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New Initiative to Advance Vermont’s “Climate Economy”

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2014-10-31

Can Vermont be a national leader in incubating small businesses that answer climate change? The Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) thinks so.

The organization is announcing a new initiative designed to rally business, policy and community leadership to advance policies and investments to grow jobs and nurture innovative business development in sectors ranging from clean energy to recycling, transportation systems, and thermal efficiency.  

To begin this effort, the Council is planning for a February 18th Summit at Vermont Technical College on “Creating Prosperity & Opportunity Confronting Climate Change.” The conference is built on the premise that, “Confronting climate change through innovative economic development can be a competitive strategy, one that will build national reputation, create jobs, and attract youth and entrepreneurism to the states that lead.” Attendees will be asked: “Where is the economic opportunity for sector and cluster development in Vermont that can be a foundation for future prosperity? What practical actions or policy directions make most sense for us to advance today?”

The ideas and priorities of conference participants will be starting points for the Vermont Climate Change Economy Council to be founded at the event. This working group will spend 2015 developing a framework of policy actions and investment strategies to advance the Vermont economy.

VCRD cites one of the key goals in Vermont’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy as a starting point; the goal that, “Vermont is a haven for businesses leading the world in adapting to, mitigating and reversing the effects of climate change.” The new Vermont Climate Economy Council will frame a platform of practical action designed to help make this so.

The Vermont Council on Rural Development is a non-profit organization charged by the federal farm bill to act as a neutral convener at both the local and policy level supporting the progress of Vermont communities. VCRD will provide support to the work of the VT Climate Economy Council, and then help promote the platform of action that comes from its deliberations.

Past VCRD policy efforts have supported progress in issues ranging from wood products to downtown revitalization, rural energy development, the digital economy, and Vermont’s working landscape. VCRD produced the most extensive evaluation of Vermont values and priorities in a generation when it led the Council on the Future of Vermont in 2009. According to VCRD director Paul Costello, “For us, this effort will unite what we see at the community level, where so many are working to attract and retain creative youth and incubate new small businesses, and at the state level, where there is a strategic opportunity to differentiate Vermont in the national marketplace.”

VCRD points to Vermont’s assets for leadership in the climate change mitigation sector: An aggressive state energy plan, higher education expertise, transportation and thermal efficiency know how, working groups like the Vermont Energy Action Network, innovative utilities--from Green Mountain Power and VELCO to independent members of the Vermont Public Power Supply Association, the nation-leading Efficiency Vermont program, and advanced work being done on energy development and resource renewal, recovery and recycling in the private sector.

According to Costello, “With these and so many other resources, and especially with the leadership of Vermont’s business innovators, Vermont has a powerful story to tell, one that can celebrate and reinforce current efforts while growing a new generation of creative businesses that want to be at the center of this economic movement and also want a high quality of life. The Vermont brand, and all the state stands for, gives us an edge, if we will seize it.”

For more information on VCRD and the conference, go to www.vtrural.org/programs/climate-economy or like VCRD at https://www.facebook.com/VtCRD.