DOVER -- Residents in Windham County and some surrounding areas will at Town Meeting be asked to chip in about $3 each to help fund economic development and recovery in Southern Vermont.
In Dover, Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies representative Laura Sibilia said the group would be happy to have the funding included as an appropriation on the budget but also wanted to be presented as an article for Town Meeting.
"I would like to see it as an article," said Selectboard member Victoria Capitani. "It will force the conversation."
On Jan. 7, the Selectboard heard testimony from Sibilia regarding SeVEDS work. Representatives are currently asking 27 towns in the region for funding similar to the way they did last year.
This year, SeVEDS is requesting that petitions not be required for its funding request to make it into towns' budgets. Sibilia told the board that it had been difficult getting signatures in the towns where petitions were required.
"All the towns it was warned for, it was approved," she said.
So far, representatives of the group had been successful in securing spots on the Town Meeting warrants in the various towns it visited except for one. Although Dover had supported SeVEDS last year, Sibilia believes the conversation is important to have in town again.
Municipal funding came in at just over $110,000. Part of that money was used to hire a director of a workforce development for the group, Pat Moulton Powden. Recently, Powden had been replaced by Andrew Robinson in that position. He was a long-time employee for the Vermont Department of Labor.
According to a press release, Robinson has "established excellent contacts with employers throughout Windham County and is well versed in federal and state workforce programs." Sibilia had mentioned that he had also sat in regularly on meetings with the SeVEDS Workforce Committee.
Powden has taken over the position of executive director at the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, which is affiliated with SeVEDS. She had taken over Jeffrey Lewis' position after he retired.
"We feel this will be as seamless as possible," said Sibilia, who is the economic development director at the BDCC.
In February, Powden had started working with businesses to create a five-year hiring inventory of the top 25 largest employers in the area. Those businesses include manufacturers along the West River as well as tourism entities and ski resorts.
"We think this is important because Windham County is one of the oldest counties in the nation," said Sibilia. "This has big impacts for our workforce and we have a lot of folks retiring."
The information gathered from the 25 businesses will then go onto colleges, career centers and other job market place arenas. It will ultimately be shared not only in Windham County but Bennington County, too.
When asked if that project only focused on corporations in the Brattleboro area, Sibilia discussed the group's ambitions.
"The unique piece of SeVEDS is the regional nature of it. The board members are regional," she said.
After some more development, the list of the top 25 largest employers in the region will soon evolve to the top 50.
Another project currently underway is known as the Southern Vermont Sustainable Marketing initiative. It has been named top priority on the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies document, which the group completed a draft of last month.
The CEDS will be federally recognized, which means the document that lists several crucial projects for improving the economic climate in the regions, will have a better chance of receiving grants and support.
The document was a major accomplishment for the group. It assists with determining what is critical to recovery because it is organized by priority. Some of the projects listed in the CEDS include converting a three screen movie theater in Dover into a multi-artistic use center; purchasing 10 vacant buildings in downtown Wilmington for renovation; building a more sustainable childcare system; extending electric water and sewer to new industrial sites off of Exit 1 in Brattleboro; creating a machine apprenticeship program and more.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.