New Revenues for Rutland? | Business | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

New Revenues for Rutland? 

Local Matters

Is Rutland ready to become Vermont's next "It" town? Maybe not. But residents gathered for a "Creative Economy Forum" last Thursday at Three Tomatoes Trattoria on Merchants Row were exploring ways to at least give the place more life. Many in attendance complained that the central Vermont city too often approaches its problems with a "can't-do" attitude. But organizer Elizabeth Stedman of the lobbying firm Kimbell-Sherman-Ellis looked over the 150 people who'd turned out for the midday meeting and remarked, "Rutland is really ready to have this conversation."

The term "creative economy" refers to a broad set of cultural, intellectual and economic activity that includes artists, writers, musicians, engineers, educators, architects, and others who make a living as creative professionals. The phrase was coined by Richard Florida, a Carnegie-Mellon economist who contends that creativity-based enterprises will fuel U.S. economic growth in the 21st century. Florida argues that towns and cities that foster innovative entrepreneurial activity and attract young, creative professionals will be the ones that create the most jobs, pay the highest wages, and offer the best quality of life.

By one estimate, New England's creative economy exceeds $4.3 billion annually. Communities across Vermont have been holding town meetings similar to Rutland's to figure out how to beef up their own artistic and cultural endeavors. Those discussions dovetail with the release of a report by the Vermont Council on Culture and Innovation on "Advancing Vermont's Creative Economy." The report offers specific recommendations for attracting "clean" industries, stimulating cultural enterprises, and developing a town's unique "brand identity."

Rutland already has an image, but not for its hopping arts scene. Some of the Rutland panelists didn't seem to fit the creative-professional profile. Take John Casella, for example. He's chairman and CEO of Casella Waste Systems of Rutland, one of the largest waste-management firms in North America. Where's the creativity in taking out the trash? As Casella explained to the audience, his company has succeeded in large part through innovations -- such as capturing the methane produced by landfills to generate electricity, and then using the waste heat from the process to grow hothouse tomatoes.

"We can take resources from a community, which were once historically viewed as a liability, and turn them into an asset," Cassella says.

Another panelist was India Burnett Farmer of "Rutbusters," a group of residents in their twenties and thirties who are trying to make their city more attractive to young professionals. Farmer noted that lack of housing downtown turns Rutland City into a virtual ghost town after quitting time.

During an open discussion, community members tossed out their own suggestions -- such as turning Center Street into a pedestrian mall with art galleries, and establishing a community center at the Paramount Theater.

Not everyone was convinced that the talk will lead to anything tangible. One local businessman griped afterward that most city officials were notably absent. And Three Tomatoes owner Allen Frey observed that during the entire two-hour meeting, only 14 people walked past his restaurant. "And this at the height of the afternoon rush," he lamented. "One thing hasn't changed in Rutland. There's no life in downtown."

Others were more optimistic. Elisabeth Kulas of the Rutland County Community Land Trust urged Rutland residents to dream big. "The resources [for change] are out there," she said. "Don't get bogged down on why an idea won't work. If you have a great idea, figure out how to make it happen and shoot for the stars."

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

About The Author

Ken Picard

Ken Picard

Bio:
Ken Picard has been a Seven Days staff writer since 2002. He has won numerous awards for his work, including the Vermont Press Association's 2005 Mavis Doyle award, a general excellence prize for reporters.

Comments


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Latest in Business

  • Mascoma Bank Is Helping Hula Transform Into a Lakeside Tech Hub
  • Mascoma Bank Is Helping Hula Transform Into a Lakeside Tech Hub

    The 15 acres of Burlington beachfront property once owned by Blodgett Oven is a “Qualified Opportunity Zone.” To redevelop it, “we were going to need some advice,” said owner Russ Scully, “somebody who would help us with the ins and outs of all the financing involved.” Enter Mascoma Bank, which has been there for Hula from day one. (Paid Post)
    • Oct 23, 2020
  • When August First Needed a PPP Loan, Mascoma Bank Made It Easy
  • When August First Needed a PPP Loan, Mascoma Bank Made It Easy

    When the pandemic closed August First, co-owner Phil Merrick hoped a federal loan could float the Burlington bakery-café. At the time only Mascoma Bank made the Paycheck Protection Program info easy to find. “They actually knew what was going on,” said Merrick. He moved the restaurant’s accounts to Mascoma, and secured the loan August First needed to survive (Paid Post).
    • Oct 16, 2020
  • Mascoma’s Innovative Loans Brought a Grocery Store — and Banking — to Burlington’s Old North End
  • Mascoma’s Innovative Loans Brought a Grocery Store — and Banking — to Burlington’s Old North End

    Redstone managing partner Erik Hoekstra, who lived in Burlington’s Old North End for 17 years, knew firsthand just how badly the neighborhood was in need of both a grocery store and a place to bank. To solve both problems, he turned to Mascoma, where an innovative loan product helped bring Jake’s ONE Market — and a new bank branch — to life. (Paid Post)
    • Oct 9, 2020
  • More »

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2020 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401  |  Contact Us
Website powered by Foundation