We Have Opportunities

Vermont has options. In these perilous moments of great change when old things get brittle and break, savvy people design and build new things. There is opportunity in chaos for those who see it.

The Governor in his State of the State address called for bold action to stabilize Vermont’s budget deficit. We need him to lead an equally passionate discussion around our options for innovation and growth. They are many and manifest.

Two of the fastest growing job creation sectors are healthcare and higher education, both of which are in the non-profit sector.

Commercial sectors that will need investment, tax and regulatory emendment include: light manufacturing, diversified agriculture, wood forest products and fuels, niche tourism, and the arts and information services.

We need to put to rest the ideas that we will recruit another great economic asset like IBM or that we will have significant growth in large scale, commodity dairy. We must work hard to encourage and retain both and let go of trying to find more.

Our myths inhibit us. We are not “special.” Our state boundaries have no economic meaning. We are part of an economic, regulatory and tax region that comprises Northern New England and Quebec. Our communities are indeed special, but so are everyone else’s. Ask someone in New York’s West Village.

The Commission on the Future of Vermont has gathered grassroots information on what Vermonter’s value most. Number one is their “working landscape.” This means that agriculture, in its increasing diversity, must continue to be a vital part of Vermont’s economy, values and vistas even though it is largely ignored in the State’s economic development priorities. So will our forests, also part of our working landscape. Forest products whether cordwood, chairs or cellos will persist in our new economy and our working landscape.

Innovation and initiative is all around us. It is depressed by stale tax policy, sluggish permitting and lack of risk capital. We must acknowledge what is lost to the past and understand what is emerging as our future. We must understand what creates and nourishes entrepreneurial startups and grow that culture here. With our demonstrated capacity to innovate socially, why are we so thoroughly missing the boat economically?

Poor quality goods and high transportation costs are casting a shadow on Asian exports. Vermont’s light manufacturing sector can compete on quality alone, especially when using indigenous natural resources.

Niche tourism using our high quality educational, healthcare, cultural heritage, and farm and food culture resources needs a marketing plan.

We have major arts resources: The Vermont Studio Center, The Vermont College of Fine Arts, Marlboro, Breadloaf and one of the highest concentrations of artists and writers in the country.

We have over 200 software companies working in retail, real estate, hospitality, e-commerce and energy management.

We need new glasses. We are not seeing what is in front of us.

3 Responses to “We Have Opportunities”

Well stated. Our opportunities must be seen to be encouraged and enabled. Good jobs will come from good ideas that can be implemented swiftly by entrepreneurs.

But we must overcome or somehow override the lethargy and old thinking that inhabits Montpelier always stoked by too many special interests who believe government can solve their problems. Government has a rightful place but their spendthrift culture for the past several years has drained the tax base dry.

Many believe there’s some magic that government (Federal and state) can work to create a wonderful cocoon of plenty.

Hard work applied to capital in the private (commercial and non-profit) sector is the best stimulus.

Our prod to Montpelier should be for the conditions necessary for a vibrant private sector to emerge from this recessionary chaos.

When I heard your commentary on VPR I found myself exclaiming, ‘Yes, yes, yes!” My husband had come in from the other room and said, “This is what you based your campaign on!” Yes. Oh, and I lost. It was a three-way race.

And then this evening we watched your interview on ‘Profile,” which reminded me to look for your commentary to read it again; thanks for posting.

One thing I would like to add into the mix of observations is that we’re tired of being studied to death. Yikes! We need to discover what’s in front of us and develop the strength to enhance and expand opportunities.

These days I am the executive director of the Newport City Renaissance Corporation and we’re on the verge of some tipping points that will make a great deal of difference to our residents, work force, students and visitors. We need to try to get the right solutions. In March there will be the first American Institute of Architects Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team project in its 40-year history in Vermont … Newport to be exact. It’s wonderfully exciting to be ‘first’ in Vermont!

In November, I was elected president of the Northeast Kingdom Travel & Tourism Association; your comment re niche tourism needing a marketing plan rung true. We’re working on a marketing plan for our National Geographic Geotourism destination (one of maybe a dozen in the world… and now that Montreal has just been awarded as a Geotourism destination we’re the two closest in the world … perhaps the VT Dept of Tourism should invest in marketing that & getting our workforce ready for French Canadians instead of trying to pull visitors from China!). I participate in a monthly mtg w/Customs & Border Patrol in Derby Line in an effort to get a ‘friendly border’ campaign going.

Oops … passion took over. Thanks for sharing your observations. It means a lot to hear it from one who has discovered opportunities, embraced challenges through ups & downs and can still see clearly and say, “Why not?” Thanks again. Patricia | http://www.linkedin.com/in/patriciamsears

Thanks for your thoughtful response, Having grown up partially on Willoughby, I am familiar with Newport. My stepfather went to the convent school, there as well when he was young. Your “studied to death” comment rang so true. This is the cover of politicians who have no natural leadership instincts. Thanks for all your good work up there. It sounds impressive.