Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies (SeVEDS) originated in 2007 as a small group seeking better broadband and cell service. After the group realized that it needed professional economic development assistance, it sought help from Fairpoint Communication and ViTAL Economy.
VE began working with SeVEDS in 2010 to collect and analyze regional economic and demographic data and lead a regional asset mapping discussion. This work led to the development of initial five-year goals and a strategy framework. The SeVEDS organization is now a non-profit affiliated with the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, a Vermont Regional Development Corporation serving the Windham Region.
SeVEDS’ goal is to reverse the Windham Region’s economic decline that has included stagnant population growth, an aging workforce, a high cost of living and low wages. We envision developing the Southern Vermont economy to generate long-term growth and prosperity, improve the region’s quality of life and sustain its quality of place.
- Increase the employable population (aged 16 and older) by 651 people.
- Increase the average wage 2.6%, from $38,820 to $39,848.
- Increase the region’s total wages by $96 million.
- Increase the region’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 18.1%, or $430 million
From January to October 2013, VE helped the group create and submit a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) plan. The federally recognized planning document results in a five-year economic development strategy, updated annually, that opens the region to federal funding. The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) approves communities’ CEDS plans.
To obtain public input, SeVEDS held a number of public sessions across the county in March and May 2013 to gather information and feedback.
A large audience attended the SeVEDS CEDS launch. Attendees included (L to R) Frank Knott, President of ViTAL Economy, Willie Taylor, Director of the EDA Philadelphia Regional Office, and Lawrence Miller, Secretary, Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
RESULTS TO DATE
- SeVEDS has attracted over $350,000 in annual funding from private, municipal, state and federal resources.
- The region was able to coordinate its response to Hurricane Irene, obtaining rapid and significant funding resources to rebuild, which would not have been possible had each county acted independently.
- SeVEDS improved its regional workforce development, leading to the formation of the Windham Regional Educational Consortium, which connects all six higher education institutions.
- In 2012 and 2013, SeVEDS became one of the first regions in the U.S. to implement a SMART CEDS. The federal government has promoted this CEDS as an example of best practices.
- This collaborative regional planning also led to funding of the Southern VT Marketing Strategy and Plan, which connects Bennington with Windham County – a first in the state.
- SeVEDS led the proactive planning process for the potential closure of Entergy’s VT Yankee, which was the first region in the U.S. to create a proactive economic impact analysis. This led to Entergy’s commitment of $15 million in decommissioning support to Windham County alone, the largest investment of its kind by an energy company.
- The VY effort triggered a tri-region effort involving NH, MA and VT and the creation of a new national research center, the Institute for Nuclear Host Communities (INHC). The center, which is partnering with NADO to develop national funding, wlll research how communities can proactively respond to the decommissioning of nuclear power plants, a trend anticipated to accelerate over the next 10-20 years.
- SeVEDS has used the CEDS to create a national center of excellence around Green Building Materials, Development, Research, Manufacturing and Services. The first integrated effort of its kind in the U.S., it has brought together dozens of firms across the three-state region and created over 300 new high-paid jobs.