Thank you for the introduction Secretary Schirling.
I’d like to thank you all for your dedication, time and energy on ensuring our state-designated centers remain active and creative.
Congratulations to Paul Bruhn for his lifetime achievement award he received earlier today. With all the work, he and his team have done to strengthen Vermont’s downtowns and villages for well over 30 years… it is well deserved. On a personal note, I’ve enjoyed working with him for my 16 years of public service.
I also want to thank our talented employees at the Agency of Commerce and Community Development who work on community revitalization and economic development every single day…
Specifically I’d like to acknowledge my leadership team –Secretary Mike Schirling and Deputy Secretary Ted Brady as well as the teams in Community Planning and Revitalization, Historic Preservation, Marketing and Tourism, and Economic Development.
Keeping our downtowns and villages vibrant is not easy – it represents many years of determination and work from the community, including federal, state, local and non-profit partners working together to make our communities better.
This is important work as our downtowns and villages define Vermont’s identify and brand, and contribute to our high quality of life and well-being.
Many Vermonters work and live, in and around these centers, and they play a significant part in the $2.5 billion spent annually by tourists and vacation homeowners.
We have seen that targeted investments in Vermont’s downtowns jumpstarts the transformative projects like in my hometown of Barre… St. Albans… and right here in White River Jct that have brought more jobs, business and housing to downtowns and villages across the state.
The 2016 numbers from the 23 designated downtowns shows just over $17 million of public investment in downtown buildings and infrastructure leveraged nearly $90 million in private investment.
During the same period, White River Junction’s downtown has seen $4.4 million in new private investments, 11 new businesses, 42 new jobs, and 22 new housing units.
It’s encouraging to see these results – and see more and more people living and working in our downtowns and villages – because creating more jobs and things to do is critical to keeping young Vermonters here and drawing new families and businesses to Vermont.
Research has shown that companies are more likely to relocate and invest in walkable downtown locations to attract and retain talent, build brand identity and foster company culture. This is one of the many reasons, downtown and village center revitalizations are key to my economic development strategy.
Getting our economy moving and growing again is a priority for Vermont’s communities, families and businesses – and THE priority for my Administration.
Experts agree that investment today in housing and infrastructure in growth centers creates jobs, leverages private investment, boosts local property tax revenues, and builds stronger communities, neighborhoods and regions.
This year, with the support of the legislature, I am pleased several bills were passed that will make our community centers even stronger.
S.135 makes development faster and more affordable by exempting housing projects in state designated centers from Act 250.
The bill also increases critical investments in our downtowns by increasing tax credits by $200,000 now at $2.4 million annually – targeted at maker spaces and co-working spaces.
While I know Mayor Liz Gamach will comment on this shortly, I’m pleased to say this legislation enables 6 new TIF districts.
As well this bill also:
- Supports smaller less popular areas with Rural Economic Development Infrastructure Districts.
- It makes Vermont more affordable by reducing employer’s contributions to the worker’s compensation fund.
- It also creates a Career Pathways Coordinator within the Agency of Education to develop a more effective pathway system for Vermont.
- And directs Vermont to study and implement the Green Mountain Secure Retirement Plan, a voluntary retirement program for business with 50 or fewer employees.
Again, I want to thank those who worked incredibly hard to get this bill passed. These investments and policy changes will strengthen the economy, make Vermont more affordable and protect the most vulnerable.
Lastly, please don’t forget to shop downtown while you’re here!