Business & Economy

Margolis: Rubbing elbows in the new, richer Vermont

The Church Street Marketplace in Burlington. File photo by Roger Crowley/for VTDigger

(Jon Margolis writes political columns for VTDigger.)

Want to make Vermont richer and more populous in one fell swoop?

Just put a big city in the middle of it, or within 50 miles of its borders.

That’s as far as Boston is from New Hampshire, which explains why New Hampshire is as rich and populous as it is.

Vermont has no Bostonial equivalent. Albany, New York, is too small. Montreal is across an international border and a language divide.

So Vermont is going to have to figure out another way to get richer and bigger.

Assuming this is what it wants to do.

Gov. Phil Scott does. In his campaign last year, Scott said he hoped the state’s population grew by about 70,000 — to about 700,000 — in a decade. While the state’s overall population is stable, Scott called attention to a decline in the number of working-age people.

“From 2010 to 2016,” he said in his budget address in January, “we lost an average of 2,300 workers per year from the workforce. … With stagnant population growth, these declines mean working-age Vermonters make up a smaller portion of our population, … (and) a shrinking workforce creates a downward spiral.”

Just a few days before that speech, the Vermont Chamber of Commerce released the latest report of its Vermont Futures Project, which suggested attracting almost 11,000 new residents into the state every year by 2040.

The report doesn’t specify when this influx would start or how long it would last. But it seems to be envisioning a population of close to a million a few decades hence.

Is this possible?

And, given the Futures Project’s commitment to “preserve Vermont’s quality of life,” is it desirable?

It isn’t impossible, noted Saint Michael’s College sociology professor Vince Bolduc, pointing out that in the past, growth has been spurred by new companies such as Ben & Jerry’s, Burton Snowboards and IBM that started in or moved to Vermont thanks to “out-of-state people who fell in love with Vermont.”

But not impossible doesn’t mean at all likely. Populations surge when foreign immigrants flock to an area, a valuable natural resource is discovered, the federal government invests billions, or low wages inspire producers to move their facilities from higher-paying areas.

Nothing like that looms in Vermont’s immediate future. Nor are droves likely to relocate here for the weather. People have been leaving all of the Northeastern states for decades, heading south and west for jobs, for cheaper houses, for lower taxes, for warmer temperatures.

So if Vermont really wants more people, maybe it should think about creating that city.

Because that’s where the economy is growing and people are moving. Check “Where The Money Is,” the map prepared by the howmuch.net website (owned by fix.com, which connects customers with remodeling firms). Using data from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, the map shows that economic growth is almost entirely taking place in metropolitan areas, especially the five biggest: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Dallas.

The economy of Vermont’s only metro area — greater Burlington — is too inconsequential to show up on the map. But that metro area — in Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle counties — is getting richer and more populous. Like non-metro areas all over the country, the rest of the state is not.

That raises the possibility that if either the governor or the Future Project can figure out how to get thousands to move to Vermont (which realistically cannot raise a new city out of the ether by wishing for it), all the newcomers would crowd into Chittenden County and environs while the rest of the state continues to wither away.

That’s not the governor’s plan. Neither is it the hope of Jeff Lewis of the Lewis & Stromsten economic consulting firm, which wrote the Vermont Futures report.

“We feel there’s a significant opportunity (for economic development) downtown or close to downtown” in the smaller cities, Lewis said.

But he did not dispute that rural and small town Vermont might be facing a bleak future.

“If we do nothing, we won’t stay the same,” he said. “Our small towns will continue to get smaller and weaker.”

What neither Lewis nor Scott nor apparently anyone else can figure out is just what the opposite of doing nothing is going to be. Or as Kenneth Jones put it, “the problem is the how.”

“I love the (Futures) report,” said Jones, the economic research analyst at the Agency of Commerce and Community Development and Vermont’s generally recognized demography authority. “It gets people thinking.” It does not explain how to get thousands of outsiders to move in.

The only specific proposal in the Futures Report is to spend $200,000 to market Vermont, and not even Lewis or Vermont Chamber of Commerce President Betsy Bishop thinks this will be very effective. The report is aspirational, not prescriptive.

