The State of Vermont is pursuing an economic development strategy that fails to build on its genuine strengths while relying on an illusory “quality of life” advantage. That is the conclusion of the most recent Atlantica paper released today by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, a public policy think tank in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The Atlantica project is examining the International Northeast as one interconnected economic zone. As part of this multi-year research initiative, AIMS is releasing Economic Development in Vermont: Making Lemons out of Lemonade? by Art Woolf, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Vermont. The paper, based on a speech by Professor Woolf, is remarkable for Atlantic Canadians in that its themes are ones that this region is all too familiar with. In spite of what should be some comparative economic strengths (such as the high level of education of its people, and high levels of education spending), the state of Vermont has been complacent in the face of its economic challenges and has allowed poor quality government to become an almost insurmountable obstacle to growth. Yet as Professor Woolf also notes, just across the Connecticut River, in New Hampshire, many of these same challenges have been met and largely mastered.
Dr. Woolf argues in his paper that, “In order to encourage economic growth we need an infrastructure that is conducive to growth. By infrastructure, I don’t mean just physical assets — I mean a mindset that recognizes that growth is good, a recognition that a healthy economy leads to increased opportunities for all, a higher standard of living, less poverty, and a better environment. Until Vermonters confront those fundamental issues and change their attitudes toward economic growth and change, the state will continue to have the same economic development problems it has faced in the past. Vermont will remain a low-wage, low-income state — one that struggles to provide, through government policy, those services that are better provided by a healthy, vibrant economy.