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Public input is sought for 2019 Southern Vermont economic plan

Interactive sessions will help Windham and Bennington counties develop joint strategy

For more information about the Economic Development Strategy process, contact Laura Sibilia at 802-257-7731, ext. 217, or Jonathon Cooper at 802-442-0713, ext. 312.

Windham and Bennington counties are coming together to develop a first-ever joint strategy to guide the Southern Vermont region’s economic future.

The heads of the Brattleboro Developement Credit Corporation and the Bennington County Industrial Corporation said in a news release that they hope the outcome of the process will be an action plan with specific projects and programs intended to spur economic and community development throughout the region.

“We are pleased to be updating our original, award-winning CEDS (comprehensive economic development strategy) and very excited to be including our Bennington County partners going forward,” BDCC Executive Director Adam Grinold said.

“Vermont’s two southernmost counties share a number of demographic, geographic and economic characteristics,” Grinold added. “This will help in developing a shared understanding throughout Southern Vermont about the most urgent issues affecting economic growth. While we anticipate much of the 2019 CEDS will be implemented regionally, we will look for opportunities for new joint ventures.”

BCIC Acting Director Bill Colvin said the beginning of this process marks an important milestone.

’No one is coming to save us’

“We have worked hard in the Bennington Region to build capacity and understanding of how to do regional economic development over the past three years and we sincerely appreciate BDCC and Southeast Vermont Economic Strategies for including Bennington County in the next iteration of its already successful CEDS planning and implementation efforts.”

Laura Sibilia, BDCC’s Director of Regional Strategies, said that the 2019 Southern Vermont Economic Development Zone CEDS will build off the momentum of previous work by SeVEDS.

“What we have learned in Southern Vermont is that no one is coming to save us, collaboration is the key to success for rural economic development planning, and that means there is room for everyone to participate,” Sibilia said.

“We have seen almost 800 jobs created and $38 million projected GDP growth to date from the implementation of the 2014 Windham Region S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based) CEDS and look forward to improving our planning and strategy development for the 2019 CEDS.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for businesses, residents and service providers across Southern Vermont to come together to identify assets and challenges within our control and develop data backed strategies to improve Southern Vermont’s future.”

High energy

Funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, this strategic planning process kicked off at the second annual Southern Vermont Economic Summit on May 30, and it continues through the summer and fall with a series of public meetings.

Camoin Associates, a nationally recognized economic development consulting firm, has been selected to assist with the development of the strategy.

“The energy in the room at the Southern Vermont Economic Summit was a clear indication that the time is right for the region to make some changes to address the challenges facing area residents and businesses,” said Rachel Selsky, Camoin’s Senior Project Manager. “As a Brattleboro resident, I am thrilled to be involved in this important project and looking forward to the public engagement sessions to gather important feedback on the goals and vision of community members.”

The first set of public meetings will be in both Bennington and Windham counties. Residents and business owners are invited to attend any sessions that are convenient.

• June 18: 10 a.m. to noon, Bennington Fire House; 2 to 4 p.m., Manchester Town Hall.

• June 19: 8 to 10 a.m., at the School for International Training, Room 101, Lowey Center, Brattleboro; 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at Lower Theater, Bellows Falls Opera House; 6 to 8 p.m., at Old School Library, Wilmington.

Organizers say sessions will be interactive and engage participants in discussions around the assets and opportunities in Southern Vermont.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #463 (Wednesday, June 13, 2018). This story appeared on page C3.

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