Gov. Phil Scott and his administration have been pushing hard to create jobs and develop the workforce across Vermont in order to give our struggling economy the shot in the arm it needs.
Agriculture is a major driver in Vermont’s economy. And the “green economy” has been making strides. We long for more manufacturing, and jobs that bring in large contracts and lots of workers, and the Republican governor and his staff have been holding meetings with potential partners.
While state leaders can be setting policy and attempting to create a fertile landscape for prospective business owners, communities are attempting to do their part.
It’s not just about making downtowns attractive and filling empty storefronts. It is also about how a community is perceived, and a handful of Vermont communities have placed an emphasis on arts and culture to help generate interest — and revenue.
This week, the Vermont Arts Council announced that it had launched an in-depth assessment of Vermont’s creative assets.
“The ten-month endeavor will result in a comprehensive action plan to advance the creative economy in the state,” a news release stated. The project is supported by major funding from Jane’s Trust, as well as grants from the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development and the National Life Group Foundation. The effort is directed by the Vermont Creative Network, an initiative supported by the Vermont Arts Council.
According to Ted Brady, deputy secretary of the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, “Vermont’s creative economy does more than create great jobs — it creates a great place to live, work and play. Nearly every aspect of Vermont’s economy is made stronger thanks to the creative people making art, music and other art forms. Creative entrepreneurs, whether making a living, practicing a hobby, or anything in between, have helped create Vermont’s sense of place, which is our primary tool in retaining Vermonters and recruiting new Vermonters.”
According to initiative organizers, “the action plan will identify concrete ways to boost the economic viability of the creative sector, and will outline steps to build synergy between creative industries and other sectors. It will also offer strategies to align future workforce development with the needs of the state’s creative businesses and to position Vermont as an attractive place for artists, young people and entrepreneurs.”
The proof is in the pudding.
In recent years, other communities around the state have made significant investments toward integrating arts and culture into their economic base — some with great success. Burlington, Vergennes, Brattleboro and Montpelier integrated the arts into their marketing and master plans. Similarly, St. Albans, Rutland, Hardwick, Windsor, St. Johnsbury, Bellows Falls, Richmond, Middlebury, Morrisville and Manchester are also held up as examples of communities that have taken bold steps toward attracting more artists, musicians and creative types.
Projects ranging from business incubators to cooperative art galleries have been central to many of the community development conversations.
According to economists, the creative economy is one of the most dynamic sectors of the global economy, with a powerful transformative force for socioeconomic development. The creative economy deals with the interface between economy, culture, technology and social aspects.
“Recently, there has been a growing recognition of the economic potential of creative talents and businesses nationwide,” said Amy Cunningham, Vermont Arts Council deputy director and coordinator of the Vermont Creative Network. “There is a particularly compelling case to be made for the power of the creative economy in Vermont, where creative industries and occupations provide nearly 9% of all employment.”
We applaud the Vermont Arts Council and its partners in this initiative. As much as agriculture and the working landscape set much of the stage for how people see our state, it is the stage and other creative efforts that are actually coming to answer what more Vermonters want to feel more complete in the communities in which they live.
Creative economies work, and monopolizing on the investments and the wide successes Vermont has seen is equally as important for the state’s long-term viability.
Vermont is proving that getting creative is the right direction.