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A virtual summit will be held May 12, 13 and 14 to focus on rural resilience as Vermont emerges from the pandemic. The theme for this year’s Southern Vermont Economy Summit is “Reconnect” — a time to reconnect with one another, and with efforts to build a brighter future for rural communities.

Three keynote speakers will share insights on how to build rural resilience from three perspectives: federal policy and investment, structural change in state agencies, and community-driven initiatives.

The summit opens with Tony Pipa, senior fellow of global economy and development at the Center for Sustainable Development at the Brookings Institution and author of the recent report “Reimagining rural policy: Organizing federal assistance to maximize rural prosperity.” Pipa will discuss the new administration’s approach to federal rural programs and funding.

Xusana Davis was named the State of Vermont’s executive director of racial equity in 2019. Since that time, Davis has been working with state agencies to identify structural solutions to structural barriers to equity. Davis applies an “equity lens” to three key areas: fiscal impact, equity impact and operational impact. She relies on data to inform this work, and on the State Strategic Plan to guide it.

Majora Carter, a real estate developer, urban revitalization strategy consultant, MacArthur Fellow and Peabody Award winning broadcaster, will close out the summit. Carter applies her corporate consulting practice focused on talent-retention to reducing Brain Drain in American low-status communities. She has firsthand experience pioneering sustainable economic development in one of America’s most storied low-status communities: the South Bronx. She and her teams develop vision, strategies and the type of development that transforms low-status communities into thriving mixed-use local economies. Her approach harnesses capital flows resulting from American re-urbanization to help increase wealth building opportunities across demographics left out of all historic financial tide changes.

The summit is put on each year by southern Vermont’s regional organizations: the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, Bennington County Industrial Corporation, and Bennington County Regional Commission. In addition to speakers, the event features workshops, networking, and panel sessions focused on small business development and initiatives to strengthen communities. A special three-part New-to-Vermont lunch series takes on the opportunities, and barriers, to welcoming newcomers to rural communities facing demographic decline. The summit will be anchored by “In Conversation With: Gov. Phil Scott and Lt. Gov. Molly Gray on Envisioning Vermont’s Future, with state leadership responding to policy questions from young Vermonters, followed by The Future Talks Back, a young professional town hall discussion.

The summit is made possible by the USDA Rural Community Development Initiative, and numerous sponsors. Summit Sponsors are The Bank of Bennington and Brattleboro Savings and Loan. The Economic Keynote sponsors are People’s United Bank and Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Community Keynote sponsor is MSK Engineering. Lunch Session sponsors are VELCO and Green Mountain Power. Base level sponsors are The Richards Group, Vermont Community Loan Fund, AARP VT, and VSAC. The Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, Bennington County Regional Commission, and Bennington County Industrial Corporation organize the Summit on behalf of the Southern Vermont Economic Development Zone. The Summit is part of the Southern Vermont Economy Project which helps build capacity, expertise and resources in the Zone with support from the USDA Rural Community Development Initiative.

For more information on the summit, go to sovermontzone.com/summit.