On April 21st, REDC, Rutland Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Rutland Regional Planning Commission hosted a public discussion facilitated by Jeffrey Lewis and Jennifer Stromsten of the Vermont Futures Project.
The Vermont Futures Project believes we need a carefully thought out vision for an economic future which provides opportunity for everyone, growth in productivity, and yields in tax revenue sufficient to meet our shared goals of fairness, environmental strength, and compassion. This is a data-drive initiative which seeks to inform the conversation about Vermont’s economic future, and they have been conducting public discussions throughout Vermont as a means to further this conversation and craft a common vision. (To find out more about the Vermont Futures Project, visit their website.)
It was an evening of great discussion. After presenting data on the past, present, and future of Vermont’s economic condition, the participants individually addressed the challenges and possibilities of Vermont, focusing on these categories: Economic Activity, Workforce, and Quality of Place. Then, the participants broke into three groups to break down the discussion further, with each group addressing one of the three categories and focusing on the details of how they envision a great future for all Vermonters.
Below are the summaries and emerging themes from the evening.
From Economic group work:
- Description of a busy, active place with lots of kinds of people and visible signs of life!
- Focusing on a healthy mix or balance – whether it’s ages, local vs chain biz, small and large biz
- Infrastructure vision that went beyond ‘enough broadband’ to be ambitious – getting it all underground, and having capacity to keep growing!
- Some intergenerational thinking! From describing active places with ‘people of all ages’, to jobs with upward mobility, to mentorship & coaching. Particularly “Balance young / old – vibrant lifestyle for both” (captures something we need in statewide vision – how rural life & small town community keeps different kinds of people connected in a very special way)
- This idea of meaningful work –in terms of career advancement, and literally being ‘useful’ which ties to a “confident, competent workforce proud of what they do” – PRIDE
From Workforce group work:
- Connections & Ties:
- Distinction around satisfaction, happiness, confidence
- High quality theme:
- employee, community, job/employment, quality of life, financial reward (relative)
- Diversity & balance:
- age brackets, gender, race, politics, newcomers & natives
- Education & competence
- Connectedness & community
From Quality of Place group work:
- Again, a future where we are planning for the future “infrastructure…capacity”
- Great focus on the need for people to have income to spend and contribute
- Diversity of housing needs – from single family homes to condos for singles and older
- Public transit “without stigma” really fits with the theme above of pride
- And this group finished up with some ways the state practices could immediately change to help (spend contractor money in state, spend money on itself!, assume risk to help local improvements in infrastructure etc)
Some general observations from the individual forms:
- Lots of great detail, and consistent with above.
- Heartwarming – full of concern, compassion and thoughtfulness. Very engaged, not a lot of abstract ‘detached’ ideologically driven perspectives – this is a practical group with a real sense of what is happening in their community and the challenges faced by a broad range of people.
- This is not a group that needed help seeing the URGENCY. At the same time, many people commented on how the event gave them HOPE.
(All content is captured verbatim in the accompanying pdf)
Below is a Wordle created from the content generated during the evening. Unsurprisingly for Rutland, one word is at the center: PEOPLE.