FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Brattleboro, VT – On February 23rd, the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation Board of Directors voted to fund “Welcoming Communities”. The BDCC is pleased to be supporting the launch of a new program that seeks to make the region more welcoming, equitable, and inclusive for BIPOC community members, foreign-born workers, and non-citizen residents. It will improve how existing BDCC programs serve diverse audiences, and launch new targeted activities through partnerships with employers and community-based organizations.
The long term goal of Welcoming Communities is to build a robust system that will support immigration and in-migration to southern Vermont and an increase in demographic diversity. The need to increase the size and quality of the workforce was identified in the region’s first Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (2014 CEDS). Since then, workforce participation, labor force numbers, school populations and birth rates have continued to plummet. BDCC already works to retain and attract people through programs like Young Professionals and Stay to Stay, and for the past five years has sought opportunities to lower barriers for BIPOC and foreign-born people.
Welcoming Communities began in 2019 when BDCC convened a team to pursue the Working Communities Challenge, led by the Boston Federal Reserve Bank and Vermont philanthropic partners. BDCC worked alongside Community Asylum Seekers Project (CASP) of Rockingham, Bellows Falls Area Development Corporation, Windham Regional Commission, Bennington County Industrial Corporation, Bennington County Regional Commission, Southeast Vermont Transit, and SIT Graduate Institute. While the application failed in the final round, BDCC felt this work was too important to stop there. An early outcome of Welcoming Communities are new online resources for businesses and organizations seeking to create equitable, inclusive and anti-racist environments.
BDCC will partner with community leaders and employers to build systems that fully support immigrants and people of all backgrounds, addressing barriers such as housing, legal services, employment and transportation. Randy Schoonmaker, CEO of Southeast Vermont Transit, has first-hand experience supporting the visa workers that our region’s seasonal businesses need to succeed. He provides a service often underappreciated in southern Vermont; public transportation; “Our company mission mirrors the values and goals of this initiative. We are well-versed in connecting new residents to essential life functions – jobs, medical care, education, and quality of life trips – since we have been doing this successfully for over 20 years.”
Board President Bob Stevens is excited for BDCC to embark on this effort. “I’ve proudly served in leadership roles of both SeVEDS and BDCC for years now and am familiar with how the needs of our region are analyzed and researched by SeVEDS to inform BDCC’s work. With this project, we’re incorporating the values of inclusivity, equity, and welcomeness into the core of our mission, and dedicating the necessary resources to ensure our organization servers all residents. We are not naïve about the long road ahead in achieving this work, but it’s the right thing for this organization to do.”
Questions? Contact Alex Beck, Welcoming Communities Coordinator, at email@example.com.
The Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation is a private, nonprofit economic development organization that serves as a catalyst for industrial and commercial growth throughout Southeastern Vermont, including Windham County and the towns of Readsboro, Searsburg, Winhall and Weston. BDCC serves as the State of Vermont’s certified Regional Development Corporation (RDC) for the greater Windham County area. BDCC is one of 12 RDCs throughout Vermont. This BDCC activity was made possible in part by a grant from the State of Vermont through the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. For more information visit: https://brattleborodevelopment.com/
Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies (SeVEDS) is an affiliate of BDCC that grew from a 2008 grassroots effort, initiated by BDCC, to understand and create long term strategies needed to reverse the economic decline of the Windham Region and plan for the economic impacts from the closure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. In 2014, after multiple years of regional input, education and data gathering, SeVEDS received federal approval for the Windham Region’s federally recognized S.M.A.R.T. Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). SeVEDS partnered with Bennington’s Regional Economic Development Group in 2018 to develop the 2019 Southern Vermont Zone CEDS. For more information visit: www.seveds.com