By Curt Peterson
Deputy Secretary Ted Brady of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development spoke Oct. 30 at the annual REDC meeting.
By Curt Peterson
RUTLAND— Deputy Secretary Ted Brady of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development gave the keynote presentation at the Rutland Economic Development Corp (REDC) 81st annual meeting Tuesday, Oct. 30.
“Rutland County, Rutland City, Rutland Town and the towns in the surrounding hills, have something the rest of Vermont doesn’t have,” Brady told the audience of nearly 200. “Your authenticity is awesome, and it can be key to marketing your region.”
Brady followed his accolades with an inventory of the challenges facing the greater Rutland area and the rest of Vermont.
He said unless regional interests do something, the state’s population would grow by only a few thousand people, if at all, by 2020. This translates into the labor force shrinking—100,000 Vermonters have voluntarily dropped out of the work force already.
“Lack of affordable child care services is a major reason,” Brady said. “And much of Vermont is rural—there are actually no good jobs within driving distance.”
All the publicity about Act 46 school consolidation has highlighted the 20 percent drop in the state’s student population as well.
Vermont can turn the population problem around, and provide future jobs, he said.
“The first step is to illuminate your true value.”
Brady said people come to see and play in Vermont – getting them here is easy – what we need to do is convince them to stay, that this is a great place to live and work.
“Tourists spend $3 billion here every year,” Brady said. “We have to get them to think of Vermont in terms of productivity too.”
He cited the website, Vermont.com, as an example of using Vermont attractions to suggest the state is a nice place to live and work as well.
The second step is developing a 21st century workforce – a theme heard from many political candidates this midterm election.
One idea Brady described is “returnships,” like internships, except a program offered to young students who leave the state so they will come back to Vermont to work.
Another strategy is employed by Real Careers in Rutland County, “a new pilot program designed and administered by the Rutland Region Workforce Investment Board, in partnership with REDC, and funded by a grant from the Vermont Department of Labor,” according to its website. “Real Careers is working with in-school and out-of-school young adults to help them create and implement a viable career plan that prepares them for one of the many well-paying jobs in our region.”
Brady also advocated for training people who are in prison for skilled jobs when they are released, turning a social negative into a positive part of the workforce.
Affordable housing is a huge challenge for Vermonters, Brady continued. The distance between a rural house a worker can afford and an available job, is often so great it makes commuting to work unsustainable.
Brady said the state has floated a $37 million housing bond to finance living spaces that working people can afford.
“There’s also a lot of inferior housing in Vermont,” he said. “Ten percent of all housing units in the state are manufactured homes, which often come with sewage and insulation problems.”
He feels these manufactured homes should be brought up to quality and code.
Another Action Vermont needs to take, Brady said, is to accelerate entrepreneurship within the economic system.
“Act 250 needs to be streamlined,” he said. “I’m an advocate for the goals of Act 250, but the process is so cumbersome and redundant it discourages new business development.”
Brady’s last piece of advice is for each business and each town to strengthen the regional economy by becoming its integral part.
“What’s your town’s focus?” he asked. “And how does it fit into the regional economy?”
In other business, REDC president John Russell III and Executive Director Tyler Richardson awarded Business Members of the Year trophies to Awesome Graphics and Casella Construction.
Noah Logan and Johnathan Ubrani were named Young Innovators of the Year for their work at Stafford Technical Center.