Friday, March 13, 2009

Helping Vermonters Get Ahead, Notes from the Stimulus Workshop

Design Cultivation sometimes needs to look at broader issues effecting the health and well being of the Design Professions. For my profession and the building industry in general this is the worst business cycle I have ever seen in my life.   Therefore writing about our current situation and highlighting areas of hope is essential.  I'm looking for information as much as anyone.  Here's a little bit of what I know and where to find it.

One such place to look was last Friday’s 3/6/9 (ARRA) Stimulus workshop at Champlain College in Burlington, VT.  For those of you whom couldn't attend I've included some information for you.  Please read one.  The half day long workshop reinforced how crucial cultivating strong relationships and networks really are.     

700 plus people from all areas of Vermont gathered to hear the latest information about the stimulus package and its implementation. The energy in the room was electric, filled with expectation, hope and confusion.  Senator Leahy, Governor Douglas and the President of Champlain Collage, Dave Finney all spoke.  Go to Leahy's site to see and hear his remarks. Ted Brady from Leahy's Vermont Office introduced everyone and kept the opening ceremony going.  As always, Vermont was out of the gate first in the nation, in true independent Yankee spirit, holding the first in the nation  workshop bringing together stakeholders to learn about the opportunities the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act presents to our beleaguered state.

All three joked in a positive way about the unlikely gathering of democrats, republicans and others together in one place.  They stressed the importance of reaching across the aisle and working together to improve Vermont's economic situation.  Leahy stated this is the worst economic crisis in a generation and possibly since the Great Depression.  He quoted the latest 8.2% US unemployment figures were the lowest in a generation, not seen since the dark days of 1983.  Of course, I was a Junior in High School in 1983.  I don't remember much except Reaganomics, freeing hostages from Iran and something called high inflation.  I think my parents were much more worried about all of that than I.  Now it's my turn!  

Strong state level coordination is absolutely necessary to leverage this short term infusions of funding for the benefit of generations to come.   Governor Douglas has appointed Tom Evslin to coordinate the Office of Economic Recovery for Vermont.  Perhaps he can pull together a talented team of Vermonters to keep all of these efforts on track.  They plus the team of non-partisan professionals heading the Joint Fiscal Committee working on behalf of the State Legislature have produced assessments and information I think very directly helpful to Vermonters.  I've linked their names to the web pages summarizing recently available information.  There's a summary of Vermont Fiscal Impacts which is especially useful.  Peter Welch's office also has some great summary information as well.  The User's Guide to Economic Recovery Resources is another important first step.  He and his staff have produced an interactive site helping Vermonters understand specific benefits of the program in a little bit more detail.  

For those unable to attend, Senator Leahy's Webpage Conference page has a direct links to pdf summary handouts identifying the key effects of the stimulus package (ARRA) both locally and federally.  These handouts also identify the names and phone numbers of the breakout session participants.  Please contact them with your questions.  While they may not have immediate answers. (regulations and procedures in many cases are being written as I write)  They will get back to you.  I've had good luck already with mine.

To see a list of all of the proposed projects on the table from Vermont's Municipalities you can see it at t'wo places which I recommend checking if you're curious.  Go to the Vermont League of Cities and Towns website for their information.  It was updated early last week.  The other location is found on the Office of Economic Stimulus and Recovery site under the Reports and Documents section. 

There are a variety of events listed on the their calendar which some appear to be web based while others are not.

I don't know if my firm will benefit directly and immediately from all of this activity but I am certain over the long term the people I'm meeting and programs I'm learning about will make a difference not only to the architectural office I work in but more importantly Montpelier where I live and the greater community of Central Vermont and beyond.    

I've already started to see evidence of funding happening in the affordable housing area and energy efficiency , Children and Crime sectors.  I am seeking  information about possible oppourtunities to respond to potential requests for proposals and qualitifications generated by Stimulus Funding for Architectural and Planning services where an eye to Green Design and Sustainable Planning are important to project successes.

If you have any questions or need resources please don't hesitate to email me here at DC or at work at  My work phone is 802-496-4004.  Comments and new information are welcome!


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