 45 to 64, and 65 percent for those age 65 and older.Ethics commissionTo assess the degree to which support for creating a commission to address ethics in state government is linked to a perceived need for such a commission, the Castleton Poll randomly assigned respondents to receive one, and only one, of the following questions:Right now, Vermont state government is considering whether or not to establish an independent panel to investigate potential ethics violations where state officials are involved. Would you support or oppose the establishment of a state ethics commission in Vermont?- OR -Some have argued that as a small state, Vermont does not have the problems of other states, and therefore an independent ethics commission is not necessary and would only be a bother. Others have argued that Vermont needs an independent oversight body to address concerns about the ethical behavior of public officials. With whom do you most agree?The first question asks about support without concern for the degree to which respondents feel such a commission is necessary, while the latter question measures respondent’s sense of need for such a commission in Vermont. This experiment was done because it possible that Vermonters would support an ethics commission even if they thought there was little need for one. There is both support for the establishment of an ethics commission (74 percent, n = 302) and a perceived need for such a commission (67 percent, n=315), both with large majorities. Ironically, the perception of need is highest among Republicans, and the support for the establishment thereof is highest among Democrats. These differences are illustrated in the following two figures. It is possible that Republican perception of need for an ethics commission as well as their reluctance to support such a commission have the same root: trepidation about government and governmental solutions. The opposite may explain the Democratic higher support level and lower sense of need for the commission.Figure 3. Support and opposition to establishing a state ethics commission in Vermont, by party
Vermont Business Magazine After years of operating in basement offices scattered throughout town, Royalton town officials celebrated the opening of their new office building Monday with local, state, and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials. USDA Rural Business Cooperative Service Administrator Sam Rikkers used the occasion to announce a new USDA initiative that will set aside $300 million in USDA Rural Development grants and loans for regionally significant projects.“Royalton’s new town office building is one of the first projects in the country to receive USDA grant and loan funds as part of a new community and economic development initiative emphasizing the importance of strategic regional planning,” said Rikkers. “By adhering to the Regional Plan, Royalton has ensured that this new facility benefits both the local community and the region as a whole. Regional planning is a critical keystone to building sustainable rural communities.”The Strategic Economic and Community Development Initiative, included in the 2014 Farm Bill, directs the USDA to prioritize projects that tie into long-term regional plans. Rikkers announced that the USDA will dedicate $300 million in loan and grant funds for the initiative across four USDA Rural Development programs this year: the Community Facilities Loan and Grant Program, the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program, the Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program, and the Rural Business Development Grant Program. Royalton used a $600,000 USDA loan and a $50,000 USDA grant to construct and equip the new municipal building. The new building will increase the town’s capacity to serve its residents and those of the surrounding towns of Hartford, Tunbridge, Bethel and Sharon. The new facility will enable the town to provide police and rescue services to the region through mutual aid agreements. Royalton cited the 2014 Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Plan in its application, which made it eligible for the Strategic Economic and Community Development Initiative funding. During Monday’s announcement, Rikkers announced that the Vermont Technology Alliance (VTA), a non-profit business alliance which supports and promotes Vermont’s technology industry, received a $50,000 Rural Business Development Grant through the new regional initiative. The VTA will use the grant to market and develop technology-based jobs across the state, with an emphasis on rural areas like Royalton. The VTA’s application tied into workforce development goals outlined in Vermont’s Statewide Community and Economic Development Strategy recently completed by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Source: ROYALTON, VT, Dec. 14, 2015— USDA. USDA, through its RD mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $211 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural areas. For more information on Rural Development visit the Vermont/New Hampshire Rural Development website at www.rd.usda.gov/vt(link is external) or contact USDA RD at(802) 828-6000.
