Shires Young Professionals Strive to Build Community

Shires Young Professionals Strive to Build Community

Shires Young Professionals Strive to Build Community

The Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with the Shires Young Professionals, has been selected as a recipient of the Grants for Relocation Outreach Work (GROW) program by the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing (VDTM). This initiative aims to support organizations involved in attracting and retaining new residents. Governor Phil Scott emphasized the importance of welcoming new Vermonters, stating that the GROW program is a crucial tool for increasing the state’s population and workforce.

Heather Pelham, Vermont Tourism and Marketing Commissioner, highlighted the significance of these grants, noting that recruiting and retaining residents requires dedicated effort. Many organizations have been working on this voluntarily, and the funding will support their ongoing efforts. The Southwestern Vermont Chamber and Shires Young Professionals have been approved for both the Regional Relocation Network Track and Outreach Track, demonstrating their commitment to both recruitment and retention.

The Regional Relocation Network Track aims to enhance the state’s relocation lead generation and distribution system on The Southwestern Vermont Chamber joins other organizations like the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber & Economic Development of the Rutland Region in this effort. The Outreach Track focuses on organizing events and activities to promote the region to prospective residents and help new residents feel welcome. The Shires Young Professionals play a crucial role in retaining key demographics for employers and the community.

Kevin Chu, executive director of the Vermont Futures Project, expressed concerns about Vermont’s aging and shrinking working-age demographic. He emphasized that proactive measures are needed to address this challenge. The efforts of organizations like the Southwestern Vermont Chamber and Shires Young Professionals, supported by the GROW program, are essential in reversing this trend. Attracting a diverse and dynamic workforce is key to ensuring a vibrant and sustainable future for Vermont.

Research from the Vermont Futures Project indicates that Vermont’s workforce is a concern across the state. The current potential supply of workers is 7,100 if all high school, college, and net migration stayed and worked in Vermont. However, the demand for workers is 20,600 annually, resulting in an annual gap of 13,500 people. The GROW initiative will be vital in encouraging people from around the country and globe to work and live in Vermont. Chu added that attracting new people to Vermont also benefits those who are already here.

Matt Harrington, executive director of the Southwestern Vermont Chamber, remarked that the 2-year grant program will allow them to add talent and staff to support regional relocation and retention efforts. He noted that they have been working on this challenge for the past six years, starting with the Stay To Stay program, which invited people from around the country to try out Vermont for a weekend. Another step was the creation of the Shires Young Professionals organization to connect young Vermonters, embrace a more diverse community, and encourage young professionals to seek careers and a lifestyle in the region.

Grantees, including the Southwestern Vermont Chamber and Shires Young Professionals, convened in Rutland to share best practices, learn more about the program, and discuss the data driving the need for this important work. The funded organizations will submit monthly reports and deliverables specific to their approved scope of work, tracking progress and making adjustments as necessary to meet GROW program goals.

The Southwestern Vermont Chamber and Shires Young Professionals are dedicated to creating a dynamic future where the region becomes the destination of choice for a vibrant and diverse workforce. Their focus extends to professionals in finance, healthcare, services, hospitality, entrepreneurship, and other key sectors, fostering a sense of belonging and community.

The Southwestern Vermont GROW Initiative and staff will focus on lead generation and nurturing through the Connect With a Vermonter program. They will collaborate with partners including the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, Department of Labor, HireAbility Vermont, local HR departments, employers, regional partners, colleges, and universities. Data tracking and reporting will include maintaining a comprehensive database tracking all leads and generating regular reports for submission to the GROW Program Committee.

Outreach and development efforts will include the development and execution of strategies to engage new young families and professionals in the region, as well as connecting them with the Shires Young Professionals. Program development will focus on designing, planning, and implementing events that appeal to new young families, workers, and professionals, fostering personal and professional growth, including a Welcome Wagon feature and New Vermonter events.

The Southwestern Vermont Chamber and the Shires Young Professionals envision building a thriving workforce today and an inclusive community for tomorrow, contributing to the growth and prosperity of Southwestern Vermont. The search for a staff person to lead the GROW initiative is currently underway.

In addition to their relocation efforts, the Shires Young Professionals are recognizing 31 young professionals as Emerging Leaders of Southern Vermont. This recognition celebrates young people from the Bennington and Windham Regions for their work as community leaders and volunteers, as well as their professional accomplishments and commitment to serving the region. The Emerging Leader recognition aims to increase visibility and support for young leaders in the region and to increase statewide recognition of southern Vermont’s young leaders.

Typically, the Emerging Leaders are announced and celebrated at the Southern Vermont Economy Summit, which happens every year in late May. Due to COVID-19, the Summit and the Emerging Leaders award ceremony could not happen in person, but the celebration continues. The award is a custom Woodzie from Better Wheel Workshop in Newfane, Vermont, which will be shipped to each Emerging Leader’s home. Additionally, a highlight reel featuring each Emerging Leader and details on their career and community accomplishments is available online.

Hannah Cofiell of Butter Mountain Bakery in Wilmington expressed her excitement about receiving the Emerging Leader award. She noted that being recognized by her community has given her a chance to reflect on her success, especially during these uncertain times. Jay DeGregorio, Senior Environmental Educator at The Nature Museum in Grafton, emphasized the importance of his work with youth and expressed gratitude for the recognition.

Emerging Leaders were asked what Southern Vermont means to them. Christopher Lukasik, a Victim Advocate at the Windham County State’s Attorney’s Office, described Southern Vermont as an area of inclusion and potential. Jedediah Popp, a Case Manager at HCRS, highlighted the region’s ability to lead the way in creating new models for other communities to follow. Jennie Rozycki, Library Director of the John G. McCullough Free Library, described Southern Vermont as her adopted home, full of creative, curious, resilient, and kind people.

All of the 2020 Emerging Leaders of Southern Vermont will be nominated for the Vermont Rising Star awards. Last year, seven Emerging Leaders from southern Vermont became Vermont Rising Stars.

The Shires Young Professionals continue to strive to build a strong community, attracting and retaining young talent to ensure a vibrant future for Southern Vermont.

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