Equity Is the Path to Economic Success in Vermont

Equity Is the Path to Economic Success in Vermont

By Betsy Bishop, Vermont Chamber of Commerce

Every day there is a news story about policies Vermont is addressing to further diversity, equity, and inclusion. Many organizations, including the Vermont Chamber, are focusing on this internally and programmatically to do our part to foster equity and inclusion in our areas of influence. And yet, recently, I’ve seen reports of public slurs and hate directed at people of color. This is most disturbing when we hear about it at school events because these students – all of them – are our future.

We cannot abide this intolerance. Vermont’s economic growth and prosperity is dependent on our ability to embrace all people. Today’s students are our customers, our future workforce, our future leaders, our future entrepreneurs, and our neighbors. When I read the op-ed An Honest Education is a Key to Vermont’s Economic Future by Curtiss Reed, Jr., president and CEO of CRJ Consulting Group and executive director of the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, I recognized that as a business leader, I must amplify his message and encourage businesses to spread the message that Vermont only works if it works for everyone.

Our current demographics are challenging, and we must welcome a growing and changing population to have a bright future with healthy economic growth that complements our deep values around environmental sustainability and a just society. We want our economy, society, and environment to thrive together. Vermont consistently ranks as one of the oldest and whitest states in the nation. Before the pandemic, our partners at the Vermont Futures Project identified that Vermont needed 10,000 more workers in the labor force. That number is even higher now.

According to their data, since the 2008 recession, Vermont has struggled from the dual challenges of rural flight and an aging population. Lifestyle amenities and urban job opportunities draw workers away from rural areas, while a generation of people are also retiring from the workforce.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released data this month that shows we have 23,000 open jobs in Vermont – exacerbated by the pandemic. We simply need more people here. We must welcome all people into our communities as our neighbors and co-workers to help sustain and grow this beautiful state. Changing demographics are not only a national trend, but also a gift and opportunity for Vermont.

At the Vermont Chamber, we are doing our part. We are advocating for resources for BIPOC-owned businesses, diversifying our Board of Directors, and developing programming to help small businesses create and advance a culture of belonging. We are also working to ensure State leaders continue providing worker incentive programs and make policy changes that attract military veterans to Vermont to strengthen our workforce.

And the work to create a more equitable Vermont starts early. In schools, teachers are helping students become their best selves so they can one day lead Vermont with integrity. The next generation should enter the workforce with diversity, equity, and inclusion in their hearts as fundamental principles.

In a recent NPR interview, former President Barack Obama said that optimism must be extended to people. “Sometimes we put [other people] in a box and we assume that they’re never going to change, and I reject that,” Obama said. “I think the country has … shown itself capable of changing.”

If we want to secure a strong economic future and attract new residents, it’s our collective responsibility to make Vermont the best place it can be – free of intolerance and full of inclusion. A place where we recognize that our fates are tied together and strive for shared success.

For these reasons and more, embracing diversity and promoting equity is critical to Vermont’s economic health and future. We are raising our voice. Have you?

Betsy Bishop 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. She lives in East Montpelier.

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Chamber Advocacy Around Employer Vaccine Mandate

Chamber Advocacy Around Employer Vaccine Mandate

This week, the U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA sent its Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on the vaccine mandate for large employers (those with 100 or more employees) to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review. While the rule could go into effect after approval immediately, it may provide a period of time for employers to understand the rule and come into compliance. Since Vermont has a state plan, the Vermont Chamber is advocating for the following three requests:

  1. We encourage the Vermont Department of Labor’s VOSHA to take the full 30 days allowed to review the federal ETS which will also provide time for employers to understand the full scope of the rule and align resources to comply with the ETS.
  2. We urge VOSHA not to add any additional requirements or levels of compliance as we anticipate this change will be a significant challenge already.
  3. Allowing varied testing options for employers will be a key to compliance. The constricted availability of tests and slowed timeline for returning results will have a detrimental impact on an employer’s ability to facilitate this mandate. The recent news that the supply chain for tests will be adjusted to allow for greater access is certainly welcome. We hope that the federal ETS allows for rapid testing and we encourage VOSHA to endorse that direction if provided for in the federal rule.

As information becomes available for the ETS and more specifically, VOSHA’s response, the Vermont Chamber will disseminate this information to employers to ensure strong compliance. We are proud of Vermont’s standing as a national leader in vaccination rates and will continue to do our part to maintain healthy and safe workplaces. If you have questions or further information for our team, please connect with our Membership Engagement Director Sophia Yager by email.

