Campaign for Vermont is pleased to hear the governor will focus on jobs and prosperity in his upcoming speech to Vermonters in the coming week, after all, it’s been our focus for the past two years.
CFV believes economic growth, jobs growth, rising real incomes across the state and for its people is the very definition of shared prosperity. It’s the way forward. It’s the solution for unemployment, under-employment and chronic poverty. It will create resources to invest in our infrastructure and environment. It will provide more jobs than people to fill them and will enlarge our workforce as more people move to Vermont.
The pursuit of shared prosperity is a policy initiative that should last decades, not just an election cycle. Only a broad based coalition in support of shared prosperity will protect us from short-sighted ideas and the results of short-term economic and social variables.
CFV urges the governor to tackle policy issues that will matter:
· Build strong relationships with employers. The state must develop a comprehensive regionally coordinated calling effort conducted in a persistently systematic manner to get to know all of our employers, no matter how big or small, and Vermont based or not. Over time companies will share information allowing for a shared base of knowledge that will lead to measurable results - job retention, future job needs and greater investments in Vermont. Let’s start now.
· Train, improve, and enlarge our workforce. Appoint a “champion” to coordinate, prioritize, and make funding more predictable. Restore the budget of the successful Vermont Training Program. These are just two, of the many recommendations, the Next Generation Commission made in 2006. Vermont’s work force development efforts have fallen behind other states. Programs are spread across a myriad of agencies and private contractors. Silos anda unpredictable funding at the state level limit workforce potential. The state can only estimate total funding for workforce development. Let’s move into an action phase.
· Manufacturing jobs create sustainable opportunities. The governor’s “Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Final Report” (2013) is gathering dust. It is a terrific report that begs for attention and action. Vermont has more than 1,000 manufacturers. They pay higher than average wages, offer jobs that are bridges to middle income levels and their expenditures provide a high multiplier effect. This report offers a blueprint for success. It’s time to execute the findings of this report.
· Retain educated and innovative young people. Higher education matters. Our institutions of higher education draw as many 6,000 non-Vermont men and women to our state every year. Champlain College reported that more than half their graduating seniors stayed right here after graduation. UVM reports that nearly 40,000 of their alums, the majority of whom grew up elsewhere, live in Vermont. These people are worthy of greater attention, so let’s develop programs that will show them the full range of opportunities in Vermont.
· Innovation matters. The Bayh-Dole Act (1980) provides universities the right to patent innovation funded by federal dollars. Companies such as Google, Cisco, and Yahoo were created from those patents. This type of innovation could happen here, perhaps on a smaller scale but in a growing innovative environment. UVM has the capacity to provide expertise to other colleges in our state. Intellectual capital resides on our college campuses. Let’s cultivate a stronger culture of entrepreneurship and innovation.
Campaign for Vermont will present more ideas in a forthcoming policy paper “Enabling a Vermont Economic Renewal,” but urge the governor to consider these initiatives as first steps. Even the best ideas will fall short unless there is dedication to building a ‘platform for growth”—built upon restraint of budget spending, education reform and property tax fairness, a culture of transparency in government that encourages results-based budgeting with continuous improvements, and a serious look at the levers of affordability in Vermont.