Public input sought for Southern Vermont plan

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Bennington County and Windham County are coming together to develop a first-ever joint strategy to guide the southern Vermont region's economic future. The outcome of this process will be an action plan with specific projects and programs intended to spur economic and community development throughout the region to create job opportunities, improve quality of life, and address major issues facing residents and businesses. Initiatives identified during this process will be eligible for federal, state, and other funding and will benefit from public recognition and opportunities for partnerships and collaboration.

"We are pleased to be updating our original, award-winning CEDS and very excited to be including our Bennington County partners going forward," stated BDCC Executive Director Adam Grinold. "Vermont's two southernmost counties share a number of demographic, geographic and economic characteristics. This will help in developing a shared understanding throughout southern Vermont about the most urgent issues affecting economic growth. While we anticipate much of the 2019 CEDS will be implemented regionally, we will look for opportunities for new joint ventures."

For Bill Colvin, acting director of the Bennington County Industrial Corporation, the beginning of this process marks an important milestone.

"We are delighted to be moving forward with a Southern Vermont CEDS in conjunction with our partners in Windham County. We have worked hard in the Bennington region to build capacity and understanding of how to do regional economic development over the past three years and we sincerely appreciate BDCC and SeVEDS including Bennington County in the next iteration of its already successful CEDS planning and implementation efforts."

The 2019 Southern Vermont Economic Development Zone CEDS will build off the momentum from implementation of the 2014 Windham Region S.M.A.R.T. CEDS and the 2015 Southern Vermont Economic Development Zone Report.

"What we have learned in southern Vermont is that no one is coming to save us, collaboration is the key to success for rural economic development planning, and that means there is room for everyone to participate," claimed Laura Sibilia, Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation's director of regional strategies. "We have seen almost 800 jobs created and $38 million projected GDP growth to date from the implementation of the 2014 Windham Region S.M.A.R.T. CEDS and look forward to improving our planning and strategy development for the 2019 CEDS. This is a tremendous opportunity for businesses, residents and service providers across southern Vermont to come together to identify assets and challenges within our control and develop data backed strategies to improve southern Vermont's future."

Funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, this strategic planning process had the official kick off at the 2nd annual Southern Vermont Economic Summit on May 30, and is continuing through the summer and fall with a series of public meetings.

Camoin Associates, a nationally recognized economic development consulting firm, has been selected to assist with the development of the strategy. "The energy in the room at the Southern Vermont Economic Summit was a clear indication that the time is right for the region to make some changes to address the challenges facing area residents and businesses," said Rachel Selsky, Camoin's senior project manager. "As a Brattleboro resident, I am thrilled to be involved in this important project and looking forward to the public engagement sessions to gather important feedback on the goals and vision of community members."

The first set of public meetings will be in both Bennington and Windham. Residents and business owners are invited to attend any sessions that are convenient for them.

- June 18, from 10 a.m. to noon at Bennington Fire House.

- June 18, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Manchester Town Hall.

- June 19, from 8 to 10 a.m. at SIT Room 101 Lowey Center in Brattleboro

- June 19, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Lower Theater in Bellows Falls

- June 19, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Old School Library in Wilmington

These sessions will be interactive and engage participants in discussions around the assets and opportunities in southern Vermont that make the area attractive and competitive for businesses and residents.

For more information about the Economic Development Strategy process, contact Laura Sibilia at 802-257-7731 ext 217 or Jonathon Cooper at Jonathan Cooper 802-442-0713 ext. 312

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