Vermont’s conservative financial ethos spares state, so farBy Kevin KelleyThe conservative financial practices of Vermont banks and of many individual Vermonters appear to have spared the state, so far, from the full impact of the financial crisis besetting much of the country.Banks doing business in Vermont have “no liquidity problem,” says state Banking Commissioner Thomas Candon.”For qualified borrowers, there’s no difficulty in obtaining credit in Vermont now.”Rather than pulling their money out of the state’s financial institutions, some Vermonters are funneling more funds into their local bank accounts, Candon notes. That can be seen as an expression of public confidence in Vermont banks’ record of prudent management.Their continued stability amid the storms buffeting many financial firms reflects most Vermont lenders’ avoidance of the subprime mortgage market. Its collapse is seen as the prime catalyst of the turmoil on Wall Street.”I’m impressed with how Vermont banks have adhered to traditional practices,” says Middlebury College economics professor Scott Pardee. “They didn’t engage in the same kind of sleaziness and excesses we’ve seen elsewhere.”Pardee is well acquainted with US banks’ performance and with financial markets generally, having worked for many years as a foreign-exchange manager at the Federal Reserve in New York prior to taking a teaching post at Middlebury in 2000.The Vermont state employees’ pension funds are also in sound condition, says Treasurer Jeb Spaulding. The three retirement funds with a combined $3 billion in assets have suffered a loss of about 8 percent of their value over the past 15 months, Spaulding notes. But he adds that they had grown by about 9 percent annually over the previous few years.A number of states have filed lawsuits against banks and other financial institutions on the grounds that some of the losses of public employees’ pension funds can be traced to malfeasance or dishonesty on the part of the money managers. Vermont has an arrangement whereby it automatically becomes a party to certain class-action suits initiated by other states, Spaulding says. But he adds that he’s unaware of Vermont having so far joined any of those actions.The pension funds that cover 40,000 current and retired state employees are “big and diversified,” Spaulding says. “I think they’re going to be fine.”He says he’s actually more concerned with the financial situation of individual Vermonters than with the state pension funds he oversees.Those who had invested substantial amounts in Lehman Brothers or AIG have already been hurt, and additional Vermonters could experience major losses in the coming weeks if other once-steady financial institutions collapse. Candon says his office has received several calls from worried Vermonters whose pensions are managed by AIG.The state is being affected by events on Wall Street in other ways as well. About half of the mortgage lenders operating in Vermont a year ago are no longer doing business in the state, Candon notes. That outgrowth of the subprime debacle is making it harder for some Vermonters to obtain mortgages, while the loss of competition could also cause rates to inch upward, Candon says.Vermont’s status as the state with the second-oldest population means that its economy could take a disproportionate hit from a steep and sustained drop in investment income, notes St Michael’s College economics professor John Karvelas.The actual effects on individual Vermonters will depend on how they have responded to the financial crisis, Spaulding says. And Pardee adds that state residents and businesses alike will probably not experience much pain if they haven’t gotten caught in the credit squeeze. Farmers, however, have long been dependent on lenders, which could cause Vermont’s agricultural sector to contract at an even more rapid rate, Pardee points out.Vermont’s entire economy will certainly suffer if the country as a whole slides into a recession. And would it likely be a long and deep downturn?Karvelas commented in mid-September that two weeks earlier “I would have said any recession would be fairly mild. Now, neither I nor anyone else has any idea of where the bottom might be.”Kevin Kelley is a freelance writer for Vermont Business Magazine from Burlington.