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Chamber Welcomes New Board Members

Image of new Board Members
Vermont Chamber of Commerce Welcomes New Board Members
Image of new Board Members
Board Members Teresa Kajenski, Kathy Austin, Mané Alves, Roger Nishi, and Keith Jones (Not pictured: Chiuho Sampson)

The Vermont Chamber of Commerce welcomed six new Directors to the Board: Mané Alves of Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea Company, Kathy Austin of Community National Bank, Keith Jones of National Life, Teresa Kajenski of Fothergill Segale & Valley, Roger Nishi of Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom, and Chiuho Sampson of A Single Pebble. The Vermont Chamber also thanks continuing Board Members, who are listed on the organization’s Board of Directors page.

Collectively, the Board is committed to helping further the Vermont Chamber’s mission to ensure a thriving Vermont economy. In 2021, significant legislative priorities advanced that will help businesses recover from the pandemic. With continued challenges ahead, the Vermont Chamber is dedicated to ensuring businesses across the state recover and Vermont’s economic future is bright.

Incoming Chair of the Vermont Chamber Board Peter McDougall, President of Paul, Frank + Collins P.C., said, “Over the last decade, Vermont Chamber leaders have focused on diversifying the Board of Directors to reflect the state’s business makeup. In addition to ongoing efforts to diversify leadership, the Vermont Chamber will continue working towards meaningful change in support of equity and inclusion.”

The Vermont Chamber’s current Board of Directors consists of 48% women, 48% men, 4% gender nonbinary or gender nonconforming individuals, 17% BIPOC individuals, 17% immigrant, refugee, asylee, and/or foreign-born citizens, and 8% LGBTQIA+ individuals. Board members work in varied industries across 10 of Vermont’s 14 counties.

Vermont Chamber of Commerce President Betsy Bishop said, “It is important that all Vermont businesses see themselves and their needs reflected in our leadership and work. We welcome and thank all our Board Members who will help us strengthen Vermont’s economy and be committed to our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts.” 

Chair of the Vermont Chamber’s DEI Task Force Willie Docto, Co-Owner of Moose Meadow Lodge, said, “The Board is committed to integrating DEI programming into the Vermont Chamber’s work for sustainable, collective impact. We are creating an action plan and will partner with others to further this work.”

Vermont Chamber Membership Engagement Director Sophia Yager is leading the outreach effort with an intentional focus on BIPOC businesses to gather a greater understanding of needs so the Vermont Chamber can organize resources to support all businesses. You can connect with Sophia Yager by email to learn more and get involved.

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Feel Fall in Vermont

Feel Fall in Vermont

By Vermont Chamber Vice President of Tourism Amy Spear

Have you ever picked crisp apples fresh from an orchard, been surrounded by bright red and orange mountains, or hiked through a towering corn maze?

In Vermont, you can do all that and more on an ordinary fall day. This year, visitors can enjoy the season in a distinctly Vermont way – with activities and attractions that draw in people from around the globe.

Our state has options everyone will love.

  • Delicious food and drink

After shopping and cider sampling at Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury, enjoy a meal at Apple Core Luncheonette & Brew, which offers homemade breakfast and lunch seven days a week.

Stop by Citizen Cider’s Tasting Room in Burlington for flagship hard ciders and seasonal limited releases, all made from apples sourced locally. The full food menu has something for everyone, featuring items made with their infamous cider.

  • Stay somewhere serene

The Essex Resort & Spa, a centrally located luxury resort, is the perfect home-base for exploring Vermont in the fall from north to south. End the day at on-site restaurants or spend an afternoon unwinding at the spa.

Or stay at Manchester’s Equinox Golf Resort & Spa. Located in the heart of the Green Mountains, this iconic resort is steeped in history. Surrounded by natural landscapes, this destination is beautiful in every season, but is especially stunning during fall.

  • Get active in fresh air

Featuring one of the best corn mazes in the state, kids and adults of all ages enjoy hiking through the towering corn at Hathaway Farm in Rutland and the challenge of solving a maze.

Shelburne Orchards

Enjoy apple picking and cider donuts while taking in the view of Lake Champlain on Shelburne Orchards’ 60-acre family owned and operated apple orchard.

You can also use our trip planning tool at VermontVacation.com to narrow your search and discover unique accommodations, restaurants, attractions, and recreation.

If you’re traveling, why not visit the most vaccinated state in the country?

Last month, Vermont had the highest vaccination rate in the country. If you’re going to travel this fall, why not come to one of the safest states in the nation?

Vermont has a tradition of welcoming visitors to our state. In the wake of Covid-19, the state continues to offer safe travel guidance to visitors and Vermonters. Before you come, take a few minutes to learn what our state leaders are recommending regarding masking and physical distancing.

Community care is at the heart of Vermont life. When you visit, we know you’ll feel the Vermonter spirit in our safety measures and in every smile and wave.

While you stay, play with us by sharing on social media with hashtags #ThisIsVT and #VermontFall.

We would love to see and share your photos this fall. The Vermont Chamber of Commerce tourism team will share your Instagram posts in our stories from our Visit Vermont account.

