When you #ThinkVT, you think about the great food, rolling farmland, and deep green forests. The businesses that make up these Working Lands are critical to the economy.
On Thursday, legislators, state officials and entrepreneurs at the forefront of Vermont’s Working Lands economy met under the Golden Dome to show how the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative (WLEI), an investment in Vermont’s rural economy, is paying off.
“The statistics are pretty staggering,” said Deputy Secretary Alyson Eastman, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.
Since the program’s inception in 2013, 149 projects were funded with $4.5M of grant funds, creating 485 new jobs. And on the whole grantees have returned over $26M to the Vermont economy through additional sales.
According to Ken Jones, a research analysts at the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, the program is leveraging one new job for approximately every $10,000 invested, that’s at par or better than any other federal or state job creation.
The program wouldn’t be successful without innovative and mindful grantees.
Katt Tolman from Sweet Rowen Farmstead in East Albany shared how Working Lands grant money has helped maintain and improve the quality of their working landscape while also creating jobs and enriching the community.
“I believe that were the second largest private employer in the town of Albany, we have six employees… so it’s small but significant.”
“The working lands economy is our most authentic lure to getting people here… we believe our working lands businesses have been and will continue to be one of the reasons new Vermonters chose to make Vermont their permanent home,” said Secretary Mike Schirling, Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
It’s investing in small businesses that pack a big punch.
Part of a grant Sweet Rowen is working on now is to create a community space on top of their creamery to host small gatherings and invite others to enjoy Vermont, the best way, on the farm.
For more information about the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, please visit:http://workinglands.vermont.gov/
To watch a video about the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, click here.
Attached photo is courtesy of Farmers to You, LLC.