Vermont Governor Phil Scott was the featured speaker Thursday during a virtual meeting of the New England Council to discuss economic growth initiatives and how he collaborates with the region’s governors.
The New England Council is an alliance of businesses and nonprofit institutions that promotes economic growth and identifies public policy issues of importance to the region.
The Vermont Teddy Bear Company is a member of the council. CEO Bill Shouldice says the organization helps keep businesses and groups connected and engaged, especially over the past year and a half.
“For nearly 100 years, I know the council has been brought us together to identify shared priorities and effectively advocate to promote and protect New England’s interest,” Shouldice said. “I personally think that the work has never been more important than it has been in the last year and a half.”
Republican Vermont Governor Phil Scott then spoke to council members and began with an overview of the state’s efforts during the pandemic. He said while he believes the state will emerge from the pandemic stronger, many of the challenges that existed before the pandemic have been exacerbated.
“We must focus like a laser on rebuilding our economy in every corner of the state and helping Vermonters get back to work,” Scott said. “We also have to pick up where we left off and continue to tackle the problems we faced before COVID. And here’s the good news. Thanks to all the federal aid we received and invested wisely we have a rare opportunity to address both our immediate needs and long term challenges.”
Scott cautioned that the billions of dollars in federal assistance funds must be prioritized for small businesses, downtown infrastructure, broadband and workforce housing as one-time investments to enhance economic growth across the state. He outlined a number of initiatives including cleaning up Brownfields, addressing substance abuse and investing in climate change mitigation.
The question and answer period that followed touched on a number of topics. Shouldice asked about the resurgence of COVID.
“What do you think Governor is going to happen with the COVID variant coming back and what do you need from businesses to do to react to that and support your next steps to keep this in check?” Shouldice askeed.
“You know that the Northeast in general is in pretty good shape, better than other parts of the country,” Scott responded. “But the variant is challenging nonetheless. I would encourage you to try and encourage your employees to get vaccinated in order to protect others because this new variant is proven to be much more transmissible and in some respects more dangerous particularly for those who are unvaccinated.”
While the potential return of the pandemic was a key topic several other issues were discussed. Council President and CEO James Brett noted Scott’s support of the $1 trillion federal infrastructure plan that is being debated in the U.S. Senate.
“I believe you were part of a bipartisan group of governors that met with President Biden just recently and urged the passage of the bill,” said Brett.
“I had been encouraging others to move this forward because of the dilapidated infrastructure that we have throughout our country,” Scott added. “We’re not leading the world as we should in infrastructure. You know if we can’t, as Democrats and Republicans, if we can’t come together on an infrastructure package, this is typically a Republican initiative. You know I’m a Republican. If we can’t come together on infrastructure you know we’re in real trouble.”
In September the New England Council launches a new virtual series that will feature the leaders of the region’s largest businesses and organizations.
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