Vermont’s businesses face an unprecedented crisis. Many of the small businesses that have employed our neighbors, anchored our towns, and brought Vermont dreams to life, are in grave danger as a result of the crisis. It is our responsibility to use whatever tools we have to preserve our vibrant small business community—and the workers who sustain them.
I grew up in Vermont and have built a life and career here, and I am dedicated to ensuring that we have a vibrant economy with the capacity to welcome anyone who wants to live here and sustain anyone who wants to stay.
Vermont has a proud and impressive entrepreneurial spirit, and we must nurture the conditions that allow that spirit to thrive. Chittenden County is an economic engine for the state, and we have a responsibility to maintain that energy and vibrancy.
In addition to the crisis response, there are a number of ways our state government can promote economic development in Chittenden County and throughout Vermont.
Adequate Housing: Affordable housing is critical to recruiting and retaining a talented workforce. There is a desperate need for adequate housing in Chittenden County. More detail about my housing and affordability policy positions are available here, but we need to use the tools available to us in state law—specifically Act 250—to incentivize downtown growth and development. Avoiding sprawl is the environmentally friendly way to grow, and downtown growth should produce housing within the middle market range that we so desperately need.
Green jobs: Vermont has a booming clean energy job sector, employing more than 17,000 Vermonters—many in Chittenden County. Let’s keep the momentum going. The state legislature will have to maintain energy siting policies that are conducive to renewable energy sources as well as create policies allowing utilities to support the influx of renewable sources, including from single-home solar sources.
Supporting STEM Cluster jobs: Chittenden County has a growing STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics—cluster. STEM jobs tend to pay well above the county average and we should encourage their growth through various types of infrastructure investment as explained below.
High-Speed internet access: Burlington already has fast internet speeds for businesses and individuals available through Burlington Telecom. We need to work with public and private partners to make sure industry-standard internet speeds are available county-wide.
Transportation infrastructure: We need to support the CCTA and ensure adequate public transportation in the county. Younger workers increasingly avoid long car commutes. Full public transportation—combined with increased downtown housing—is an opportunity to support business and the environment at the same time.
Workforce preparedness: There is a wide range of proficiency in science and math among students in Chittenden County—as well as clear disparities between wealthier and poorer school districts. As a state we need to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to excel.