FRANKLIN COUNTY'S CREATIVE ECONOMY
In "real life" author and AAC Chair Dick Harper is an engineer. "I like the idea and the process of manufacturing widgets," he wrote. "The more widget makers we can attract to Franklin County, the better my own personal economy will become."No one interviewed for this series believes we will attract a widget maker with thousands of jobs to this area.
Advancing Vermont's Creative Economy, a year-long study released this month by the Vermont Council on Rural Development, puts the issue bluntly. Manufacturing ideas rather than widgets could drive Franklin County's economic future.
Earlier, we saw that the arts could be the "anchor store" for downtown projects. In the Rockingham example, RAMP (the Rockingham Arts and Museum Project) drove meals tax revenues up 120% and sales tax collections up 36%. Bringing the arts to town did that.
"For us, the community development aspect is the springboard for economic development for so many parts of Vermont for so many communities. It's not just a big factory moving in next door that's going to bring in all sorts of jobs," said Paul Costello, VCRD executive director and primary author of the report. "It's encouraging entrepreneurs and helping to incubate the businesses that will build the jobs of the future."
The recommendations in the report have local interest as a way to make Franklin County more able to cash in on businesses that rely on creativity, ingenuity, and intelligence.
Mr. Costello said people around the state recognize this region as the "place with great activity and great potential."
On the community development front, St. Albans City Manager Brian Searles said, "There's the general goal of the City to make sure that upper floor development and development of open space like the Federal Street parking lot be mixed use with an eye toward enough office space."
Appropriate businesses for Franklin County downtown spaces include businesses that are creative in nature. "We clearly aren't going to attract a manufacturing operation into the upper floor space we have there," Mr. Searles said.
St. Albans City is participating in the Historical Museum project. "One of the objectives there is to make sure that space on the top floor with the stage gets a lot of public use and is used for staging of plays, concerts and so on," he said.
The Vermont Council on Rural Development wants to support this region. "We would love to bring the resources we could to support the local people in the St. Albans region who want to boost the town's project by looking specifically at the connection between culture and economic development," Mr. Costello said.
Brian Searles is also excited about the L.E.A.D. program for promotion of the arts. Over then next year, "seven of our area leaders will be working on ways to promote the arts [and researching] possible new venues for the arts," he said.
The next article looks at several efforts to find and use venues for art shows, concerts, plays, and more.
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Advancing Vermont's Creative Economy, VCCI's Final Report and Recommendations is available online. Click here for a copy. It is a one megabyte .PDF file; you will need the (free) Adobe Reader. For a printed copy, e-mail your name and mailing address to Creative Economy Report.
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Dick Harper, Chair
P.O. Box 1
Highgate Springs, VT 05460