Jobs Boost May Be In Store For Vermont Economy

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(Host) The Vermont economy could get a big boost from an economic stimulus package passed by the Vermont Senate.

The bill allocates $8.6 million to help create more than 1000 new jobs across the state.

The measure also includes funds to help dairy farmers refinance some of their outstanding loans.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) From the very beginning of the session, legislative leaders and Governor Jim Douglas identified job creation as one of their top priorities.  This is the bill that delivers on many of those promises.

It’s funded with just over $8.5 million of special federal economic stimulus money.

Essex Orleans senator Vincent Illuzzi is the chairman of the Senate Economic Development committee – the panel that drafted the bill.

Illuzzi says one million dollars will be used to provide early stage equity capital for dozens of businesses throughout the state:

(Illuzzi) "We are already finding that there are 38 companies are Vermont in areas like life science, agriculture, energy, software and manufacturing who are prepared to make investments in Vermont and we anticipate that and these numbers of course are only estimates but as many as 700 jobs in the state through this activity."

(Kinzel) The legislation allocates another million dollars to help dairy farmers.  Illuzzi says what many farmers need right now is a low cost way to consolidate their debt:

(Illuzzi) "This year because the dairy crisis has continued for such a long period we are also encouraging a refinancing or consolidation of debt and of course with VEDA at the table it encourages other lenders to also extend credit to farm community."

(Kinzel) The biggest chunk of money, almost 3 million dollars is targeted to help expand high speed broadband service to rural parts of Vermont.

Illuzzi says the money will also be used to provide broadband coverage to utility customers who have so called "smart grid" meters installed in the coming year:

(Illuzzi) "If the VTA and the telecom providers work with the utilities we’re hoping that that low level of connectivity will be enhanced such that every house connected with a smart grid meter will also have the opportunity to connect to high speed broadband."

(Kinzel) The legislation also appropriates a million dollars for employment training programs and it provides $800,000 in no interest loans to businesses in Addison County that have been adversely affected by the closing of the Champlain Bridge.

The measure now goes to the House for its consideration.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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