“We do not have a plan yet,” Bishop said. “We are working on a plan. We want to get to the pace of 10,000 (newcomers a year), but it’s not going to happen all at once.”

It isn’t as though there is some policy the state could adopt (or abandon) to attract new residents. Jones said Vermont’s basic demographic situation has not changed much over the years. The birth rate has declined, a change that “tends to be aligned with affluence,” he noted, as well as the state’s older population. In-migration may have slowed simply because there are fewer (proportionately) of the 30-ish-year-olds who relocate to Vermont for its quality of life.

That quality, of course, could be threatened by tens of thousands of new residents. Without a strong, statewide system of planning, zoning and well-crafted incentives (and disincentives), they could all end up living in subdivisions sprawled over what used to be farmland.

Most economists agree that a state need not become more populous to become more prosperous. But Jones said the decline of working-age people in Vermont could create a risk to the state’s prosperity. “It’s hard to envision a plan for a healthy economy when the workforce is decreasing,” he said.

And he noted that Vermonters might have to consider the possibility that if thousands of new residents could be wooed, the vast majority of them might opt for Chittenden County.

“People love cities,” he said. “Burlington would become a more vital city. I can see why people would say that would be a good thing.”

It might. But what would become of the rest of the state?

Vince Bolduc raised another possible drawback of adding thousands more Vermonters.

“More people demand greater bureaucratization and formality of social organization,” he said. “One of the great charms of a small state is that it is so easy to build and maintain social capital.”

But what else is new? For at least a century, Americans (and Europeans) have been trading intimacy for prosperity. As a society gets richer, it also gets more impersonal, more standardized, less spontaneous. Along with a few other rural precincts, Vermont has remained something of a holdout. It may not be able to remain one.

Material for a good novel, if only anyone could write it.


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Jon Margolis

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  • Willem Post

    People are lamenting Vermont’s working age population will be decreasing.

    That is a good trend, because of increased automation and the internet and computers, fewer workers are needed to do the same job.

    Thus, it is good Vermont’s population is not growing, because more working age people likely would cause future unemployment and underemployment.

    Vermont should do more to help people, aged over 65, likely highly experienced, stay in jobs instead of retiring, by allowing them to make up to $25,000 per year free from state taxes.

    • chris wilmot

      A great plan to enchain the state with debt that will be too large to get out from under.
      How predictable- the boomer gen could care less about anyone but themselves

    • Ray Gonda

      This sounds worth a look! Good thinking.

  • Robert J. Zulkoski

    We at Vermont Works Management Company, LLC use the term “Bending the Curve” to refer to the firm’s intention to (i) play an active role in the steepening of the upward trajectory of growth of living-wage jobs and innovation, especially amongst the young, in the State of Vermont, (ii) be a positive catalyst for the exposure to, and adoption of, global best practices in terms of operations and sustainability to Vermont companies, and (iii) showcase the attractive investment attributes of Vermont-based companies to enlarge the pool of out-of-state capital eager to participate in the State’s development for the benefit of existing and future innovative entrepreneurship within the State.

    The roots of many societal problems are structural, from economic forces and market failures, to political systems, to sociocultural factors. Improved public services are only one part of the response to these problems. Vermont Works Management Company LLC believes social impact investment capital can improve the way government, the private sector, philanthropy and the investment community respond to social challenges – it believes that through partnership and collaboration, and a flexible and responsive approach to investment, one can generate measurable, positive social impact. By investing with a social mission which is responsive to need, however complex, one can take what we know or learn today, to attempt to make tomorrow better.

  • willpatten

    Vermont’s most vital brand attribute today, whether you like it or not, is Bernie Sanders. The people attracted by that attribute are largely 20-40 years old members of the workforce. Sounds like a marketing plan to me.

  • Doug Eisler

    Eesh…. this plan reminds me of some eastern European planned city kind of deal. It won’t work, capitalism just doesn’t work that way. You can’t force it. God bless them though if they can make it work.
    Really though, be more open to industry, then maybe we will see more money and less poverty in this state.

