By Evan Johnson
Jobs were the main topic of conversation at a recent conference at Killington Resort – specifically those in the energy efficiency sector.
In a four-person panel at the Killington Grand Hotel on Wednesday, Sept. 20, representatives from the state, a regional development corporation, AgriMark and building technologies corporation discussed trends in employment and how Vermont’s energy efficiency sector could help existing companies work more efficiently and employ more Vermonters. The panel was part of Efficiency Vermont’s sixth annual Best Practices Exchange and was attended by more than 150 representatives from some of Vermont’s largest businesses.
“We want to look at how energy efficiency lowers operating costs and makes businesses more successful and we also want to address how the state’s investment in efficiency has really helped all of us grow this sector that 10,000 jobs strong” said moderator for the panel Abby White, Efficiency Vermont’s marketing manager.
Ted Brady, deputy secretary of the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, said while the rest of the nation knows Vermont as a dairy and maple “mecca,” smaller sectors of the economy are often overlooked.
“It’s a story we need to tell better,” he said.
He also outlined some of the challenges facing Vermont’s workforce, starting with a declining population.
“From the time you woke up to the time you go to bed tonight, about six people will leave the Vermont workforce,” he said. “Get your head around that.”
Brady also said the state’s “old and tired” housing stock can be unattractive to families looking to relocate from urban areas.
“When you recruit someone from away, they are shocked to find out they are paying as much for housing as they did in a suburb of Boston or a suburb of New York and they’re getting a house that’s of not as great quality,” he said.
Another major challenge facing Vermont’s employers, he said, was energy usage.
Bob Flint from the Springfield Regional Development Corporation said just as the state offers incentives for businesses looking to relocate to the state, organizations like Efficiency Vermont could help businesses understand their energy use from a cost perspective and harness it to increase their overall productivity.
Agrimark’s sustainability manager Ann Hoogenboom said improving energy efficiency at Cabot’s facilities need not be expensive and pointed to optimizations and upgrades in the company’s air usage at its Middlebury plant that save over $250,000 annually. These upgrades earned Agrimark the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence this year.
David Weaver of Control Technology Inc., said the state was a national leader in energy management systems and design.
“It’s not about just an energy diet,” he said. “People from outside Vermont looking in see this — we’re innovative leaders. That is what Vermont is known for across the country.”