WILMINGTON -- Members of the Dover, Halifax and Wilmington Selectboards, residents as well as business owners attended the Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies regional meeting on April 24 to weigh in on economic challenges.
"People believe economies are zero sum games," said ViTAL Economy Founder Frank Knott. "If you've been in an economy like this one, you believe that if you share, you have to give up something because there's only so much around. We try to show how much bigger the pie can be."
Knott was hired to help create a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy document by SeVEDS. He was in Wilmington to get input and feedback as part of a regional meeting series.
Dover Selectboard Chairman Randy Terk said he liked an analogy Knott had made about an economy being like a swimming pool.
"How do we get people to understand they're sending water out of the pool?" asked Terk.
"Literally, take one by one," replied Knott. "And instead of going to a wholesaler, create an affordable system."
He said that first, you map out assets in the community then figure out what system patterns will need to be changed.
"It's complex but it's not impossible," said Knott. "It just requires hard work."
Wilmington Selectboard member Diane Chapman spoke about college graduates not returning to the area to work.
"People who come out of college cannot come back to this area and make the money they can make in the larger cities," she said. "We need large corporations."
Knott said he did not believe that was the solution.
He thought smaller companies could have a lasting affect in a region like the Deerfield Valley. He also mentioned that due to the recession, smaller companies have not been able to be as successful in recent years.
Windham Regional Commission Planner Cullen Meves brought up her own choice to live in the region. She said her fiancee and other people she knows commute to Boston or Keene, N.H.. Others may telecommute or telecommute part time.
Meves suggested building on the broadband infrastructure so that residents in this region could tap into other regions' economies.
Halifax Selectboard Chairwoman Edee Edwards discussed the broadband issue in her town.
"I think we're still very weak in infrastructure," she said. "My town does not have high speed Internet. There are plans and grants to get it here but I'm concerned with having a back-up plan in case they can't."
Edwards also suggested looking at the transportation infrastructure, referring to Tropical Storm Irene. The roads that are not paved presented a major issue to those who needed to go to work in Brattleboro and other neighboring towns.
A member of the public spoke about how there is barely any alternative to using a vehicle to travel or commute to work.
Wilmington Selectboard member Susie Haughwout mentioned that she had been town clerk during the real estate boom and people would ask her about making the move to the area.
"I asked, ‘Do you have a six figure income in your family where you live now? How do you think you can replicate that?'... We are missing an opportunity with second homeowners who have decided they love it here," said Haughwout. "I just don't know if we've figured out a way to promote it."
Towards the end of the meeting, Knott recommended sending ideas and information through SeVEDS.com, where there is a contact page that allows people to send messages to the organization.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.