BDCC embraces initiative for welcoming diverse residents to area

BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation (BDCC) board of directors recently voted to fund Welcoming Communities, a new program that seeks to make the region more welcoming, equitable, and inclusive for community members who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color), foreign-born workers, and non-citizen residents.

According to a news release, BDCC says the initiative “will improve how existing BDCC programs serve diverse audiences, and launch new targeted activities through partnerships with employers and community-based organizations,” with a long term goal of building “a robust system that will support immigration and in-migration to southern Vermont and an increase in demographic diversity.”

The need to increase the size and quality of the workforce was first identified in the region's 2014 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). Since then, workforce participation, labor force numbers, school populations, and birth rates have continued to plummet.

BDCC says it is working to retain and attract people through programs like Young Professionals and Stay to Stay, and for the past five years has sought opportunities to lower barriers for BIPOC and foreign-born people.

BDCC will partner with community leaders and employers to build systems that fully support immigrants and people of all backgrounds, addressing barriers such as housing, legal services, employment, and transportation.

Randy Schoonmaker, CEO of Southeast Vermont Transit, has firsthand experience supporting the visa workers that the region's seasonal businesses need to succeed by providing a service often underappreciated in southern Vermont - public transportation.

“Our company mission mirrors the values and goals of this initiative. We are well-versed in connecting new residents to essential life functions - jobs, medical care, education, and quality-of-life trips - since we have been doing this successfully for over 20 years,” said Schoonmaker.

Board President Bob Stevens said he is excited for BDCC to embark on this effort.

“With this project, we're incorporating the values of inclusivity, equity, and welcomeness into the core of our mission, and dedicating the necessary resources to ensure our organization serves all residents,” he said. “We are not naïve about the long road ahead in achieving this work, but it's the right thing for this organization to do.”

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