Declaration of Inclusion Initiative Update

Declaration of Inclusion Initiative Update

To date 58 municipalities, home to 40% of Vermonters, have adopted a Declaration of Inclusion. The Vermont Chamber is dedicated to the ongoing effort to reach the goal of a Declaration of Inclusion being adopted and implemented by each of Vermont’s 246 towns and cities. The Vermont Chamber is amplifying this message because building equitable and inclusive communities and telling our story beyond our borders is the best way to attract diversity and encourage new people to live and work in Vermont. The vision is that Vermont will become known, and in fact be, the most welcoming and safe state in the country for all people.

In addition to the adoption by municipalities, progress has been made on the statewide level in the form of Gubernatorial proclamations. One adopting the Declaration of Inclusion, and one proclaiming the second week in May as Inclusion Week, annually.

Addressing Vermont’s demographic crisis and the resulting labor shortage is a top priority of the Vermont Chamber. To attract more people to work in our state, we must position Vermont as an attractive place to live. Ultimately, recognition for statewide adoption of the Declaration of Inclusion will help to achieve this.

True to its Vermont roots, this initiative was born from grassroots organization and furthered by trusted partnerships. In addition to the Vermont Chamber, the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, the Social Equity Caucus, the National Association of Colored People, and Vermont Interfaith Action, have all contributed to the success thus far. Progress is made via direct contact with municipal management, selectboards, equity committees, respected and influential community leaders, and local champions.

Looking ahead, the goal is for 100 municipalities to adopt a Declaration of Inclusion before Inclusion Week in May of 2023. For more information and to learn how you can champion the initiative in your city or town, please contact the organizers:

Bob Harnish: rharnish24@gmail.com

Al Wakefield: al@wakefield-global.com

Norman Cohen: norcoh26@gmail.com

Vermont Chamber Announces New Hire, Business Outreach Director

Vermont Chamber Announces New Hire, Business Outreach Director

Montpelier, VT (June 20, 2022) –

The Vermont Chamber of Commerce has hired Emma Henderson as the organization’s Business Outreach Director. In this role, Emma will engage with businesses statewide, directing programs for membership recruitment and retention efforts and managing membership education and benefit programs. She will also serve as the liaison for businesses to the Vermont Chamber’s five-person lobbying team.

A resident of South Barre, Emma is a graduate of the University of Vermont and earned a Master of Science degree in Leadership with a concentration in Human Resources Leadership from Norwich University. Previously, Emma held positions with the Vermont Association for Mental Health and Addiction Recovery as the Training Coordinator. Prior, she was the Senior Associate Director of Strategic Admissions at Norwich University.

Vermont Chamber President Betsy Bishop said, “Emma will fill a vital role here at the Vermont Chamber, strengthening connections with our existing members while also engaging new businesses across the state. By bringing new energy and a fresh perspective to the role, Emma is sure to be a valuable resource for the Vermont businesses community.”

Ep. 6: “State to Main” – 2022 Legislative Session

Ep. 6: "State to Main" - 2022 Legislative Session

“State to Main” is a policy-focused podcast series complementing the widely read weekly legislative newsletter of the same name.

In this episode we welcome Betsy Bishop, President of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, and Megan Sullivan, VP of Government Affairs, to recap the 2022 legislative session and discuss some of the key takeaways for the Vermont business community.

Episodes are available to stream online via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud and on the Vermont Chamber of Commerce website.

“State to Main” is made possible by our sponsor, AT&T.

Ep. 5: “State to Main” – Manufacturing Tax Exemption

Ep. 5: "State to Main" - Manufacturing Tax Exemption

“State to Main” is a policy-focused podcast series complementing the widely read weekly legislative newsletter of the same name.

In this episode we welcome Chris Carrigan, Vice President of Business Development for the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, and Julia Birnn Fields, owner of Birnn Chocolates of Vermont, to discuss recent advocacy efforts on the manufacturing tax exemption.

Episodes are available to stream online via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud and on the Vermont Chamber of Commerce website.

“State to Main” is made possible by our sponsor, AT&T.

A New Normal: The 2022 Legislative Session in Review

A New Normal: The 2022 Legislative Session in Review

This commentary is by Betsy Bishop, President of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, and Megan Sullivan, Vice President of Government Affairs

Each year, the end of the legislative session coincides with warmer weather, signaling peak tourism season just around the corner. For many Vermont businesses, however, this will be the third summer in a row that they are overwhelmed with uncertainty instead of anticipation. While elected officials resumed in-person operations at the State House, the Vermont business community is still working to determine their “new normal.”

