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Getting "Creative" in Barre 

Exploring Barre's creative economy

Can a "creative economy" be intentionally designed?

This Wednesday, July 18, the Vermont Center for Rural Development is hosting a conference at the State House for small towns that want to capitalize on innovation - rather than manufacturing - as a means to survive and thrive in the Green Mountain State. The term encompasses the arts and all its spin-offs: restaurants, renovation, specialty agriculture. Some half-dozen workshops will attempt to give participants a crash course on Vermont's hip new economic paradigm.

Burlington may have it down. Ditto Brattleboro and, recently, White River Junction. But Barre's "creative economy" predates the buzzword. Touting the most colorful, artisan-based history in the state, its granite sheds and quarries and the stunning statuary at Hope Cemetery are legacies of a proud, rich stoneworking tradition and the European - primarily Italian - immigrant groups that made it happen in the "Granite City."

But the place has also known hard times; cheaper imports have diminished the stone industry, and the resulting economic downturn and concomitant social ills have in recent decades cast a pall over the city's psyche. Until now.

As a handful of related stories this week indicate, Barre appears to be on the cusp of a comeback, and the residents are feeling it - some cautiously, some with unbridled optimism. Is the creative upturn a result of natural cycles or careful economic planning? In this issue, we look at some of Barre's players and promoters: Ken Picard catches up with Mayor Thom Lauzon to explore why his brash, take-charge 'tude pleases some and pisses off others. Patrick Mullikin feels the boost of the "Barre Partnership" and Pamela Polston surveys some of the city's fine-art ventures. Section B considers new entrées in Barre's food biz and how a seasoned one - Vermont Smoke & Cure - is going national.

Related Stories:

» Barre's Bloomberg: Is Mayor Thom Lauzon rocking, or splitting apart, the Granite City?

by Ken Picard (7/18/07)

» Nobody Boosts Barre Better Than Matt Lash

by Patrick Timothy Mullikin (7/18/07)

» In Barre, the Creative Economy is a Rocky Road

by Pamela Polston (7/18/07)

» Beyond Stone Soup: The Granite City gets serious about cuisine

by Suzanne Podhaizer (7/18/07)

» Hog Wild: Vermont Smoke & Cure makes the most of "local links"

by Kevin Kelley (7/18/07)

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