Shumlin Turns To Quebec In Economic Development Efforts

May 20, 2015

It's become a tradition for the governor to hold a slew of public bill signings around the state after legislators adjourn in the spring, declaring victory on some of the year's major policy agendas.

Two of Shumlin's top priorities this year were job growth through a revamped business incentive program and a beefed up water quality plan for Lake Champlain.

And both of those items were on the agenda at Shumlin's news conference at a lakefront hotel in Burlington. He was talking about the economic development bill that - in part - added to the Vermont Economic Growth Incentive (VEGI).

"We got most of what we wanted, and I'm grateful to the Legislature for starting out as skeptics for some of the proposals we were making to help VEGI work for small rural areas in Vermont and ending up at a really much better place, so we're very happy with the outcome of the bill," Shumlin said.

The bill makes it easier for companies in areas with high unemployment to get state job growth incentives.

But the big thrust of the news conference Wednesday wasn't anywhere in Shumlin's two-part agenda for the legislative session as described in his third inaugural address and budget address in January.

That big priority, as Shumlin put it, is "to be much more aggressive about giving Quebec business leaders and job creators the information that they need about the best place, in my view, in America to grow jobs."

The economic development bill that came out of the legislature included $100,000 to be given to the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce for an effort to get companies north of the border to relocate or expand to Vermont.

Tom Torti, the president and CEO of the chamber, said the money will be key in outreach efforts to bring employers to Vermont.

"What this will allow us to do is actually hire a person who will be able to work with companies, with site selectors, with representatives of the provincial government, with the federal government," to help bring Canadian companies into the state, Torti said.

Torti said the goal is to spread the word about Vermont's business environment.

Or as Shumlin put it: "They think about the best skiing in the world, they think about the best recreation. They think about extraordinary homegrown food and brewed beers. They don't necessarily always think 'Great place to expand my business and bring jobs.'"

Officials hope that with the right outreach, Vermont will be better able to compete with New York for more business from Canada.