The foundation of the Vermont Chamber advocacy this session was the stark reality that Vermont has an estimated 26,000 job openings and an unemployment rate of 2.7%. With 25,500 fewer people participating in the workforce than pre-pandemic, employers are going to unprecedented lengths to retain employees and recruit new workers.

While businesses continued to battle the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, including a constrained labor force, increased payroll expenses, reduced hours, 8.3% inflation, and endless supply chain problems, progress was made on many policy fronts due to the support from legislators who listened to our members and our dedicated five-person Vermont Chamber advocacy team.

The Vermont Chamber succeeded on most of our 2022 legislative session agenda items, including retaining Vermont workers, helping businesses emerge from the pandemic, increasing workforce housing supply, and recruiting new workers to Vermont:

Workforce Recruitment:

  • Over $3.5 million was secured for workforce recruitment initiatives , including $3 million for relocation incentives, and $500,000 to the State Refugee Office for grants to support increased in-migration and retention of New Americans.

Workforce Retention:

  • $1.5 million was allocated for a two-year pilot program for a regional workforce expansion system, $250,000 for a Special Oversight Committee on Workforce Expansion and Development and $2.5 million in forgivable loans for college graduates who commit to work in Vermont for two years after graduation.
  • Included in the final omnibus housing bill was $15 million for the Missing Middle Homeownership Development program to increase the supply of housing for middle-income workers. There are also funds for an expansion of the priority housing project program and funding to increase the supply of rental units through grants to property owners.

Workforce Training:

  • $15 million was secured for a Career and Technical Education Construction and Rehabilitation Learning Program and Revolving Loan Fund through Vermont Housing and Conservation Board to rehab decrepit buildings and creative housing units.
  • Additional funding includes $3 million secured for the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, $1.5 million to the Department of Labor for a Vermont Work-Based Learning and Training Program, $387,000 to Vermont Technical College for a skilled meat cutter training/apprenticeship facility, $250,000 for the Vermont Professionals of Color Network to provide business coaching and training.
  • The Department of Corrections was granted $420,000 to address vocational enhancement needs and $300,000 to establish a community reentry pilot program.

Business Recovery:

  • $38 million was also secured for business recovery programs, including $19 million for Vermont Economic Development Authority forgivable loans, $40 million for Community Recovery and Revitalization Grant Program, and $9 million for Creative Economy Grants.
  • Several provisions in a liquor law modernization bill will be beneficial for the hospitality industry, including moving ready-to-drink cocktails (RTDs) into the wholesale/retail space, permitting first-class licensees to sell RTDs, staggered vs. annual license renewals, and clarification for licensees to participate in the rare and unusual product raffles.
  • $17.7 million of continued savings were secured for health care premiums for small businesses using the Vermont Health Connect.
  • The manufacturing tax exemption expansion would exempt machinery and equipment used in integrated production operations and all ancillary processes between raw materials and finished goods, as well as some secondary packaging processes.

While there were many wins for the business community this session, the Legislature failed to deliver on key workforce recruitment efforts by not passing an allocation for relocation marketing or a full tax exemption on military retirement income. Even so, House and Senate leaders will head into the campaign season with a strong record of supporting the Vermont Chamber agenda and the Vermont business community. From our annual Vermont Economic Conference to our State to Main policy podcast series, to supporting the Vermont Declaration of Inclusion initiative, the Vermont Chamber once again set the tone for making Vermont a better, more vibrant place to live, work, and play.

Betsy Bishop, of East Montpelier, is the President of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, whose mission is focused on creating an economic climate conducive to business growth while enhancing Vermont’s quality of life.

 

Megan Sullivan, of Jericho, is the Vice President of Government Affairs at the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, whose mission is focused on creating an economic climate conducive to business growth while enhancing Vermont’s quality of life.

 

Ep. 4: “State to Main” – Refugee Workforce

Ep. 4: "State to Main" - Refugee Workforce

“State to Main” is a policy-focused podcast series complementing the widely read weekly legislative newsletter of the same name.

To combat Vermont’s demographic crises, it’s vital that we work to retain our resettled refugee community. The third episode of the series, “Refugee Workforce,” features Amelia Semen, Government Affairs Specialist for the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, Hillary Burrows, President of Autumn Harp, and Tracy Dolan, Director of the State Refugee Office, to discuss the refugee workforce in Vermont.