Vermont Businesses for Social ResponsibilityRecognizes Three Outstanding LegislatorsVBSR will be presenting its annual legislator of the year awards to the three legislators listed below that have demonstrated bold leadership consistent with VBSR’s policy priorities. VBSR will present the awards at its 2008 annual Fall Conference at the Latchis Theatre in Brattleboro, October 30th.Legislators receiving these awards were chosen by the VBSR Board of Directors after reviewing recommendations of the VBSR Public Policy Committee made up of representatives from several VBSR member businesses. ‘VBSR honors and thanks these dedicated public servants for their tireless work in commitment to making Vermont the best place to do business,’ says VBSRs Executive Director, Will Patten.Representative Topper McFaun- Barre Town, is being recognized for his leadership and vision to bring about comprehensive health care reform. Topper thinks beyond the constraints of our current system to push for what is better and what is possible. He has traveled all over the state to speak to groups concerned about the staggering cost of health care. Topper has consistently challenged the status quo to start important conversations about how we can reduce the cost of health care, control its rising cost, and move to more equitable financing systems. Topper sponsored and advocated for H.304 – The Vermont Hospital Security Plan. Consistent with VBSR’s public policy priorities as outlined by its membership, Topper strongly believes that the current systems are not working, that health insurance needs to be de-coupled from employment, and that some form of public financing coupled with an individuals ability to pay is the only way to ensure health care is available for all.Senator Dick McCormack- Windsor County, is being recognized for his devotion and unyielding advocacy for innovative and sustainable energy policies and practices. Dick had been a consistent advocate for assertiveness on the environment. He challenges lethargy and timidity and urges other legislators to approach energy and environmental issues as if they really mean it. Dick has introduced bills that provide incentives for fuel efficient cars, establish a Vermont Common Assets Trust, require new road construction to have adequate shoulders for pedestrian and bike travel, and that promote a comprehensive approach to energy policy through energy conservation, efficiency, and energy independence.Representative Michele Kupersmith, D-South Burlington, is being recognized for her dedication to creating in Vermont the most productive and effective workforce. Michele has worked tirelessly to ensure that we wisely spend our limited state dollars dedicated to workforce development and education, and that we find sustainable funding sources for this important economic development priority. She has advocated effectively to ensure that training programs are evaluated for successful placements and job creation. Michele has consistently embraced the practice of the ‘multiple bottom line’ in all this work, knowing that what is good for our people and good for our communitys is what is good for business in Vermont.Vermont Business for Social Responsibility is the largest statewide business association of its kind in the United States. VBSR’s 600 members employ approximately 35,000 people in Vermont, equal to about ten percent of the state’s workforce. VBSR’s member businesses also generate approximately $3.5 billion in annual revenue.
Comcast, Vermont’s leading provider of entertainment, information and communications, today announced the beginning of a massive 170-mile extension of its fiber-optic network in Vermont that will mark the introduction of broadband for consumers and local businesses in South Hero, Grand Isle and North Hero.Local Comcast representatives met with the Lake Champlain Islands Chamber of Commerce and Front Porch Forum at the Grand Isle Lake House last Wednesday night to discuss the details of the company’s project. When this broadband expansion is completed later this year, residents and local businesses in these three communities will gain access to Comcast’s cable television, high-speed Internet and digital voice services. In all, Comcast is on pace to expand its fiber-optic network in Vermont by a total of more than 300 miles this year. By the end of the year, Comcast will have extended its fiber-optic network by more than 1,000 miles since the company arrived in the Green Mountain State in 2006.Many residents and businesses in the communities benefiting from this network extension still depend on copper-wire phone service, dial-up Internet and one-way satellite TV service, which cannot compete with the speeds of Comcast’s Internet speeds, match the clarity of Comcast’s High Definition picture or deliver Comcast’s unique On Demand programming. Consumers in these communities will also soon be able to take advantage of the convenience and monthly savings of Comcast’s bundled packages. Comcast’s fiber-optic network and its Business Class services also will become available to local businesses, meaning that local companies for the first time will have access to cutting-edge communications technologies.“We are delivering on our commitment to bring cutting-edge services to many parts of Vermont that have never before had broadband,” said Pam Mackenzie, Vice President of Comcast’s Vermont system. “We’re beginning to deploy construction crews throughout the Islands and are hard at work getting the job done. As more and more Vermont consumers and businesses gain access to our fiber-optic network, the largest network of its kind in the country, they are taking advantage of the most advanced services in the country. We’re excited to be bringing broadband to even more Vermont communities this year.”Consumers will be notified as Comcast services become available in their communities, she said.Since entering Vermont in November 2006, Comcast has aggressively expanded its services across the Green Mountain State, investing in its advanced fiber-optic network to bring broadband services to previously unserved homes and businesses and partnering with local communities. The company has launched a number of its advanced services in this time, including Digital Cable with On Demand, High Definition television service, Digital Video Recorders, Comcast High-Speed Internet service, Digital Voice, and the company’s Business Class suite of voice, Internet and cable television services for small and medium-sized businesses. In addition, Comcast has offered programming of special interest to Vermonters. Comcast also assists local non-profit organizations in Vermont with financial, in-kind and employee volunteer support.About Comcast CorporationComcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) (www.comcast.com(link is external)) is one of the nation’s leading providers of entertainment, information and communication products and services. With 23.9 million cable customers, 15.3 million high-speed Internet customers, and 7.0 million Comcast Digital Voice customers, Comcast is principally involved in the development, management and operation of cable systems and in the delivery of programming content.Comcast’s content networks and investments include E! Entertainment Television, Style Network, Golf Channel, VERSUS, G4, PBS KIDS Sprout, TV One, ten sports networks operated by Comcast Sports Group and Comcast Interactive Media, which develops and operates Comcast’s Internet businesses, including Comcast.net (www.comcast.net(link is external)). Comcast also has a majority ownership in Comcast-Spectacor, whose major holdings include the Philadelphia Flyers NHL hockey team, the Philadelphia 76ers NBA basketball team and two large multipurpose arenas in Philadelphia.Comcast’s New England regions serve 2.6 million customers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut and New York and employ nearly 7,000 individuals.Source: Comcast. SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT (October 7, 2009) – ###
