Tag Archives: Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce

A powerful display of self-interest, enlightened and otherwise

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott And Friends held their little Vermont Economy Pitch thingy last night. I couldn’t attend, more’s the pity. Scanning the available news sources, I see only two reports: one from VPR’s Steve Zind, and one from WCAX’s Eva McKend.

The event’s purpose was to solicit input from the business community on how to improve Vermont’s economy. (And, thinking cynically, position Scott as the business community’s leading advocate in Montpelier.)

Because, as we all know, no one in Montpelier ever listens to the business community. Truly, they are the voiceless among us. Cough, choke.

From what I read, the event failed to produce anything like a consensus. Quite the opposite: it seemingly delivered a parade of self-interest. Speaker after speaker suggested ideas aimed at helping his or her own sector.

Zind has a businessman from Stowe calling for more promotion of tourism. There’s a shocker.

On the other hand, representatives of manufacturing and technology called for the state to market itself less as a rural throwback and more as a great place to live and run a business.

Enough with the covered bridges already! Let’s fill our tourism brochures with pictures of factories, subdivisions, and strip malls!

Here’s my favorite:

Frank Cioffi of the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce suggested that up to 10 businesses in each county be designated strategic employers and the state should focus on helping them.

How about that. The number-one cheerleader for IBM says we should focus on the state’s biggest businesses. Seems short-sighted to me; for one thing, big employers often make siting decisions without regard to Vermont policy. Including IBM itself, of course. For another, it’s reactive instead of proactive: we’d be helping the already established, instead of encouraging the up-and-comers who are actually creating new jobs. But what else would you expect from Frank Cioffi?

And here’s a tidbit from WCAX:

Matthew Dodds of Brandthropology says the state has a branding problem…

Gee, the head of a firm that helps clients “steward brands intelligently” thinks Vermont needs better stewardship of its brand.

Next we have an educator who says the biggest problem is, you guessed it, education.

Vermont Technical College President Dan Smith… said employers are eager for the college’s graduates, but financial woes caused by the low level of state funding are preventing VTC from meeting the demand for skilled workers.

One more, and I hate to do this because he’s a good guy. But Cairn Cross of Fresh Tracks Capital, believes the problem is inadequate access to capital. (I do give him credit for spotlighting a single statute, the Licensed Lender Law, as a roadblock. Far better than the usual “cut regulations, lower taxes, permit reform” blah-blah-blah.)

I’m sure there’s some wisdom in all these suggestions, but it adds up to a “Blind Men and the Elephant” scenario, with speakers interpreting the situation in light of their own viewpoints.

VPR’s Zind does report that there were some “recurring themes,” including job training, making housing more affordable, and (yes) access to capital.

But there’s not much new there. And the business community isn’t helping its cause in Montpelier if they’re all preaching from their own separate Scriptures.