I can’t believe that my first blog article as director of the Vermont Digital Economy Project was nine months ago, and that the project is fast approaching its one-year mark. In this relatively short time, the team has made great strides in assisting the people and communities of rural Vermont, focusing, of course, on those damaged by flooding back in 2011.
It’s amazing what a small team can accomplish when it is focused and committed. Although impossible to fully capture our project impact so far in this short note, I’ll do my best.
We’re today active in 36 flood-impacted communities, making a difference in a myriad of ways, including the launch of 10 downtown Wi-Fi zones, 7 municipal websites, and 25 new Front Porch Forums. Additionally, a total of 84 nonprofits and 152 small businesses have been supported thus far with one-on-one advising about how digital tools can create growth and increase resilience.
This work has quite literally taken us all over the state. In fact, a quick mileage check reveals that the VCRD team alone has logged a combined 18,000 miles! Two of the many great communities that have benefitted significantly from our work are the central Vermont town of Bethel, in the heart of the White River Valley, and Wilmington, a community at the intersections of Route 100 and Route 9 in southern Vermont.
At the same time, we’ve also invested to enable Front Porch Forum to expand state-wide so that every community has another tool with which to communicate on a regular basis and to help neighbors become both more neighborly and more resilient. We’ve also brought free digital literacy training to 18 Vermont communities. And, the great news is that we have another 7 months to continue making an impact.
In closing, I must acknowledge the extended team that makes this work possible. Our parent organization, the Vermont Council on Rural Development, envisioned the Vermont Digital Economy Project and supports us every step of the way. Our project partners, IBM, Microsoft, the Snelling Center for Government, the Vermont Department of Libraries, the Vermont Small Business Development Center, and the Vermont State Colleges deliver grant services alongside our team every day. Finally, nothing could happen without our funding entity, the Economic Development Administration, or the support of Vermont’s Congressional delegation.
On behalf of the entire Vermont Digital Economy Project team, happy holidays and a wonderful 2014 to you all.
Director, Vermont Digital Economy Project