Excited to be Working With You

Posted on 1/4/2018 by Fred Kenney

Excited to be Working With You

Robin has departed to serve us in Montpelier and spend more time with her family. I want to thank her for years of dedication and service to Vermont and Addison County. After nine years at the helm of ACEDC, Robin leaves the region and the organization in great shape. I also want to thank Robin and the ACEDC Board for their confidence in me as the new Executive Director and for allowing several weeks of overlap with Robin.  

So now comes that period where I figure out all the new systems, locate files and contact lists, and most importantly these past few days - keep the pipes from freezing! To prepare for my first ACEDC Board meeting and to help plan my first year leading ACEDC, I reviewed the organization's mission and operating strategy.

For those who have not seen it in writing, ACEDC's mission is to "Be the resource for navigating opportunities and challenges for new and existing businesses in Addison County." I will continue ACEDC's strategy to facilitate opportunities for economic prosperity in Addison County. With a focus on emerging entrepreneurs and existing local businesses, ACEDC will continue to:

  • Maintain and build partnerships and relationships
  • Be responsive
  • Advocate for and represent the business community
  • Provide access and connections to, and knowledge of, resources that help entrepreneurs thrive and businesses grow
  • Collaborate with local, regional, state, and federal partners to the benefit of the region

Addison County faces many of the same challenges as the rest of the state and country: Demographic challenges including an aging population and retaining and attracting workforce talent; targeting workforce development to business needs; infrastructure challenges including space and cost of construction, high speed Internet and cell service, and aging municipal water and wastewater systems; and the availability and affordability of workforce housing and childcare. The local, regional, state and federal partnerships developed by ACEDC will be key to addressing these larger economic development issues. We will need to work together to develop and advocate for solutions that work for our region.

A significant portion of my time during these first months will be spent meeting with local and regional partners and businesses. A robust employer retention and expansion visitation program is standard fare for every economic development organization. Our outreach will focus on further developing the region's entrepreneurial ecosystem and ensuring employer competitiveness through workforce development. I will be seeking your perspectives on the challenges, potential solutions, and the opportunities ahead.    

ACEDC recently commissioned the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship to provide a Development Opportunity Profile for Addison County. The profile identified some potential economic development opportunities:  

  • Retirees are a non-traditional economic sector. But, for our community, retirees are the single largest (and fastest growing) economic driver, with retiree-related earnings estimated at $550 million in 2015. Should we pursue a retiree-focused value-chain approach to optimize this economic opportunity that includes health care, housing, recreation, and home service sectors focused on retiree attraction and retention?
  • Professional and technical services are also economic drivers for our region. This segment of our economy has grown by nearly 78% between 2001 and 2015. What can we do to encourage continued and increased growth in this sector, which creates high quality jobs and careers?
  • We are part of a larger regional economy in the center of an extensive natural resource landscape including the Adirondack Mountains, Lake Champlain, and the Green Mountains. How can we leverage these natural assets to ensure new resident attraction and retention, develop destination tourism in the region, and strengthen the outdoor and recreation sector?
  • Our region has several indicators of entrepreneurial development opportunity. Fostering entrepreneurship - civic, social, and for-profit - is a primary pathway to growing a more successful and prosperous economy. What efforts and investments will provide foundational infrastructure and resources to support a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem? 

Other opportunities are developing locally. The Greater Middlebury Climate Economy Initiative is cultivating a global model for achieving deep carbon reduction while supporting a thriving ecosystem of businesses and institutions. 

The creation of a regional hub is another economic development tool growing in popularity. This model uses the organic growth of a sector, paired with resources and tools such as a business incubator, maker space, or co-working space to stimulate rapid growth of that sector. For our region, a hub could be developed around the climate economy, the entrepreneur to plate/glass movement, or the need for a more livestock processing.

Many of these opportunities, if pursued, could develop an economy and quality of life that is more attractive to the diminishing 25-35-year-old demographic and early retirees. 

What are your thoughts? I look forward to meeting with you to find out. Together we can develop partnerships and cooperative efforts to take advantage of the opportunities ahead.  Because...Great Starts Here...in Addison County.