MANCHESTER — Gov. Phil Scott hailed two recent additions to the region’s tourism infrastructure Wednesday: a bus service enabling connections to New York and beyond, and a 97-room hotel.
Scott had a busy day in the area, attending a double-header ribbon-cutting and later a meet-and-greet and political discussion that drew more than two dozen residents.
The governor and numerous local and state officials and business leaders provided the formal launch of the Vermont Shires Connector bus service linking the Manchester area and Bennington to rail, air and bus connections in the Albany, New York, area, New York City and other regions.
He also helped formally dedicate the new Hampton Inn & Suites in Manchester, and later discussed bipartisanship and other issues with residents at the Northshire Bookstore.
Speaking beside a Vermont Translines Shires Connector bus parked in front of the Hampton Inn, Scott praised the new bus route as “an all-around incredible transportation asset for this region.”
He praised the cooperative efforts of the Agency of Transportation and Vermont Translines, state and local officials and lawmakers, business organizations and others who helped bring about the twice-daily bus route, which receives state funding.
In addition to stops at the Albany bus station and Albany International Airport, the service offers a new link to the Amtrak station in Rensselaer, New York, thereby providing rail links to New York City, Boston and other destinations.
“This is a really big deal,” said Manchester Selectboard Chairman Ivan Beattie.
He said the bus/rail links make it possible for New York residents to visit the Northshire region without driving a car and allow easier coordination for group travel to the Route 7 corridor in southern Vermont.
In addition, Beattie said, “This is equally important for people in Manchester to get to New York City.”
State Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn, Sen. Brian Campion, D-Bennington, and others cited the potential economic and social benefits for the area from increased tourism and other travel to and from New York and Albany.
“This is a huge step in improving Vermont’s infrastructure,” Campion said, adding that the link also could become “a big component” in efforts to encourage young people to visit Vermont or continue to live in the state.
Scott also praised the Hampton Inn, which opened this summer, as an important stimulus for the local economy. He cited a $17 million investment in the project and the 30 local jobs the inn is providing.
Meeting with residents at the Northshire Bookstore on Wednesday afternoon, Scott discussed how he hopes to combat the effects of the current fierce partisanship that is plaguing governments nationwide.
The governor said he tried to stress a cohesive team approach when forming his administrative team, hiring people based on factors such as competence and ability to work with others. “A person’s political party was not a litmus test,” he said.
Scott said listening carefully to those with differing views is “an approach that can help bridge the increasingly political divide we see today.”
“Political polarization is growing at an alarming rate across the country,” Scott said, adding that he believes a more reasonable tone has been set in Vermont, despite some sharp differences between his administration policies and the Democrat-dominated Legislature.
In general, he said, it is important for politicians to remember that “after you’re elected, you have to transition to being a public servant.”
It is also important for leaders to set a good example for their constituents, the governor said, adding that he learned early in his career as a stock car driver that young fans were watching him closely and could be influenced by the way he conducted himself.
“I think we need some better models out there,” he said of the political arena nationwide.
Asked by a resident if he might be running for president, Scott responded with a laugh, “I would be running from president.”
The governor said he sees Vermont itself as a possible model for the nation on health care and energy conservation efforts, and in the generally accepting and neighborly attitude of its residents.
While in the area Wednesday, Scott also toured Mack Molding, Orvis and the Vermont Country Store.