Saint Michael’s College,Vermont Business Magazine Saint Michael’s College has been named to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance’s list of the Top 300 Best College Values of 2016. Introduced in 1998, the rankings highlight public schools, private universities and private liberal arts colleges that combine outstanding academics with affordable cost. In addition, Kiplinger has ranked the top 100 best values in each category. Saint Michael’s made the magazine’s list of “100 best values in private universities.”Kiplinger assesses value by measurable standards of academic quality and affordability. Quality measures include the admission rate, the percentage of students who return for sophomore year, the student-faculty ratio and four-year graduation rate. Cost criteria include sticker price, financial aid and average debt at graduation.Saint Michael’s campus. Photo courtesy St Mike’s by Jeff Clark.“We start with a universe of 1,200 schools, so each school on our rankings, from number 1 to number 300, is a best value,” said Janet Bodnar, Editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. “Families can use the list as a starting point and then tailor it to each student’s preference for such things as size, location, campus culture and major.”At Kiplinger.com, visitors have access to the “Find the Best College for You” tool and other tools that let readers sort by admission rate, average debt at graduation and other criteria for all schools, plus in-state and out-of-state cost for public universities. Also online: slide shows of the top ten schools in different categories, archives of past years’ rankings and an FAQ on the ranking methodology.The complete rankings are now available online at Kiplinger.com/links/college and will appear in print in the February 2016 issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, on newsstands January 5.About Saint Michael’s CollegeSaint Michael’s College, founded on principles of social justice and compassion, is a selective, fully residential Catholic college in Vermont’s beautiful Green Mountains. Our closely connected community delivers internationally-respected liberal arts and graduate education near Burlington, one of the country’s best college towns. To prepare for fulfilling careers and meaningful lives, young adults here grow intellectually, socially, and morally, learning to be responsible for themselves, each other and their world.
by Ron Miller Last year, the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) launched the Vermont Climate Change Economy Initiative. Organizers believe that making a deliberate, planned effort to guide economic activity in the state toward climate change mitigation and adaptation can “build national reputation, create jobs, and attract youth and entrepreneurism.” At a daylong summit attended by more than 400 business and community leaders, science and policy experts, and other citizens from around the state, VCRD gathered dozens of ideas and a clear sense of direction about how to proceed, and appointed a Vermont Climate Change Economy Council to draft a comprehensive plan. This group held three public forums around the state in the past year to further explore possible approaches.Numerous strategies, involving partnerships, public policy and investment, have been considered. Some involve business incubation and technology development; others look at ways to put a higher price on carbon emissions. Economic spheres from agriculture and energy to tourism and transportation are getting special attention.On February 22 this year, a second summit will be held to receive and review the Council’s recommendations. Once again, VCRD is drawing on its unique ability to bring together movers, shakers and regular citizens from multiple sectors and across political divides to discuss a unified and comprehensive strategy.It is very encouraging to see that so much thought, outreach, and dialogue are being focused on these questions. Due to climate change as well as other environmental and global economic challenges, the industrialized world is entering a transition to what many observers are calling a “postcarbon” economy and society. So much that we take for granted in the modern age was made possible by cheap, potent sources of energy like coal and oil, on which we now see that we can no longer depend indefinitely.There have been few, if any, major transitions in human history that were navigated so deliberately. Usually cultural change is prompted by wars, famines, demographic shifts, new inventions and other accidental events. Now we are applying foresight and attempting to work collaboratively to design a new economy and culture for the planet’s changing conditions. The Climate Change Economy Initiative is not another conventional strategy for economic development—it is a bold effort to redefine economic development.In this new postcarbon age, the economy needs to be more “green,” more fair and inclusive, more holistically responsive to the natural environment and human communities. As many activists around the country are putting it, we need to pursue a “just transition”—a systemic shift rooted in social and economic justice. In other words, a green economy should not be a green light for those with advantages of wealth or influence to unheedingly exploit new opportunities for profit. There are some tangled and tricky issues to work through. For example, in our (laudable) enthusiasm to develop and promote renewable energy sources, we have sometimes allowed old ways of doing business to override community concerns about human health or the natural landscape.Ideally, the Climate Change Economy Initiative provides a forum where all voices are heard and all stakeholders have their concerns taken seriously. Still, our accustomed industrial-age patterns can be hard to shake off, and it will take a sincere, patient effort to move forward together into the new economy of a postcarbon age. The more voices at the table, the better. Join this conversation! See VCRD’s website, vtrural.org, for information about the initiative and about registering for the summit.Ron Miller is the chair of the board of Sustainable Woodstock.