From my experience in U.S. and global high growth areas, I see that Vermont has great potential. The strategy, which has led to success in other locations, encompasses a high quality of life, excellent K-12 education, the active participation of academe government and business, a robust infrastructure of roads, public transportation and high speed Internet, competitively priced electric power, and financial incentives.
As I drive between my Vermont homes in Shelburne and Wilmington, enjoying the natural environment and farm-to-table cuisine of regional establishments, I see that people are really happy living here, as I am. According to a 2018 CNBC report, Vermont was ranked the top place to live in the US – citing low crime rates, a healthy population, and commitment to sustainability.
So how can we attract more talent to the sparsely populated Green Mountain Utopia, grow the economy and lower taxes, have an abundance of well-paying jobs and be a preferred location for business? Can we imagine the benefits from the University of Vermont, the states only doctoral level, research institution, being a top choice for students to learn in a setting where cutting edge, funded research flourishes and investors see its value as an innovation engine?
Vermont’s winters are not obstacles as witnessed by the success of Boston’s Route 128 corridor. Other examples include Minneapolis-St. Paul, Chicago and Madison as reported in Cushman and Wakefield’s 2018 Tech Cities 2.0. Pittsburgh has also become a growth area by bringing together government, academe and business, facilitating the sharing of ideas among campus labs, startups and business and providing an interesting setting for young professionals as cited in Bloomberg Opinion, Feb. 28, 2018. These areas benefited from a concentration of expertise, known as tech clusters. AnnaLee Saxenian’s pioneering work “Regional Advantage” articulated the role of clusters in Silicon Valley.
Vermont can look to Alabama as a state with diversified growth. By attracting Mercedes Benz, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and Mazda plants, more than 56,000 jobs have been created. Airbus and Bombardier plants provide more employment and the prospect of enticing high tech component manufacturing. The Alabama Department of Commerce reports that 780 bioscience and 54 medical device businesses have been formed and millions of dollars awarded by the National Institutes of Health.
Vermont can realize strong economic growth. The rise of tech companies in the Burlington area, ranging from IT services and ruggedized computers to cybersecurity, is evidence of creative talent. The presence of the University of Vermont suggests that the Burlington area could be one possibility to develop tech clusters. What might be candidate tech clusters?
New technologies converting animal waste to electric power systems could help the state’s cattle and horse farms prosper while also being globally exportable technologies. In the biotech domain, pesticides and fertilizers safe for the environment and affordable to farmers could be other examples with export potential. Innovation in feedstocks and process that reduces greenhouse gases from livestock can help safeguard Vermont’s dairy and meat industry while providing a competitive market advantage.
Given the global importance of cybersecurity, Vermont could become a nationally valued location for highly skilled cyber professionals to settle. With high speed internet, they could work at home for the thousands of enterprises seeking their advanced skills. Vermont’s abundant outdoor activities will help attract young cyber experts. General Data Protection Regulation, known as GDPR, is a huge issue in Europe where mandatory identity protection extends to Europeans visiting the U.S. thereby posing liability as well as demand for cyber savvy professionals. Vermont’s potential for economic growth is only limited by our imagination and commitment to work as team for the greater good of this and future Green Mountain residents.
Harold J Raveche, PhD
Dr. Harold J Raveche served as the sixth president of Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. He founded Innovation Strategies International in 2010 to advise business, government and academe on entrepreneurship and innovation. He is currently involved in growing tech based enterprises in Silicon Valley, Calif. and Huntsville, Al.