Episodes are available to stream online via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud and on the Vermont Chamber of Commerce website.

“State to Main” is made possible by our sponsor, AT&T.

Ep. 3: “State to Main” – Military Retirement

Ep. 3: "State to Main" - Military Retirement

“State to Main” is a policy-focused podcast series complementing the widely read weekly legislative newsletter of the same name.

The third episode of the series, “Military Retirement,” features Chris Carrigan, Vice President of Business Development for the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, and Steve Gagner, Founder of 14th Star Brewing Company in St. Albans, to discusses the tax on military retirement pay, and veterans in the Vermont workforce.

Episodes are available to stream online via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud and on the Vermont Chamber of Commerce website.

“State to Main” is made possible by our sponsor, AT&T.

Vermont Chamber Leader Connects with DEI Advisor, Kuma Roberts

Selfie of Willie, Kuma, Greg
Vermont Chamber Leader Connects with DEI Advisor, Kuma Roberts
Selfie of Willie, Kuma, Greg
[Pictured left to right; Willie Docto, Kuma Roberts, Greg Trulson]

While traveling in Oklahoma this week, Vermont Chamber Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force Chair and Vermont Chamber Board Member, Willie Docto, connected with Kuma Roberts, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for Arrowhead Consulting.

Kuma and Willie initially met virtually in 2021, when Kuma conducted DEI training and assessments for the Vermont Chamber Board of Directors as part of the organization’s continued commitment to DEI education. She also provided training for the Vermont Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, a professional development organization for all of Vermont’s chambers of commerce.

This past January, Kuma led a virtual session at the 2022 Economic Conference entitled “How Diverse is Your Universe? Recruiting Strategies to Build a Diverse Workforce” which was attended live by nearly 400 people.

It’s no surprise to all of us here in Vermont that Kuma recently received the prestigious Pinnacle Award, which honors exceptional women in Tulsa. The recognition for her DEI contributions to the business sector, and the Tulsa community, is well-earned.

Willie and his husband, Greg Trulson, co-own and operate Moose Meadow Lodge in Waterbury.

Ep. 2: “State to Main” – Restaurant Recovery

Ep. 2: "State to Main" - Restaurant Recovery

“State to Main” is a policy-focused podcast series complementing the widely read weekly legislative newsletter of the same name.

The second episode of the series, “Restaurant Recovery,” features Amy Spear, VP of Tourism for the Vermont Chamber, and Chiuho Sampson, Chef/Owner of A Single Pebble, in Burlington. Spear and Sampson discuss the state of the restaurant industry, Restaurant Revitalization Fund replenishment, and the creation of the Vermont Independent Restaurants coalition.

Episodes are available to stream online via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud and on the Vermont Chamber of Commerce website.

“State to Main” is made possible by our sponsor, AT&T.

Vermont Chamber Launches New Podcast Series (Ep.1: “State to Main” – Workforce Housing)

Vermont Chamber Launches New Podcast Series (Ep.1: “State to Main” - Workforce Housing)

The Vermont Chamber of Commerce launched a new policy-focused podcast series entitled, “State to Main.” The series complements the widely read weekly legislative newsletter of the same name.

In the months ahead, “State to Main” will cover several topics important to the Vermont business community, including housing, the workforce shortage, and career and technical education. Each episode features a unique pairing of a Vermont Chamber policy advocate and a business leader to discuss the impact of these issues on Vermont businesses. Episodes will focus on the role of each issue in combatting the statewide workforce shortage and are analyzed in a pandemic recovery context.

“Vermont’s economic success depends on the innovation of our businesses and strength of our workforce,” said Vermont Chamber President Betsy Bishop. “The intent of this series is to highlight areas where businesses need policy support to achieve economic recovery.”

The pilot episode, “Workforce Housing,” features Megan Sullivan, VP of Government Affairs for the Vermont Chamber, and Annemarie Todd, VP of Human Resources for Sugarbush Resort. Sullivan and Todd address the impact of the current housing market on employee recruitment and retention efforts, and the heightened responsibility felt by employers to facilitate suitable accommodations for their workforce. Policy opportunities are identified to address the immediate need for middle-income housing.

Episodes are available to stream online via  Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud and on the Vermont Chamber of Commerce website.

“State to Main” is made possible by our sponsor, AT&T.