Economic Response Team Holds First Meeting

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Economic Response Team Holds First Meeting

Fri, 01/30/2009 - 5:06am -- tim

MONTPELIER, Vt. Nearly 20 people attended and as many participated by phone in the first meeting of a team of government, business, and economic development officials designed to provide a rapid response to Vermont businesses in distress.
The Economic Response Team, an ad hoc group of the state s economic development leaders proposed by Governor Jim Douglas as part of his Inaugural Address, met Wednesday in Montpelier.
Already, concrete ideas have come out of this first meeting, such as improving access to capital by temporarily loosening restrictions on some of our incentive and loan programs, and allowing businesses to be eligible for the weatherization program, Douglas told reporters at his weekly press conference on Thursday.
The chairwoman of the Economic Response Team, Commissioner of Economic Development Betsy Bishop, said her department would take action on several items included in the group s discussions.
We can immediately begin to draw attention to our outreach efforts to businesses, Bishop said. And we will set up an internet portal to field inquiries. We have programs and even funding available to help companies; we just need to let them know and invite them to contact us.
The ERT is designed to bring private and public groups together so they can share information; identify companies struggling in the current economy; and quickly respond with assistance, cutting through red tape and helping firms before key decisions are made.
Several state lawmakers; representatives of U.S. Senators Pat Leahy and Bernie Sanders; and officials from various economic development groups as well as government agencies attended the meeting or participated by conference call.
Solutions offered included creatively using existing programs like the state s Vermont Training Program, which pays to train employees at participating companies, to assist existing firms.
Beth Demers, a retention and expansion specialist with the Vermont Department of Economic Development told those at the meeting that companies have expressed interest in training employees now because they are not as busy in the soft economy.
They say, If we can cross-train these employees now while we re slow, we won t have to lay them off, Demers said.
Other suggestions included making sure companies are prepared to tap into government contracting opportunities when the federal stimulus plan money flows into the state.
More at: www.thinkvermont.com