There is no doubt there are certain fundamentals most can agree upon. Good schools, a trained workforce, affordable housing, and modern infrastructure all come to mind. But again, what those concepts mean will be different to different people, as will their ranking in terms of importance.
The key to economic development, in our opinion, is to keep moving on it. That’s why we’re so excited about what is happening here in the valley. We’ve focused quite a bit of energy on the Tri-town Economic Development Committee and the Dover Economic Development Committee. Now, it looks like a broader, regional effort is about to take wing. That is a very good thing.
It’s great to see the regional Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategy group come together. We here in the valley can’t work and live in a vacuum. We need to partner with other towns and other groups. There is too much complexity to take on economic development strategies alone, and there is too much competition outside of Vermont to worry about what our neighbor is doing. We must work together to grow the economy across southern Vermont, and be happy when everyone gets a piece of the action. In the long run, we locally will benefit if the region as a whole benefits.
Economic development can often be a slow and frustrating process. It’s akin to turning an ocean liner. Things don’t happen quickly, at least most of the time. There’s a lot of planning, talking, and meeting involved. But the groundwork needs to be laid so that when opportunity does arise, action can happen. The worst thing that can happen in an economic development effort is to not be ready when opportunity does arise, whether that is securing a significant grant, luring a new business to the area, purchasing property, or wooing a major event. None of these things will happen if there is no planning, no groundwork, and no process in place. To have a broad, integrated process that can work farther afield than just the valley is something that should pay itself back many times over. That’s why the SeVEDS makes sense, and can mean dollars and cents for the region down the road.
Is there a magic bullet in economic development? No, there is not, and anyone who says they can find one is probably shooting blanks. As for all those opinions, there is nothing wrong about having a diversity of input. The next great thing may just be found in those ideas. What’s great right now is official are developing a structure to bring those ideas to fruition.
And with that structure and sustained efforts, we can get that economic ship turned around.