Vermont seeks to woo young professionals

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott speaks Monday at the Fiddlehead Brewery in Shelburne. Amanda O’Brien, in blue, and Laura Pierce also spoke at the event. Photo by Gilllian English

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott held a press conference Monday in the brewing room of Fiddlehead Brewing Co. in Shelburne, amid the sounds of ventilators whirring, tanks being opened and the smell of the fermenting beer lingering in the air.

The microbrewery, one of Vermont’s hippest thriving industries, provided the backdrop for Scott to make a call to young Vermont professionals.

The press conference was called to announce the third annual Young Professionals Summit of Vermont, hosted by the Rutland Young Professionals, a networking nonprofit.

The daylong summit brings young Vermonters together to connect, share ideas and discuss the problems they face in the workforce.

Childhood friends Amanda O’Brien and Laura Pierce are the summit organizers; both grew up in Rutland. At Fiddlehead Brewing on Monday, both spoke about their childhoods, and their choice to return to Vermont after attending college out of state.

“We were both encouraged to return back to our state in large part due to the positive energy and hard work by the young professional organizations across Vermont,” O’Brien said. “These groups provided us with natural opportunities to connect with our peers, engage with our communities, and network with others in our demographic.”

The problem of keeping young people in Vermont has been a focus for Scott since he moved into the governor’s office in January. In 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that one in six Vermonters is 65 or older, a fact that could pose economic problems in the future, experts say.

“We have 40,000 college students, and 10,000 who graduate every year,” Scott said. “We need fertile ground. We need to tap them and give them opportunities to stay here, whether it’s something job-related, or better housing to allow them to live, work and play in Vermont.”

Scott said barriers to attracting young families and young professionals to the state include the lack of affordable housing and of readily available ways to make good job connections. He believes the $35 million housing bond he signed in June, in combination with networking opportunities like the Young Professionals Summit, will work to combat these problems.

The Young Professionals Summit will be held on Saturday, Sept. 9, at the Paramount Theater in downtown Rutland. Young professionals from across the state are invited.

Although the focus is geared toward people in their 20s and 30s, the organization said it also welcomes those who are young at heart. Participation is $20, with scholarships available for college students.

The summit aims to offer personal and professional development opportunities to Vermont’s young people, and to highlight some of Vermont’s particularly prosperous industries, including, unsurprisingly, the microbrewery industry.

Also on the agenda are panels about clean energy, agriculture, nonprofits and outdoor recreation.

“We hope that the summit will provide an opportunity for those of us living in Vermont to address these issues,” Pierce said. “And to share strategies to help attract other young professionals to live here.”

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