  • John Grady

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_shrinking_cities_in_the_United_States

    Quality of Life is mentioned often in Vermont by people with no money problems.
    Life is good in most places for people with money, they live in the nice part of town.

    America is covered with dying cities and dying urban areas. Detroit has 700,000 people so population isn’t the simple answer.

    Vermont has a reputation for high taxes which isn’t a lure for people to come here and is driving away some people.

    If Vermont wants to thrive the school spending has to be drastically cut by creating county school systems and becoming a Right to Work State. County zoning committee’s not loaded with NIMBY people is needed to work on the housing cost problem while not building bedroom communities. Housing, retail and other commercial properties to create towns instead of bedroom communities.

    Vermont has safety to sell with low crime and is going to loose that if the heroin problem isn’t addressed. We haven’t arrested our way out of the problem and more treatment sounds good. The question needs to be why are people messing with the junk in the first place ? Blaming prescription pain killers doesn’t account for all the people who never had a prescription but became junkies.

    If Vermont was a safe place with low taxes it would draw people with money. Immigration of white collar professionals from other states or countries is more desirable than luring in unskilled labor. Automation will kill the demand for labor so the myth of a looming labor shortage in Vermont fails the common sense test.

  • Bob Borsh

    How is this new news ? I’ve been a Vermont state resident for 25 yrs now. I’m a degrees mechanical engineer and my wife and I purchased land and build a house in west Woodstock in 1992 and 1994 respectively. In all that time I’ve travelled to jobs in Rutland County (17 yrs), Orange County (1 yr 1 month) and now Chittenden County (almost 2 yrs) making the daily commute to each of those areas as need be. During the times not listed to add up to the 25 yrs I was either un or underemployed.
    We made a conscious decision to live where we live. It was good for our children and ok for us. Bit if I had to do it all over again …. Claremont Nh and and the remaining upper valley of New Hampshire had several high tech industries supporting those areas. WRJ, Windsor and Bellows Falls immediately across the Ct River ? Not so much. Vermont simply does not want industry to expand in its borders. That’s been my experience. Bring me your trust funds and your second ( or third, or fourth) home owners. That should be Vermonts motto.

  • John Briggs

    Interesting, well-done article.

  • Edward Letourneau

    The problem is Act 250 that makes it difficult to impossible for industry to move here. When are the people going to get it? The act does exactly what it was intended to do — stop development. We are not in a decline that we can’t recover from without changing it, along with all the regulations, taxes and fees that the state imposes in the dream of being a park setting that we can happily live in.

    • Jason Brisson

      Remember the Circ!

    • Ray Gonda

      Let’s get real here. Act 250, in and of itself, does not prevent or discourage industry from moving to Vermont. A few who could care less about not polluting or other environmental protection measures – maybe – but not the run-of-the-mill company. Act 250 has guided rational development and can be credited with shielding Vermont form the worse of the boom and bust cycles seen elsewhere (such as our neighbor New Hampshire) particularly after the 2008 crash. Lets give credit where credit is due and Act 250, though seemingly onerous for a few, has done a very good job of maintaining a stale economy in Vermont..

  • Calen Angeron

    I am 30 and thinking of moving here but the property taxes are way too high. I am not impressed by bernie sanders or socialism. I work my hands to the bone. Not everyone wants to foot the bill for “social” programs or someone elses idea of utopia.I just want to live out in the country without being messed with by a tax collector. It is a beautiful state for the exact reason that it isnt slammed to the gills with people. There is natural beauty there still and something real feeling when in many other places its all chain stores, profit in the name of all else and efficiency first. If they would just balance it all out(less taxes and government, govt positions) more this is my land and I am gonna live on it without everyone elses opinion like a HOA and people with too much time on their hands and opinions to match.Please please dont try to be a dallas or houston or boston. Money isnt everything and frankly only a few are truly wealthy there. Why would you want to have “investors” buy up all the land to put down cliche popup subdivisions. Only to make tax revenue and line your pockets. There arent many places other than the desert and even then that arent a sprawl. I would be so happy to go buy a farm and sell dairy. There are plenty that would but you cant expect them to foot the bill for all of your self indulgent social programs. Just let people take care of them selves and live off the fat of the land and it will all work out. Build up Burlington. Put some more housing there and it will drop the cost for people living there. There will be push back from the rental sector.but then there is your influx of people going to the college, buying goods, spending money.the rest of the state can remain unspoilt.

