Pat McDonald producer and host of Vote for Vermont and Ben Kinsley, Executive Director of Campaign for Vermont Prosperity co-hosted a show on Economic Development Initiatives and Opportunities. Our guest was Ted Brady, the Deputy Secretary of Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. The following is a summary of their conversation.
Ted Brady has focused on economic development throughout most of his career – with his job with Senator Leahy and the USDA and now with Governor Phil Scott. His focus and that of ACCD, is to create opportunities to grow Vermont’s economy. ACCD focuses their efforts on growing businesses, markets and communities in an effort to make Vermont a better place to work, live and play. Shortly after being sworn in, the Governor issued an Executive Order that required all of state government to focus on three things: strengthen the economy, make Vermont more affordable and protect the most vulnerable. ACCD is at the center of all three of the governor’s goals through its focus on workforce development, creating affordable housing and maintaining and protecting the economic and community development ecosystem.
Ted talked about the crisis of affordability that Vermont is facing. ACCD is helping by overseeing Community Development Block Grants and several other programs designed to help lower income Vermonters and businesses. Ted noted that six people are leaving the workforce daily and that the Vt. Futures Projects report indicates that Vermont is 10,000 people short to meet its workforce needs. Ted advised that ACCD is reaching out to college students and to those who have left the workforce to entice them to return. To help with workforce development Governor Scott proposed to merge ACCD with the Department of Labor. A closer relationship between the two departments would benefit potential workers, employees and employers. The legislature did not support the merger and is now looking for ways to support workforce development efforts. The governor talks about cradle to career efforts and believes it’s important to expose young Vermonters to workforce opportunities and to better support state colleges, which is why he asked for funding for early education and higher education which will cover the cradle to career continuum.
Affordable and available housing was something Ted talked about as a real deterrent for families moving to Vermont as well as available jobs for the spouse. When companies offer an individual a job and he/she moves to Vermont, there is usually a concern raised about a job for the spouse and a place to live. ACCD is trying to change those dynamics by working with its partners, such as the local Planning Commissions and Chambers of Commerce. Ted also said that ACCD is changing its marketing of Vermont by telling a more holistic story. ACCD has requested additional monies to fund the marketing effort.
Ted commented that there are two major documents on their website which talk about the vision for Vermont in 2020 and the substance of the Marketing Plan. It’s a great website and we encourage everyone to check it out by going to ACCD.Vermont.gov. You may also want to check out the newly launched thinkvermont.com.
One of the very important projects ACCD works on is Vermont’s Small Business Development Center, a place which is focused on small businesses and connecting them with the help they need to be successful. ACCD focuses on helping businesses from all sectors, but its strategic economic development plan suggests continuing to grow four key sectors: (1) working landscapes, (2) hi-tech, (3) resiliency, and (4) climate. We asked Ted about the EB-5 program we have all read about. Ted said that ACCD is still marketing the program as it has been very successful in certain areas in the state to include Sugarbush, Trapp Family Lodge, Country Home Products, and others. These are programs that are small and manageable. Other successful programs we talked about were VEPC (Vermont Economic Progress Council) and TIF (Tax Incremental Financing Districts). Several changes in both programs are being made which will stimulate job creation and economic development.
We asked Ted about any encouraging bills that are being considered by the legislature. Ted assured us there are several bills which have great promise and could help small businesses, improve the housing market, streamline Act 250 requirements and eliminate sales tax on airplane parts. Many Vermonters are not aware of the thriving business Vermont is enjoying with airplane repairs and parts, such as is offered at the Middlebury airport.
We asked Ted about any outreach internationally. Ted explained that Vermont is very interested in international trade particularly with Quebec where we have a $4B relationship. The largest traded item is semi-conductors. Toronto is another large trading partner. Twenty-six companies in Vermont have Canadian parents. The governor has visited Canada several times to encourage the continuation of this successful trading partnership.
Ted also mentioned that ACCD provides oversight to Vermont Life Magazine and Historic Preservation. We agreed we should have Ted return to talk about these two entities and to discuss ACCD and Vermont’s success in the creation of a dynamic economic environment.
In closing, Ted said that ACCD can be the first stop for businesses, tourists, and municipalities as a great first stop resource. Ted said that ACCD’s overarching goal is to make sure that every dollar is spent wisely and commented how closely he and ACCD work with the governor and other state partners to create initiatives and opportunities for Vermonters, businesses, municipalities and those looking to move to Vermont to live, play and work.
The comments reflected in this article are opinions stated by our guests. Any rebuttals are welcome and can be expressed on the websites and facebook pages of VFV and CFV. If you would like to see the show please go to vote802.com for a complete listing of Vote for Vermont shows or our YouTube channel for the shows done in partnership with Campaign for Vermont Prosperity.