BRATTLEBORO—The Windham County region’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) has undergone its first update.
Southeastern Economic Development Strategies (SeVEDS), the economic development organization behind the CEDS, announced the plan’s top dozen projects during a press event at the River Garden on Jan. 12.
The SeVEDS screening committee reviewed 43 new and updated projects for the 2015 CEDS. The screening committee identified 12 of the 42 projects as vital to improving the region’s economy — in part by creating more jobs.
A CEDS is a federally recognized economic development strategy that includes projects the community says have the potential to improve the local economy.
Inclusion in the CEDS does not guarantee federal funding, though inclusion in a local CEDS does make a project more competitive for those dollars.
SeVEDS launched the the comprehensive strategy two years ago. The federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) approved the document last summer.
“It’s a pretty big deal for us,” said SeVEDS Director of Economic Development Laura Sibilia.
The submission period for this year’s comprehensive strategy was July 1 through Sept. 30, 2014. Project submissions included a project overview, description, the applicant’s capacity to implement the project, the project’s intended outcome, and a statement of how the project aligns with the goals and strategies of SeVEDS.
Screening committee members included Stratton Mountain Resort General Manager Sky Foulkes, Strolling of the Heifers Executive Director Orly Munzing, ROV Technologies CFO Jill Zachary, Landmark College’s Jennifer Lann, and Sonnax Industries CEO Tommy Harmon.
Fifty-two projects were submitted for the CEDS last year.
Of the 12 vital projects, SeVEDS and Brattleboro Development Credit Corp. (BDCC) had four that were updated from last year. These focused on workforce development, improving the area’s innovation ecosystem, and extending electric, water, and sewer services to new industrial regional sites.
Andrew Robinson, director of workforce development and SeVEDS workforce contact, commented on the Bennington and Windham counties’ workforce board project.
While still in its infancy, Robinson said, the bi-county job board will be designed to create a talent pipeline for employers looking to hire within the region.
It is the next phase of SeVEDS’ ongoing workforce development initiatives, he said.
A new project from the Bellows Falls Area Development Corporation was included as a vital project: The BFADC initative focuses on remediating five acres of brownfield on an area known as the Island, reclaiming industrial space.
Ironwood Brand, PreCraft, and STIX updated its project to build a rapid-prototyping facility at the company’s shop for prefabricated high-performance building envelopes and resilient mechanical systems.
The Sustainable Energy Outreach Network (SEON), a network of green-building experts, submitted a new project seeking funds to offset two years of operational expenses and non-employee compensation for future SEON activities.
According to Guy Payne, SEON’s executive director, although SEON’s all-volunteer board has accomplished much, “all-volunteer” will become unsustainable as the organization expands.
In recent years, SEON has facilitated statewide collaborations among workers in the green building sector. The organization hosts a monthly meeting for people in the industry to mentor each other.
SEON member Peter Yost of Building Green is collaborating with the Windham Regional Career Center in Brattleboro to design a course on the fundamentals of green building for high school students.
According to Payne, the course would teach the physics of how air, moisture, and heat move through buildings.
Strolling of the Heifers updated its project to establish a Southeastern Vermont Food and Agricultural Innovation Center at the Robert H. Gibson River Garden.
Software company Storm Petral LLC submitted a new project regarding software to aid government agencies’ financial recovery after natural disasters.
Rich Earth Institute also included a new project regarding creating a sustainable urine-recycling system for the region.
The Windham Regional Commission updated its project for a Windham Region Village Water and Wastewater Needs Assessment and Feasibility Plan.
WRC Executive Director Chris Campany previously told The Commons that outdated water and sewer systems or reliance on septic tanks can hamper business growth in villages.
Windham Child Care Association (WCCA), a support organization for early-education programs and childcare providers, updated its project to build a more sustainable childcare system through shared practices and networking to increase overall program quality, earnings, and workforce development for childcare workers.
The project is in its second year, according to WCCA Executive Director Margaret Atkinson.
Early Childhood Outreach Specialist Emily Walsh reports the “shared” part of the program includes group purchasing, shared resources, and shared paperwork.
According to Walsh and Atkinson, part of the project was funded through the state’s expanded “birth to 3” program. WCCA also is participating as one of four pilot locations for a program called Shared Service Vermont, which helps childcare providers with curriculum development and other resources.
“We’re trying to put more money into the pockets of providers,” Atkinson said with a smile.
Atkinson explained that WCCA, founded in 1981, has long supported childcare providers with training, professional development, curriculum materials, and other resources to establish high-quality programs.
But, she said, this is also about helping those people in charge of caring for young children build a viable career path that allows them to develop skills and earn a good wage.