    • Pam Ladds

      I will be really interested to know if you feel the same way when you get to 70! Remember those in their 70’s “worked” their fingers to the bone” so that you could benefit from education and health care along the way.

    • walter carpenter

      “Not everyone wants to foot the bill for “social” programs or someone elses idea of utopia.I just want to live out in the country without being messed with by a tax collector. ”

      What is someone else’s idea of Utopia? And those taxes pay for a helluva lot that you will get from them, and maybe some of this will be nice farm loans, subsidies or something like that to start your dairy farm. I do not know what there is in Vermont for agriculture subsidies or whatever, since I am not involved in agriculture, but here’s how the feds have been subsidizing agriculture for many, many years.

      https://www.wsj.com/articles/should-washington-end-agriculture-subsidies-1436757020

    • Joe Shannon

      I moved to VT because of the natural beauty of the State. It had always been my dream. Two years later I packed up and left. It was a nightmare. It seems that nobody has the desire to work there. The government has made it much more attractive to stay at home and live off of other people’s money. Healthcare is unbelievably bad. My Doctor was in a clinic loaded with Suboxine users. Getting a appt was impossible. There is only one hospital and it is stretched to its limits. My local school has more staff than students. Taxes are horrendous. Roads are terrible. Watching drug deals in public view is the norm. It is beautiful there but that only goes so far. I moved south and the cost of living is much cheaper. I don’t have mountains or snow but I have the gulf and white Sandy beaches.

      • Calen Angeron

        Yeah, there are some very nice parts of the gulf and atlantic. Joe, if you like to go fishing check out Grand Isle Louisiana or better yet Destin Fl.

  • Ralph Meima

    Implement universal single-payer health care, paid parental/family leave, and universal full-time pre-K – like any other self-respecting OECD country – and Vermont’s attractiveness to young families would increase dramatically. This would solve some of the labor shortage issues for employers, grow in-state market demand and disposable income, reduce the state’s average age, and increase school populations. We would probably be able to rely on most of the rest of the US to drag their feet on similar policy implementation for decades, due to ideological hangups. But better hurry; other coastal states might get the jump on us. (And yes, share some of this new population growth with Southeastern VT!)

    • Glenn Thompson

      Unless those young families looking to locate to an area or state that offers high paying jobs, no one is going to relocate to Vermont being promised ‘perks’ if they can’t afford to move here and live…. and be forced to pay for those ‘perks’ given the current climate in Vermont where “wages” is more than offset by “high living costs and high taxation”. There is a reason why younger Vermonters are moving out of state. If Montpelier can’t figure it out, the trend will continue.

      • walter carpenter

        “Unless those young families looking to locate to an area or state that offers high paying jobs, no one is going to relocate to Vermont being promised ‘perks’ if they can’t afford to move here and live.”

        As someone who works in Vermont’s tourist sector, I see a great many families coming here to escape those “high paying jobs,” and that kind of corporate lifestyle to be here because of the perks of living a relatively simpler life without all the pressure. As for the high taxes (not the highest in the nation) perhaps they would be lower if we spread them out more evenly and the richer among us paid their fare share. And states with higher taxes than Vermont’s, like Oregon, are also seeing population growth.

        • Glenn Thompson

          If you work in the tourist industry….how do you tell the difference between those who are just visiting the state or have relocated?

          FYI, Vt Ranks 48 in population growth. Thus young families are NOT relocating the Vt. for reason I pointed out in my original statement.

          Vermont is a poor rural state with a small % that can be classified as being “rich’. Vermont also has one of the highest income tax rates for those who are in the upper tax bracket. How high do those rates need to go before you are satisfied?

