NEWS RELEASE — Campaign for Vermont
Jan 28, 2013
Campaign for Vermont, Bradford panel agree: health care, education, food access are building blocks to prosperity
BRADFORD, Vt. – Greater prosperity in Bradford and the rest of Vermont will require better access to health care, food, workforce development and education.
That was the conclusion of a local panel of experts, as well as many audience members who attended the first Campaign for Vermont (CFV) public forum, held Tuesday, Jan. 22 in the Bradford Academy building on Main Street.
Event organizer and moderator Bruce Lisman founded CFV as a statewide, independent and non-partisan “ideas campaign.” It now has more than 350 partners, and has published prosperity-minded position papers on energy, education, health care and employment, which can be seen at www.campaignforvermont.org.
Lisman opened the “town meeting” style gathering by handing out cookies to the two dozen or so audience members. He then asked for ideas about improving prosperity for all Vermonters. A lively discussion ensued about the “building blocks” of economic security and prosperity: employment, health care, education.
Reliable access to healthy food is a serious problem, especially for low-income families for whom paying other essential bills – rent, heat, power, keeping a car on the road – must take precedence over the monthly food budget, said panel member John Sayles, director of the Vermont Foodbank. Sayles, whose operation is the donated food “wholesaler” for eight “retail” food shelves in the Bradford area, said parents of families with little or no food budget will first eat less themselves, before exposing their children to the same predicament. The best solution to food poverty, he said, is a good job. He also suggested that schools go “all-in” on childhood nutrition and feed at-risk children three meals a day if necessary.
Keeping and creating good jobs in the Upper Valley is the mission of panel member Joan Goldstein, executive director of the Green Mountain Economic Development Corporation. To attract new businesses, Vermont needs more skilled workers, even if they must be “imported” from out-of-state, she said. “Stagnation, not growth, is the real threat,” she said. “The human capital piece is probably the most important. The opportunities are here, but we’re not going to be able to take advantage of them if we don’t have the people.”
Lisman noted that the state of Louisiana, once famous for fraud and incompetence in the area of workforce education and development, went from worst to first in the nation in part because of a private sector initiative in which corporate executives contributed funds to an independent, statewide workforce development program, and received training themselves on cutting-edge development techniques. “I think it can happen in Vermont,” Lisman said. Warning of Vermont’s declining national reputation for workforce quality, he said, “It has to. It’s a question of people saying, ‘we’re not going to take it anymore.’”
Everyone knows that Vermont’s quality of life attracts in-demand professionals, such as doctors, seeking to relocate. However, skilled health care workers also need assurance that their spouses can find work, and that their children will receive high-quality education, said Gail Auclair, CEO of Little Rivers Health Care.
The panel, and many audience members, agreed that the building blocks of prosperity depend on one another. Good jobs need strong schools. Food security needs good jobs. Access to health care needs good jobs and good schools.
As promised by Lisman, the meeting ended after an hour and a half at 8 pm. Although many ideas and interconnections were explored, he urged the audience to continue the discussion by joining Campaign for Vermont or emailing ideas to [email protected] “We’re always looking for good ideas and good people to share them,” he said.