Champlain College,Champlain College has consolidated eight of its administrative departments under one roof at a new building located at 175 Lakeside Ave. Departments began moving into the new open office space in early February.The new three-story facility, built by REM Development of Williston, offers 36,000 square-feet of office, meeting and classroom space bringing together employees from the College’s Continuing Professional Studies, Human Resources, Campus Planning, Finance, Marketing, CRM and Graduate Admissions, Information Systems and a new Digital Forensics student lab. The Emergent Media Center, currently located at the Champlain Mill in Winooski, is slated to move to Lakeside later this year.”Our new administrative building will house more than 70 employees on the first two floors and will provide more than 270 parking spaces for staff and faculty,” explained David Provost, Champlain’s senior vice president. The move consolidates departments formerly housed at 212 Battery St. and in various buildings on campus.”The vision of this project was to create a collaborative and flexible space for more than 40 percent of our administrative staff. That vision has been realized by the completion of an open office environment that encourages dialogue and colleague collaboration,” he said.The core of the Lakeside building provides numerous closed meeting spaces ranging from private working cabins, to 10-person meeting rooms. In addition on the first floor, there are two seminar rooms for 18 people that can be converted into one large classroom for 36.The third floor of the building is currently unoccupied and will be used in the future to accommodate expansion and new programs at the College. The building was designed by Gardner Kilcoyne Architects of Winooski, Vt.Lakeside also serves as the main hub for shuttles to campus, with a heated waiting room, a 50-seat cantina/kitchen area for special events and employee lunches and breaks. The shuttle will run every 15 minutes to and from campus for staff, faculty and students who park off- campus. Security for the area, including the adjacent Gilbane parking lot used by students, has also been increased.”Providing additional off-campus parking will help ease the effect of vehicle traffic on the streets surrounding the campus and will address one of the major master plan objectives to reduce parking and cars on the Champlain College main campus,” he noted. “It is a major step forward toward our goal of a car-free campus.”The four-acre site was purchased in 2009 for $1.5 million and the total project came in at $5.5 million according to Provost. “The construction budget came in at about $100 per square foot and was completed in a third of the time it usually takes us to build a building thanks to the accelerated building schedule by Bobby Miller and his REM crews. Mr. Miller’s commitment to the College and willingness to build this building at his cost is a gift that we will forever be grateful for.””To put it into perspective,” he noted, “Champlain’s new Roger H. Perry Hall Welcome Center’s construction budget was $400 a square foot. That project, completed this past summer is located in the heart of the campus and involved extensive historical preservation and extensive energy conservation practices.”Champlain has a fiscal responsibility to carefully manage its investments, Provost said, “We were looking for ways to be frugal with the Lakeside Avenue building without shortchanging our employees, but with an overall goal of keeping our costs affordable,” Provost said.New Home for Continuing Professional StudiesThe new Lakeside building will have a major impact on the Champlain College Continuing Professional Studies programs, making it easier for prospective and current students to meet with admissions and service staff and to have the on-site facilities to meet for seminars and training sessions delivered through the Workforce Development Center.The Lakeside building, located across from the former General Dynamics facility, is located on the Pine Street CCTA bus line, offering easier access to the building along with ample parking for visitors.Champlain College has offered online courses for 20 years, and the Division of Continuing Professional Studies (CPS) now offers 30 degree and professional certificate programs entirely online to more than 700 students every semester.Additionally, recognizing that adult students are different than traditional aged undergraduate students, CPS includes an admissions staff as well as a student services staff who understand that the work/life/school balance can be elusive, and a student’s success can be directly impacted by how well those balance challenges work out.The new location in the South End of Burlington fits into the role Champlain College has played with the annual South End Art Hop sponsored by the South End Arts and Business Association. Officials expect to be able to use the new space for art exhibits and special events related to the fall arts weekend.The Lakeside facility offers a full range of flexible space, Provost noted, allowing the College to adapt to changing needs quickly and to free up classroom space on the main campus.ABOUT CHAMPLAIN COLLEGESince 1878, Champlain College has provided career-focused education to students from its hilltop campus in Burlington, Vt. Champlain’s distinctive educational approach embodies the notion that true learning only occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain offers traditional undergraduate and online undergraduate courses, along with eight master’s degree programs. Champlain offers study abroad programs in Montreal, Quebec and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain was named a “Top-Up-and-Coming School” by U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges. It is also ranked in the top tier of 2011 Regional Colleges in the North by U.S. News & World Report.www.champlain.edu(link is external).