      • Ralph Meima

        They aren’t ‘perks’. That’s the wrong way to look at social insurance. Are Social Security and Medicare ‘perks’? Your fire department? Also, VT is a mid-range taxation state in terms of tax burden per-capita. Finally, VT has a labor shortage, not a job shortage. Many companies have to hire from out of state. Young people fleeing VT because there are no jobs is a myth.

        • Glenn Thompson

          You are wrong on your assumptions.

          I refer to the proposal as ‘perks’ because they are added in with job benefits. If you prefer the term “benefits”, then I’m find with that. The issue in Vermont is outside of Chittenden county few businesses, employers can afford to add to their benefit’s package. Someone pays for Universal Health Care, Paid leave, Universal Pre-K, etc! Who?

          Before we decide to more job ‘benefits’ as pushed for by Montpelier, first we must attract new businesses into the state that can afford the added expenses. In other words, we must not put the ‘cart before the horse’.

          Every survey I pull up shows Vermont constantly ranked in the top 10 for overall tax burden. Some adjust rankings based on Vermont’s cost of living index. Those rankings easily puts Vermont towards the top in overall tax burden.

          Vermont does have a labor shortage due to the fact wages are not on par with the costs of living. Thus we are in agreement on that. And the reason why we have a labor shortage is because young people are relocating to other areas of the country where wages and costs of living is more in line with each other. It is possible those young people living in Chittenden County may stick around. Those outside of Chittenden County have no choice but to seek employment elsewhere due to a lack of high paying jobs. What other explanation would you have for Vermont having stagnant population growth?

    • Phil Greenleaf

      Good suggestions Ralph – you point out the clear path for a small state to work on. Since nearly everyone agrees that population growth will remain stagnant and new business development in the state will not greatly increase no matter what tax structure is in place (for the reasons stated by Mr. Margolis), a more concerted and possibly overt socialism is a worthy experiment. The other commenter (will patten) suggesting Bernie as the main calling card of the state is dead on. Watch the fireworks as these comments hit the Red Scare button. It’s pretty funny to watch the libertarians and Conservatives get hysterical and then start micro-managing economic arguments with each other.

    • Edward Letourneau

      It won’t solve any labor shortage — because there is no manufacturing left here. Tourist jobs, will never pay someone’s way.

      • JohnGreenberg

        There are roughly 29,000 Vermonters employed in manufacturing according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.vt.htm

        • Gary Dickinson

          So, 8.4% then? Not a big number compared to Government – 16% or Health & Education – 18.8%.

          • JohnGreenberg

            Gary Dickinson:

            Perhaps it’s not a big number, but it’s 8.4% more than 0, which is what I responded to. Interestingly, it’s only slightly below the US average (in 2012) which was right around 10%.https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/USAPEFANA

          • Steve Baker

            But look at the Government %. The State is the Largest Employer.

  • Michael Olcott

    “which realistically cannot raise a new city out of the ether by wishing for it”
    No but you CAN direct funding and human resources to the other cities that are withering across the state. the 25 or so years that i have been an adult and paying attention to the world i have seen very little expended on VT outside of the capital and the Queen City.My,what an apt self descriptor that is. those 2 eat the cake and all the rest of us get are the crumbs. yes i am speaking very broadly here as i know there have been local and regional efforts. those always seem to be just enough to keep the ball rolling though and have lacked the ‘grand vision’ that seems to be directed to that side of the state. ( yes i know i sound all sour grapes,lol)

  • David Austin

    Professor Bolduc makes the two most important points in the article. Those who choose to invest in Vermont generally do so because of the unique lifestyle Vermont offers. It is not because of the numbers, because quite frankly, the numbers work better in quite a few other places. That lifestyle is intrinsically tied to Vermont’s relatively small population and wealth of natural resources. Significant population growth is likely to erode the “Social Capital” that Professor Bolduc speaks of. Vermont has never been an economic powerhouse. And it likely never will be, regardless of the best efforts to make it one. Living here did not used to require a lot of money. The answer to Vermont’s economic woes does not lie in development of strip malls, McMansions, bogus “downtowns” and office “parks” in former cornfields, tax credits for large businesses, blanketing the state in solar “farms” etc., etc. The answer lies in the Legislature making the commitment to live within Vermonter’s means, and ensuring that the attributes that make Vermont unique are protected.

