I have lived in Addison County for 14 years, a drop in the bucket compared to many of my friends and neighbors. It’s a place that I am proud to call home. And although I love my hometown, Cornwall, clearly Middlebury is the economic engine that makes our county hum.
This special place, hemmed in by the Green Mountains on one side and the lake and Adirondacks on the other, holds many memories for me. It is where my wife and I have raised our kids, with all three born at Porter; and where my parents have resettled, a couple of flatlanders who wanted to be close to family. This is my home.
I mention all of this because it is part of the perspective I bring to my thinking about the local economy and the opportunity to create a Middlebury Business Development Fund. I believe that places like Middlebury need to do everything they can to “tip the balance” in their favor when it comes to the economy. Small towns that have lost their manufacturing core continue to struggle to find their footing in the new world. We need small businesses, we need entrepreneurs, we need energy and ideas, we need every advantage we can get.
I have been involved in the effort to create a Middlebury Business Development Fund from the beginning because I believe it can help with all of the above, in particular with recruiting the right kinds of businesses and entrepreneurs to this area. There will be risk; not every idea and new business is ready for prime time. But I don’t believe we can rely on someone else to stimulate activity and to “tip the balance in our favor.” This is a challenge we must address as a community.
As an employee of Middlebury College and an alumnus, I often have the opportunity to speak with other alumni and visitors to the area. Many of them would relish the opportunity to come back to Middlebury to earn a living and to enjoy all that this part of the state has to offer. From mid-career professionals to young alums fresh out of school, this is a special place for young and old. I believe that this talented captive audience is ripe with opportunity.
As we all have experienced either first hand or through our friends and neighbors, we have serious issues: from school enrollment, to underemployment, to unemployment. This fund and its potential to help stimulate job growth — jobs of all types — represents one part of a solution. The MBDF will allow Middlebury to take a step in the direction of solving its own problems. All great journeys start with that first step.
As a member of the College administration, I know that we are eager to partner with the town on this effort and look forward to working together. Ultimately, I hope that my children will have the choice to make Addison County their home, and that our economic engine, Middlebury, will be flush with interesting opportunities for work for people with all kinds of interests and skills, and that they will find “a good job close to home.”