Are We Better Off Wooing New Vermonters, Or Retaining and Growing Existing Talent?

Updated: Apr 8, 2018

I've been thinking a lot about the state of Vermont's efforts to attract new residents -- "workers" mostly, with some emphasis on college graduates and families. Among the enticements are a down-payment assistance program, a relocation reimbursement, referral bonuses, and in-state college tuition support. This to the tune of a $2.5M expenditure, including targeted online advertising. The state's recently launched "Stay to Stay" program is a laudable if thinly resourced effort to connect the Vermont curious with spokespersons, a pitch, and social engagement.

A few thoughts come to mind as I think this through from the perspective of Vermont's creative industries:

  1. Its an interesting way to look at the problem, how to entice workers into the state; another way to look at the opportunity is to ask, "How can we retain and grow our native talent?" A quick review of a media production directory from 2014 for example shows that nearly a dozen firms moved out of state - to LA, DC, NY, GA, and VA. Is there an understanding of why these firms left, and what conditions might have strengthened their prospects in-state? Likely a worthy focus of a study and retention efforts.

  2. Vermont's most ambitious creatives spend a lot of time on the road, hustling clients and jobs in markets well beyond our borders. How can the state of Vermont harvest this mobility -- arguably among our best brand ambassadors -- to major North American talent markets such as game developer conferences, digital media festivals, design summits, table top shows and the like? There is nothing like having industry professionals talking to each other; its a qualitatively different experience than a "quality of life" pitch from tourism and marketing professionals and economic development generalists.

  3. For a fraction of the $2.5-3M dollar proposal to troll for new residents to Vermont, economic development coordinators could put resources behind creative content, for example a "last in" digital production financing fund for three years. And study the results. A state commitment to exciting digital products -- games, VR experiences, film, animation -- and other creative goods would put Vermont on the map as the kind of state that is willing to invest in our native creative talent and their products.

Such investments -- true in-state partnership -- earns industry support and visibility that you just can't buy with online advertising. We'll see what current dollars get us in attracting talent to Vermont. I'd like to place my bets on the talent we have, and foster the conditions they need to thrive.

The big picture, and precedent:

The legislative effort:


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