    • Bruce Wilkie

      Unique lifestyle-is that the lifestyle where native Vermonters live in 20 year old trailers or falling down hovels?
      Where all the development money is shoveled into Chittenden county while the rest of the state starves?
      Where renewable energy cartels destroy the poorest parts of the state so Burlington and Montpelier can wear their green hats?

      • David Austin

        Bruce, the point of my comment is that the best interests of Vermont are not served by attempting to become just another generic place on the map. You are correct that a lot of development money is focused on Chittenden County. And that area more closely resembles the typical generic suburbia found along the Rt. 9 Corridor in Northern New Jersey than it does the rest of Vermont. I do not believe that the rest of the state should attempt to emulate this. You are also correct that the way renewable energy is being developed in Vermont is essentially a scam, with the residents of this state being duped. I’m sure there are a number of people in Vermont living in old trailers and hovels. I’m guessing that most of the people buying the McMansions are probably from somewhere else. But suggesting that native Vermonters are somehow relagated to living in old trailers and hovels is somewhat offensive. And if Montpelier would stop milking the state’s residents and learn some fiscal restraint, people might be able to afford to maintain their homes.

    • Paul Coates

      Well said Dave. I’ve been promoting the ‘live within our means’ message for some time. We need to keep our own standards and stop making comparisons to places we really don’t want to be.

  • rosemariejackowski

    Here’s a plan. Let SW Vermont join New York. Down here in the invisible Kingdom things have gone from bad to worse. No transportation. No safe drinking water. High taxes. No access to dental care. Shortage of doctors. Price gauging of seniors.
    Part of the problem is that we are not in a major media market. Maybe we need to connect with Albany?

    • Jason Brisson

      Same problems exist in Central, SE, NE, and NW VT. Every region of the state that’s not Chittenden County, IS the “invisible Kingdom” in VT.

  • John Ashton

    I agree that we need more working aged people. Lack of opportunity and high taxes are things that drive young people away.
    I wonder if we can attract businesses to Vermont with our tax burden so high. Some poor deals have been made in the past (Husky, IBM) that didn’t play out as hoped. I would support future deals with potential employers if we have a competent team of negotiators working on behalf of the State.

    • Ray Gonda

      Research studies have shown that such “deals” with corporations for tax breaks or other incentives that eventually comes out of the pockets of taxpayers – seldom if ever give a positive return on such investment. Yet I keep seeing the mantra repeated that financial incentive to entice companies to relocate to Vermont is the way to go. This is what is called an ideology – in this case one that flies in the face of the facts.

      • Steve Baker

        I think that’s a lot of Non Sense. Are you in favor of Tax Breaks and incentives for Tesla and Solar? Maybe if we had a reasonable tax rate to begin with we wouldn’t have to throw the incentives around. But keep in mind all the taxes employed people pay that help the economy. Those employed people buy cars, homes, clothes, and employ others in the community.
        No Business gives you “NO”thing

  • christopherparker

    There is one thing we could do and that is build faster and more frequent train service to Boston and New York. That would particularly benefit Brattleboro and the Connecticut River Valley and Bennington – Rutland. Faster and better service to the big cities is the equivalent of being nearer.

  • Daniel Burks

    Wow……not one informed or enlightened observation in the entire column.

    In its current circumstance there is – in my opinion – little hope that Vermont will find a way to attract substantive business capital investment, an influx of youthful workers, or a way to regain control of its wildly expanding dependence upon property tax and and other progressive income redistribution schemes.

    If you don’t understand why your most employable and educated youth seek opportunity else where, and large numbers of recent retirees immediately abandon a state they’ve lived in for decades, there’s little hope you’ll find ways to attract anybody!

