On Monday (May 23), I stood in downtown Barre – looking around at the 24 new businesses that have opened in the city in recent years, which created over 350 new jobs — and I marveled at what can be achieved when government, community and the private sector work together.
Barre is a success story that I want to bring to other Vermont communities. Too many Vermonters are struggling just to make ends meet and wages are not keeping up with the cost of living. When we revitalize our communities, we create good paying jobs, grow businesses, and support an economy that helps young people work, play and stay here in Vermont.
I have proposed two new efforts to help build vibrant communities and create jobs. InnovateVT will help cutting edge business owners access the financing, promotional help, and workspace to ensure they are meeting – and exceeding – their potential. InvestVT will link federal, state and local funds with lending from financial institutions and private and philanthropic support to help communities across the state thrive.
Here's how it works:
* InnovateVT will bring together government, local and private partners to ensure that innovative local businesses have the tools they need to start, plan and grow.
Vermont is becoming a magnet for high tech start-ups, next-generation manufacturing, energy and forest and farm product development -- jobs that bring and keep young people in Vermont.
These sectors are a backbone of the new Vermont economy. Tech jobs make up 25% of all Vermont employment, representing more than 77,000 jobs and generating about $5.6 billion in wages – 40% of all Vermont wages. From 2009 to 2014, food manufacturing increased 40.5%.
And, Vermont leads the nation in growth of solar and renewal energy jobs.
As governor, I will establish four task forces within my first 90 days in office: Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency; Farm and Forest Production; Next Generation Manufacturing; and Tech Industry.
These task forces will include industry leaders to recommend strategies, goals, and benchmarks to continue growth in these critical areas. Our focus will be on parts of the state that need it most: Southern Vermont and the Northeast Kingdom. The task forces will lead to a statewide InnovateVT summit and establish an InnovateVT Council to help build and strengthen these critical areas of Vermont's economy.
* InvestVT will focus on bringing public and private investments together to grow thriving communities. By coordinating federal, state and local funds, as well as lending from financial institutions and private and philanthropic support, we will expand cell and broadband service, improve roads and bridges, increase affordable housing, and grow jobs.
Barre is an example of what we can accomplish when we break down government silos and focus on a common goal. When I was Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Transportation, we invested in Barre – but we had an eye towards leveraging even greater goals. Since 2011, almost $20 million in public investment was put into downtown Barre to replace 100-year old water and sewer lines and rebuild a new pedestrian-friendly main street. Five years later, that money has attracted $45 million in private investment and created hundreds of new jobs.
InvestVT will use this model of making strategic investments in infrastructure to leverage greater change in our communities.
I also propose that we use social impact bonds to address critical needs in these communities — particularly fighting the substance abuse and opioid addiction that threatens the safety of our streets and the health of our families. This innovative financing has been used successfully in other states.
In my first year in office, I will identify three communities that are committed to making a positive change in their downtowns, and make the strategic investment needed to help them plan, thrive and grow.
Not too long ago, Barre was in decline. Storefronts were empty. Now thanks to strong local leadership and public-private partnerships, business owners like Darren from the Vermont Bicycle Shop and Elizabeth from Espresso Bueno say that their businesses are succeeding and they are enthusiastic about the future of Barre.
Strong communities with thriving downtowns and successful businesses will benefit all Vermonters, and attract and keep young people in our state.
I will be a governor committed to innovative partnerships, investing in vibrant downtowns, growing our economy and making Vermont work.
— Sue Minter, of Waterbury Center, is a Democratic candidate for governor of Vermont.