Vermont Chamber Advocates for Business Relief and Workforce Growth

The Vermont Chamber testified in support of a total of $45 million for the most critical priorities for business recovery and growth: the VEDA forgivable loans, funding for creative sector recovery, and relocation marketing and incentives. The Vermont Chamber urged the Committee to make the forgivable loan program efficient and accessible, by raising the award cap to $500,000 or six months of operating costs and allowing VEDA maximum flexibility to administer the program under ARPA guidelines. The funding for the creative economy will provide grants to cultural organizations and artists who weren’t able to access previous relief funding and will provide vital support for a sector that attracts tourists to our vibrant downtowns, contributes to a sense of place and community, and drives economic activity to other sectors. This will maximize the impact of other relief funding.

For years, the Vermont Chamber has been ringing the alarm bell about the state’s demographic challenges and aging population, which have contributed to the severe labor shortage. With over 26,000 job vacancies and only 9,500 unemployed job seekers, it’s clear that the solution must include a plan to attract new workers to Vermont. The Vermont Chamber supports relocation incentives to encourage people to live and work in Vermont. Additionally, there must be a regional coordinated system to conduct outreach to interested people, helping them find community, jobs, housing, and childcare. Finally, the State needs a robust and sustained targeted marketing effort to encourage people to move to Vermont, particularly those with in-demand skills in nursing, trucking, and construction. Building a pipeline of interest is the only way to grow the workforce and address the current demographic trends.

The House Commerce and Economic Development Committee hasn’t always embraced relocation incentives and targeted marketing efforts, but was receptive to the Vermont Chamber’s suggestion that we are setting strong policy goals in Vermont regarding inclusion, climate change, and childcare, and that we must tell more people about this work.