    The answers are really not that difficult to find if one looks at the competition. The Carolina’s and Florida are three that come to mind. And lots of Ex-patriot Vermonters take their lives and wealth there. The Carolina’s have been effectively competing for more than three decades, and Florida began making serious investments in Blue-hairs and the defense industry long ago.

    From my perspective, it begins and ends with political leadership that gets-it, funds it, and works hard to compete. Check out the legislative initiatives in these states. They know what they’re doing. Oh, and think about firing Bernie; he’s a major problem.

  • Matt Young

    Mr Margolis misses a few key pieces of the puzzle. NH Hampshire succeeds for several reason other than its proximity to Boston, no income or sales tax are huge factors. New Hampshire is much more business friendly. The advent of “act 250” and others restrictive regulations had the desired result of stifling any type of development. Those folks who came here for their little piece of heaven were able to effectively shut the door behind them and keep others from enjoying the same freedom. Our regulations create a situation where a farmer trying to give one of their children an acre of land can cost tens of thousands of dollars, someone trying to open a small business is broke and discouraged before they really begin. Vermonters don’t want to be told to live in a city, they want to make that choice on their own. The plan of our government should be to get out of the way, they are the problem not the solution.

    • Ray Gonda

      Vermont is unique and an attraction by virtue of forward looking items such as Act 250 and other pieces of legislative foresight. I do not count myself among that segment of Vermont’s population that would willingly and encouragingly destroy Vermont’s uniqueness and desirability a a place to live – to end up with a state little different from any other. And I have to wonder why some others do. For another two bucks in the pocket?

      • Steve Baker

        We are unique in that we occupy the cellar in so many categories.

  • walter carpenter

    “Lack of opportunity and high taxes are things that drive young people away. ”

    It’s low wages that drive young and older away. Why work for $10-$12 an hour, for example, when you can make $20-$30 somewhere else for the same kind of job? And soon, as more and more states finally legalize marijuana, I would be willing to bet that people will leave because we’re still backwards in that as well. I already know some Vermonters who have gone to Colorado for that reason.

    • David Austin

      Walter, it is the net economic environment that is one of the factors in population shifts. Both Taxes and income levels are components of that. The reasons that a $12 an hour job is a $20 an hour job in another place involve a number of factors. One of those factors is the gross revenue and operating expenses of a given employer. Creating economic opportunity is more complex than simply waving a magic wand and raising wages, as some in the legislature would like to do. Attempting to emulate the economic environments of more populous environs is neither prudent nor possible for Vermont. Vermont has always been unique. Capitalizing on Vermont’s strengths without compromise is the path to success.

      • Ray Gonda

        The devil is in the details of how to accomplish that capitalizing without the compromising. I do not think it can be done.

      • Steve Baker

        Perhaps you can site a few places this has happened “without compromise”?

  • Bruce Wilkie

    Chittenden county is not part of Vermont.

  • Steve Baker

    That’s as far as Boston is from New Hampshire, which explains why New Hampshire is as rich and populous as it is.
    Boston is the reason NH runs a very efficient State?
    WOW, Rose colored and very narrow focus.
    But maybe Vermont could build a beautiful big toll booth/rest area just over the border on rte 91, That would catch a buck from each flat-lander coming to and from. You don’t mind paying a dollar and the revenue generated is great.
    Vermont has a history of Not copying Good Ideas and repeating their own Bad Ideas. The Spiral continues….

    • Ray Gonda

      If Vermont is doing the wrong things, why to so many people want to move and live here? They do, ya know?

      • Steve Baker

        Is this Sarcasm? The population is in a downward spiral and has been for some years.

  • Jason Brisson

    Don’t Jersey Vermont!

    • Ray Gonda

      Amen!

  • Joe Shannon

    I have watched in Wilmington what Vermont does to people who want to invest in the State. The residents smell money and want their pound of flesh. Vermont is listed as 48th as the least business friendly places. Why would anyone want to start a business there? Instead of offering breaks you build walls. Demand your $15 an hour, family leave, free healthcare…

    • Steve Baker

      Exactly!

    • Ray Gonda

      It’s all a good thing too!