Economic Development Series


Over the course of this series, MSA business members will hear presentations on a number of topics and participate in discussions about whether and how each topic may provide Vermont an opportunity to move toward the goal of shared economic prosperity and security for businesses, families and future generations.   

At the heart of Vermont’s prosperity are thriving local businesses, a vibrant workforce, and smart public investments. A 21st century economic development strategy is a dynamic roadmap that looks beyond traditional economic development investments to tactics that support both our workforce and a strong culture of entrepreneurship and business growth.

Your participation in this series will support and inform Main Street Alliance of Vermont as we work toward the development of a comprehensive, forward-thinking economic development platform.


All are welcome, but space is limited. We hope you will join us! Please RSVP to today to reserve your space at one or more of these meetings.

(Mis)Classification of Workers and Contractors

Wednesday, September 7
8:00 - 10:30 AM
In Burlington, at Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center

Facilitated by Melinda Moulton, CEO of Main Street Landing

In the wake of technological advancement, the dynamics of employment - like many other things - are changing. Existing law defines when an employer may hire someone as an independent contractor and when they must hire them as an employee. During the last legislative session, H.867, the misclassification/independent contractors bill, proposed to ease the criteria that permit an employer to hire an independent contractor instead of an employee.

This issue was contentiously debated during the last legislative session. Supporters argued in favor of allowing companies to bring on more independent contractors; while opponents argued that the proposal was so broad as to permit the misclassification of employees as contractors and undermine core protections such as unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation and more. The legislation did not move forward last session, but is expected to resurface in 2017.

Main Street Alliance of Vermont will have an important opportunity to weigh in on this issue during the next session to ensure that the definition of employee is consistent with a strong and healthy economy in which employers and workers are getting the most out of their relationship to one another. Please RSVP today. 

David Mickenberg, Partner at Mickenberg, Dunn, Lachs & Smith


Portable Benefits: Health Care, Retirement Savings, and Paid Family Leave

Wednesday, September 21
8:00 - 10:30 AM
In Montpelier, at the Vermont NEA

Facilitated by Eliza Cain, Co-owner of Red Hen Baking Company

In the United States, benefits like health care, retirement, and parental leave are largely optional add-ons that employers may provide to enhance the compensation packages offered to employees. Benefits packages can function as strong recruitment and retention tools because, without employer sponsorship, most workers will struggle to afford or access them as individuals.

Is this the right model? Should one’s access to health care, a safe retirement plan, or a paid family leave be dependent upon an employer’s ability to provide it? What would the economic impact be if the responsibility was shifted away from the employer? Do these workforce recruitment strategies present an opportunity for our state as we seek to attract a vibrant young workforce?

This meeting will look at three proposals under consideration in Vermont that would begin to de-couple these essential benefits from particular employment:

    • Dr. Dynasaur 2.0 - This proposal would expand Vermont’s existing Dr. Dynasaur health insurance program for children to all young Vermonters up to age 26, regardless of household income, which would eliminate expensive family plans for all Vermonters.
    • Public Retirement Option - This proposal looks to create a public retirement program that employees who do not have an employer sponsored plan would be able to access to save safely for retirement.
    • Vermont Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program - This proposal would create a statewide insurance program that all employees could access to stay home with a new baby or to care for themselves of a loved one in the event of a long term illness or injury.

Please RSVP today.

Robin Lunge, Director of Health Care Reform in Vermont
Beth Pearce, Vermont State Treasurer
Ashley Moore, MSA-VT Business Outreach Manager

Permit Reform

Wednesday, October 12
8:00 - 10:30 AM
In Burlington, at White + Burke

Facilitated by Wayne Nelson, President of L.N. Consulting, and Stephanie Hainley, COO of White + Burke Real Estate Investment Advisors

Starting or growing a brick and mortar business frequently includes going through Vermont’s permitting process. Vermont has a long standing, strong commitment to the environment that is reflected in our regulations. The question that faces Vermont is how to ensure that those values are upheld while providing the most efficient way forward? In business and development, time equates to expense and inefficiencies or redundancies in permitting can drive up the cost of business. This creates a downward pressure on entrepreneurship and an upward pressure on the cost of living.

This meeting will focus on the state of permitting in Vermont and ongoing conversations about possible reform. We will discuss the permit process (de novo vs. on-the-record review), burden of proof (applicant vs. opponent), and issues of duplication in Act 250. We will also explore and discuss some possibilities that have been suggested to improve the permit process and learn about the current Building Homes Together initiative to help flesh out the impact of permitting on our (affordable) housing shortage.

Please RSVP today. 

Warren Coleman, Partner with MMR
Charlie Baker, Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission

Access to Capital

Wednesday, October 26
8:00 - 10:30 AM
In Burlington, at Main Street Alliance of Vermont

Facilitated by Lindsay DesLauriers, MSA-VT Director 

Access to capital is crucial to business creation and growth. In our outreach around the state, many small business owners have expressed frustration with how difficult it can be to access the capital they need to grow their businesses. Federal and state laws impact and shape what capital is available to businesses.  

This meeting will examine the current landscape of capital opportunities for businesses in our state. We will look at how businesses are accessing capital in Vermont now and will discuss how the opportunities to seek and access capital have evolved in recent years.

We will look to you to share your experiences and to think about whether there are remaining gaps or opportunities that could improve Vermont’s regulatory system or otherwise promote the growth and creation of new business in our state.

Please RSVP today. 
Cairn Cross, Co-Founder of Fresh Tracks Capital
Janice Shade, Co-Founder of Milk Money
Janice St. Onge, President of VSJF Flexible Capital Fund, L3C

Tax Reform

Wednesday, November 2
8:00 - 10:30 AM
In Burlington, at Red Thread

Facilitated by Matt Birong, Owner of 3 Squares Café

In 2009, the Vermont Legislature created the Blue Ribbon Tax Commission to conduct a structural analysis of the state’s revenue system and offer recommendations for improvements and modernization and to provide a longterm vision for Vermont’s tax structure. Among the findings of the Commission were the acknowledgment of an eroding sales tax base and the impact of Vermont’s more than $1 billion in tax expenditures.

In recent years, since the Great Recession, Vermont has faced an annual budget deficit. Real revenues have not kept pace with revenue projections. Meanwhile the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Tax Commission have gone largely unattended.  

Every tax expenditure and every state appropropriation is an investment in the vitality of our state. Vermont supports several large investments in programs specifically designed to spark economic development in the business sector as well as many investments designed to promote economic stability for Vermonters.

This meeting will start a conversation to ask whether Vermont is collecting revenue in a sustainable, 21st century way. We will also ask whether we are making the right investments to maximize that revenue. Are we investing in programs that will help grow our local economy, keep Vermonters here in the state and attract more families to move and stay here? Are we supporting a healthy and well-trained workforce?  Are we supporting policies that will help our children and future generations succeed? And, finally, what kind of a tax base would Vermont need to accomplish these goals.

Please RSVP today. 

Stephanie Yu, Policy Analyst at Public Assets Institute
Michael Costa, Deputy Director of Health Care Reform for the State of Vermont and Former Director of the Blue Ribbon Tax Structure Commission
Bill Schubart, Former Chair of the Blue Ribbon Tax Structure Commission
Doug Hoffer, Vermont State Auditor



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