We’ll also be creating an album with your photos on our Facebook page.

Every year, Vermont sees more than 13 million visitors to the state.

As you plan your visit, be sure to check your plans carefully by reading updates on lodging and business websites. Due to staffing shortages, their hours of operation and policies may have changed.

We are so excited to welcome you to Vermont.

Amy Spear, of Killington, is the Vice President of Tourism 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.

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Vermont Receiving up to 100 Afghan Refugees

Chamber Statement on Vermont Receiving up to 100 Afghan Refugees

Today, Governor Phil Scott announced that the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) was approved by the U.S. Department of State to welcome up to 100 Afghans in Vermont in the weeks ahead.

Responding to the announcement, Vermont Chamber President Betsy Bishop said, “We are proud that Vermont was approved to welcome up to 100 Afghan refugees to our state. For years, the Vermont Chamber has supported additional funding for refugee resettlement in Vermont. Welcoming these refugees to our state is part of the Vermonter spirit, helps our economy, and grows our workforce when we need it most.”

Learn more about the resettlement plans in a VTDigger report by Fred Thys.

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RECENT NEWS

Relocation Grants Now Available

Vermont Relocation Grants Now Available

Relocation Grants Available

Vermont’s relocation grant application portal is now open to eligible applicants who relocated to Vermont after July 1, 2021. 

This relocation program aims to grow the workforce as well as provide support to employers who are struggling to fill vacancies, either due to the low unemployment rates or a disconnect between job requirements and candidate qualifications.

Eligible applicants are those who fill vacancies in occupations identified with the most openings. The program offers reimbursement grants for eligible expenses, up to $7,500, to workers in certain occupations who move to Vermont and fill an opening with a Vermont employer.

Learn more about the program and how to apply from Think Vermont here.

Vermont Employer Testimonials Wanted

The State of Vermont is studying the efficacy of the New Worker Relocation Incentive Program and New Relocating Employee Program. Officials involved in the study would like to know how these incentives have helped employers attract workforce.

This is an opportunity to share your thoughts on how the programs have worked well and how they could be improved. Your input is extremely valuable to the continuation and improvement of Vermont’s workforce recruitment initiatives. All responses will be kept confidential and no business will be identified in the final report for this study.

Share your experience here.

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Spotlighting MVP Health Care

Spotlighting MVP Health Care

This month, we are spotlighting Vermont Chamber member MVP Health Care.
 
Vermont’s fastest-growing health plan just got even better. New for 2022…MVP Health Care has exciting new benefits including the convenience of virtual physical therapy and savings with a $500 acupuncture allowance. Plus get paid for participating in healthy activities with up to $600 WellBeing Rewards and access to 24/7 virtual care services with Gia. 
 

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RECENT NEWS

Apply for PPP Forgiveness

Apply for PPP Forgiveness

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) borrowers are reminded to apply for forgiveness within 10 months after the last day of the covered period. A borrower can apply for forgiveness once all loan proceeds for which the borrower is requesting forgiveness have been used. More information is available from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Visit the SBA PPP Direct Forgiveness Portal to apply. This portal is made available by the U.S. Small Business Administration to streamline forgiveness processing for PPP Borrowers. The SBA also offers live customer service to borrowers at 877-552-2692.

The Vermont Chamber and other business organizations tirelessly advocated to prevent the Legislature from taxing 2021 PPP loans. Learn more about our advocacy here and find staff contacts here.

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Inspired Discussions About Vermont’s Economy

Inspired Discussions About Vermont's Economy
Our partner organization The Vermont Futures Project has launched a public campaign to humanize and simplify complex economic topics, increase all Vermonters’ opportunities to engage in shaping Vermont’s narrative, and spread public interest in Vermont’s future.
 
Learn about The Vermont Economy Talks, and watch a summer interview series with guests including Vermont Chamber members Lake Champlain ChocolatesCasellaPassumpsic Bank, and more.

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RECENT NEWS

Business Leader Leslie McCrorey-Wells Awarded for Social Justice Work

Business Leader Leslie McCrorey-Wells Awarded for Social Justice Work
Leslie McCrorey-Wells (third from left) holding her award

In honor of her work as a business leader and community advocate, Leslie McCrorey-Wells, co-owner of restaurants Pizzeria VeritàTrattoria Delia, and Sotto Enoteca, and a member of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce and the Vermont Independent Restaurant Leadership Council, was presented with the Catherine McAuley Award.

“I want to be a business that’s giving back to its community and helping keep it strong,” McCrorey-Wells said in Nora Peachin’s report for Burlington Free Press.

Learn about Leslie and the award in Burlington Free Press’s article ‘Combatting racism: Burlington restaurant owner recognized for her social justice work’.

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