The Vermont Chamber is hosting a virtual policy series this month bringing together business and legislative leaders to discuss policy issues. This week the leaders of the Vermont House and Senate addressed the group.
Members and businesses joined a virtual meeting sponsored by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce to hear from and ask the Vermont House and Senate leaders about economic policies under consideration.
Democrat Jill Krowinski has served in the House since 2012 and was elected Speaker in January. She is the fourth woman to serve in that position. She said her goal is to build a recovery plan that leaves no Vermonter behind while crafting policies to help businesses.
“By creating access to affordable childcare and coupling it with access to targeted workforce training opportunities I believe we can help a previously restricted population enter the workforce or finally have the opportunity to start the businesses they had long been planning for," Krowinski said. "It’s also important that we continue to work on our long term challenges like stabilizing our public higher education system, working on social equity and racial justice issues and dealing with our unfunded pension liability. We are starting to look at what the federal relief bills mean for us. We have some incredible opportunities at this moment to take advantage of.”
Democrat Becca Balint has been in the Senate since 2015 and was elected President Pro Tem in January. She also sits on that chamber’s Economic Development and Housing Committee.
“Vermont’s startup survival rate is about sixth highest in the nation and we rank seventh in the number of people working for small businesses," Baliant said. "And these businesses help our economy hum but they also help anchor our communities. And so although this statistic is really impressive and it gives me hope for the future we also know that we need to really target the growth of mid-size businesses here in Vermont. And one thing that I have been focused on for years within my own committee is that we cannot grow Vermont’s small startups into mid-sized businesses without a well-trained, well educated workforce.”
Balint outlined the issues she said are a priority in parallel with pandemic relief.
“And that’s the great need we have for more housing," she said. "That also impacts our ability to attract and retain workforce. A childcare system that truly supports the needs of working families so that we can bring people back in the workforce who want to work but don’t have childcare. And then the last one which I think is a more difficult and more complicated and complex issue to deal with but I feel that we must and that is to attract and to cultivate a diverse workforce.”
Vermont Chamber of Commerce President Betsy Bishop said while both state leaders addressed workforce development problems with business vitality remain during the pandemic.
"Prior to the pandemic we had a ten thousand worker gap in workforce participation and we haven’t seen the numbers yet because they lag a little bit but I feel pretty confident in knowing that hasn’t improved during the pandemic," Bishop said. "Because of the pandemic what we’ve seen is one issue rise even above that. And that is the survivability of these businesses.”