Windham Region organizations testify to 2 million dollars in immediate needs due to VY closure
VERNON – On Monday October 28th, the Vermont House Commerce and House Natural Resources and Energy Committees held a joint hearing in Windham County to hear about community and economic impacts expected from the date certain closure of Vermont Yankee.
The Windham Regional Commission (WRC), Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation (BDCC), southeastern Vermont’s regional development corporation, and the Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies (SeVEDS) testified about the need for full decommissioning, urgent economic development needs, and the plans they have developed to meet those needs, in the Windham Region. All three organizations are poised to work on the rebuilding of the Windham regional economy in the face of the loss of jobs, payroll and business activity resulting from the closure. The regional organizations estimate their immediate mitigation financial needs at 2.3 million dollars.
“The loss of these jobs and commensurate buying power in the region, as well as the contracting and purchasing Vermont Yankee does with area businesses will have a significant impact on our already challenged economy” commented Patricia Moulton Powden of BDCC. “We need the Legislature, Administration and others to see it is time to invest in the Windham County economy. We have tangible, researched and publicly vetted projects they can invest in starting with the immediate need for capacity to keep these projects moving. None of this happens overnight, but we have done the planning, and we are ready to accelerate implementation,” added Powden.
Drawing on their existing work and planning efforts, as well as the work being prepared for the Windham Region Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), the three regional economic development organizations have prioritized projects needed to implement short and long term recovery and mitigation plans. WRC, BDCC and SeVEDS are seeking funding, especially short term capacity funding, to implement the variety of programs already identified to help stimulate the regional economy and to work on behalf of the community towards a full decommissioning of the plant.
“The Windham Regional Commission has spent literally thousands of staff and volunteer hours in support of our work related to Vermont Yankee, which has focused primarily upon decommissioning” commented WRC Director, Chris Campany. “The need for our continued engagement has only increased as we have been an important resource for our communities, state agencies, and our federal delegation. Providing a regional voice in the forthcoming regulatory oversight process that will be part of the closure and decommissioning, and supporting the economic development planning and implementation needs of our towns, will require resources that are above and beyond what we receive on an annual basis from the state to support all of our statutory responsibilities. And the experience of other regions where nuclear power stations have been decommissioned teaches us that this responsibility will be required for several years, if not decades,” added Campany.
All three organizations are recognized and supported by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development and are in talks with the Agency and soon the Legislature regarding needed resources.
Testimony and the request details from the three organizations can be found at: www.seveds.com/testimony/
About WRC, BDCC and SeVEDS:
WRC (Windham Regional Commission): In the absence of county government, the Windham Region Planning Commission provides the essential link between local, state and federal government. A public entity, constituted by law and required to meet statutory obligations, the Windham Region Planning Commission is an important resource to the 27 towns of the Windham Region in Windham, Windsor, and Bennington counties. Its mission is to assist towns in Southeastern Vermont to provide effective local government and work cooperatively with them to address regional issues. Towns choose to be members of the WRC.
BDCC (Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation) is a private, nonprofit regional economic development organization established in 1954 managing a 2 million dollar annual operating budget. BDCC is fortunate to generate much of its revenue from its real estate holdings. These currently include one single use building in the Exit One Industrial Park, one available lot and land in the Exit One Industrial Park, two redeveloped industrial complexes housing 110 tenants who employ approximately 300. BDCC serves as a catalyst for industrial and commercial growth throughout Southeastern Vermont, including Windham County and the towns of Readsboro, Somerset, Searsburg, and Weston. BDCC’s primary objective is to create and retain a flourishing business community in the region it serves that supports vibrant fiscal activity, and improves the quality of life of all its residents. BDCC is affiliated with the State of Vermont as the certified Regional Development Corporation (RDC) serving the greater Windham County area. BDCC is one of 12 RDCs throughout Vermont. BDCC provides staffing and some funding for SeVEDS.
SeVEDS (Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies) is an affiliate of BDCC that grew from a 2008 grass roots effort, initiated by BDCC, to reverse the economic decline of the Windham Region. It is guided by a regional board of 18 public and private sector individuals and staffed by BDCC. SeVEDS has solicited and received broad municipal and private sector support within the region.
After decades of little to no economic or population growth, the Windham Region, through SeVEDS, began to undergo a process to assess the current economic and demographic conditions to understand the impacting factors. Subsequently a series of broad strategies were established, including preparing for a Post VY economy, and the region began to chart a course towards economic revitalization through refinement and implementation of those strategies, including development of a federally recognized Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). SeVEDS has a number of economic development strategies already outlined with more being finalized along with our CEDS document.
In 2011, the Windham Region was severely impacted by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene. BDCC, the regional development corporation, has been leading a multi-regional effort to assess and recover from the business and economic damage. Leading an effort with the Windham and Bennington County Regional Commissions, BDCC created short and longer term action plans that were funded by the US Economic Development Administration (EDA). These action plans are being implemented including individual business assistance, village and downtown revitalization, identifying long term economic plans that need to be implemented and development of a sustainable regional marketing program to attract employees and tourists to our businesses and employers. BDCC has also taken the lead in partnership with Springfield Regional Development Corporation for CDBG-DR assistance to impacted businesses from Irene.
Understanding the existing economic challenges in SE Vermont, SeVEDS and BDCC have already added both permanent and temporary staffing capacity to handle the existing challenging economic conditions, have already developed a broad network of regional cooperation, and understand economic revitalization is a marathon and not a sprint. Progress on revitalization plans and actions is underway.
Written testimony submitted to House Commerce and House Natural Resources and Energy on Monday October 28th, 2013 below.