Guest Column (11/13/08)

Nov. 13, 2008

Vermont’s keys for a strong economy

By Brennan Duffy

I wanted to thank all those who supported my recent run for state representative in Williston. I also wanted to take this opportunity to address a misconception that I have heard expressed many times, particularly in our local news media, regarding Vermont’s potential for economic growth and prosperity.

It seems to be an all too common perception that because Vermont is small in population, historically rural in nature and cold in the winter, we are somehow preordained to second class economic status. That we are in some way not deserving of true prosperity and that the majority of our citizens should be content to simply muddle along, underemployed and just getting by, while other parts of this country grow and prosper. Many seem to allow that living under the nation’s highest tax burden is somehow acceptable and that even well thought out growth and development, be it commercial or residential, in some way goes against the traditions of our pristine state.

I disagree and feel there is nothing holding this state back from achieving economic prosperity but the historically ingrained misperceptions described above. Vermont has one of the most educated populations in the country. We are in close geographic proximity to over 50 million people and the major markets of the eastern United States and Canada. We are continually ranked one of the top states for entrepreneurship. We have burgeoning industry sectors in high tech and high growth fields such as environmental technology, information technology and high tech manufacturing. We are also home to many world-class institutions of technical vocation and higher education, which will continue to turn out a qualified and dedicated workforce.

There is no reason Vermont cannot come out of the current economic downturn stronger and more dynamic than we went in. All it takes is a change in our attitude and outlook, specifically towards growth and development. We need to stem the tide of outgoing young people that has led to our current demographic crisis. We can do this by focusing on affordability issues such as property taxes and affordable housing so that these future workers can afford to live in the state. Without a stable workforce from which to draw, our existing companies cannot grow and future employers will be wary of investing in Vermont.

I would urge our elected representatives to work with Gov. Jim Douglas to quickly pass his proposed Economic Growth Plan and get Vermont’s economy moving on the right path once again. These are common sense initiatives focusing on rewarding innovation and entrepreneurship in Vermont, streamlining our tedious permitting process, leveraging our underused existing infrastructure into “Opportunity Zones” and creating more affordable housing in our existing urban centers.

Do away with the partisan voting that we have seen in the past and work to enhance the lives of working Vermonters by making Vermont a more business friendly environment.

In conclusion, I want to thank again all of those who supported my campaign and the Williston voters who cast a ballot for me in the Nov. 4 election. I strongly believe that Vermont is a special place to live and that with a slight attitude adjustment, hard work and cooperation it can be better for our future generations.

Brennan Duffy is a Williston resident and Republican. He ran unsuccessfully in the Nov. 4 election to represent the town in the Vermont House of Representatives, and works as director of recruitment for the Vermont Department of Economic Development.