WINDHAM REGION -- On Thursday, the Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies Board passed a resolution asking the State of Vermont to recognize the process created by the Windham County Regional CEDS document for implementation of Vermont Yankee Economic Development funds, and asking for representation in determining the use of these funds before a Notice of Funding Availability is released.
The SeVEDS board also authorized the next stage of implementing the regions S.M.A.R.T. Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). The board approved extending its contract with ViTAL Economy, Inc. to develop the integrated multi-year roll out and budget plan for the S.M.A.R.T. CEDS and the VY Recovery action plans described in the plan. Implementation strategies will be developed in consultation with private sector, regional, state and federal partners.
SeVEDS Chairwoman Jenna Pugliese said her board is eager to work with ViTAL Economy on this next step in the region's economic recovery.
"The road ahead of us is long and the investment needed will be in the hundreds of millions, so we need to keep systematically moving forward on implementing this plan with our regional, state and federal partners. ViTAL Economy is the national leader in CEDS development and we are pleased to be working with them on this next phase.
Regarding the request for representation in the determination of how VY funds are distributed, Pugliese said, "The board took this action on behalf of the hundreds of people in the region who have volunteered time, raised funds and solicited or provided input to carefully craft a regional economic recovery plan that responds to the economic situation in the Windham Region; on behalf of the region's businesses and education institutions that have been making plans based on those carefully developed strategies and on behalf of the regions municipalities and voters who have voted to support development and execution of this plan."
"Despite the good efforts of the state agencies to develop a plan to put these funds to best use, we are hearing consternation, confusion and concern from the region's businesses, residents and towns," explained Pugliese. "They are asking us, 'Didn't we already create the plan?' There is a growing sense that the well-intended efforts of the agency are actually unintentionally undermining the region's years of work to grow the regional economy and deal with the significant economic impacts of the VY shutdown."
Pugliese acknowledged the work of the state to try and ensure a transparent process that included creative thoughts on how to best spend the limited resources, but says this short window attempt at duplicating a much more comprehensive process already undergone in the region is not likely to be as thoughtful.
"The community engagement process we used to develop the regional CEDS was so inclusive that the federal agency regulating development these types of plans is using it as a best practices model for community inclusion and engagement at the national level."
The Windham Region CEDs can be found out at: www.SeVEDS.com.
Read the board resolution, here (pdf file).