Highlighted by an extended period of sunshine forecast through the Columbus Weekend, comfortable temperatures and brightening foliage are anticipated as Vermont’s color progression moves southward and into the lower elevations. The first widespread frost of the season on Thursday morning is expected to accelerate the color change into the mountain valleys where a predominant green has lingered longer than usual this year. ‘All the gap roads are near peak or at least at mid-stage. Beautiful! The views of the Green Mountains from these roads are world class in any season, but especially incredible with the hardwoods pastels contrasted against the softwoods rugged green,’ says Addison County Forester Chris Olson. In northern Vermont the mountainsides are at peak as the mountain valleys come into full color from Newport across the Greens to Enosburg Falls and south to where east-west U.S. Route 2 crosses the state. The lower elevations right along Lake Champlain remain in early to mid-stage color change. All of the higher elevations across the central, middle third of Vermont will be at near-peak to peak conditions through the weekend. The foot hills west of the Green Mountains, near Middlebury, Brandon and Rutland, are showing mid-stage to near-peak color, depending on elevation. In southern Vermont the higher elevations from Ludow to the Mount Snow region along Route 100 will display mid-stage to near peak conditions through the weekend. Lower elevations along the Connecticut River Valley to the east and the area from Bennington to Manchester on the west side of the state will be showing a variety of early to mid-stage color. Motorists are reminded that while travel is normal on most state roads a few closures and several work zones remain; please drive with caution and consideration. For current road conditions and detailed planning information, please check our frequently updated map: http://www.vermontvacation.com/vtopenforbusiness.htm(link is external) Best Bets: In northern Vermont, recommended scenic routes for peak color viewing include Route 114 between Lyndonville and Norton, Route 58 from Irasburg to Montgomery Center, Route 105 from North Troy to East Charleston, and Route 102 along the Connecticut River. In central Vermont, Route 302 east from Barre, Route 215 in Cabot, and Route 15 between Walden and Cambridge are suggested. Also, try back roads in Burke, Peacham, Barnet and Danville, which offer a variety of close-up and long-range views. Bright foliage can be found along Route 232 along Groton State Forest, Route 2 west of Waterbury, Route 100 between Warren and Moretown, and Route 17 between Waitsfield and Starksboro. On the western side of central Vermont, Route 22A from Fair Haven to Shoreham, Route 73 from Rochester to Brandon, Route 140 from East Wallingford to Middletown Springs, Route 53 around Lake Dunmore, Route 30 from Castleton Corners to Whiting, and Route 7 between Danby and Rutland are showing good color. In southern Vermont, suggested drives include Route 7A from Manchester to Bennington, Routes 153 and 315 near Rupert, Route 5 along the Connecticut River, Route 5 between Brattleboro and Wilmington, Route 11 from Springfield to Londonderry, and Route 30 from Brattleboro to Newfane.The Vermont Hospitality Council advises making advance reservations because the most popular lodgings may fill early on busy weekends during the foliage season. Some innkeepers may require a minimum two-night stay, especially on busy weekends. Vermont tourism officials encourage visitors to take advantage of midweek specials during the foliage season as part of the statewide ‘Midweek Peek’ promotion. Deals range from discounted lodging to free Vermont products. For details, visit www.VermontVacation.com/midweek(link is external). Also available on the website are several tools for planning a Vermont Fall Foliage tour: Fall Foliage ForecasterLodging Availability ForecasterScenic DrivesFall Travel Tips For more information, visit www.VermontVacation.com(link is external).