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Vermont Digital Economy Project Begins Assisting Flood-Impacted Communities

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Sharon Combes-Farr with Rose HemondApril 8, 2013 (MONTPELIER, VT) – The Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) announced today the first round of communities to receive intensive services from its Digital Economy Project this year. The Vermont Digital Economy Project is designed to increase resilience and foster economic development in flood-impacted Vermont communities. In the past week, project staff met with town officials and other community leaders in Bethel, Royalton, Waterbury, Wilmington, and Halifax to commit to the provision of key services. In the coming weeks they will visit Rochester, Killington, and Woodstock, among several other towns.

“It was difficult to prioritize which towns to serve first, because we received so many compelling applications from towns that were greatly impacted by flooding,” said Sharon Combes-Farr, project director of the Vermont Digital Economy Project. “The town’s self-assessment of their community’s level of need for our disaster relief services and the degree to which flooding had impacted the community were the most important considerations.”

All of the services delivered by the Vermont Digital Economy Project will foster resilience and economic development through greater utilization of online tools. These services include: providing digital workshops and one-one-one advising for nonprofits, farm and forest businesses, and other small businesses; creating new downtown Wi-Fi zones and hotspots; evaluating town websites and enhancing them; deploying an integrated community calendar and community-based online forum; and establishing an Internet Intern program to provide digital literacy training at local libraries. These services are delivered at no cost to selected towns as part of the project’s disaster relief grant from the Economic Development Administration.

“We are carefully considering where to deploy public Wi-Fi and make improvements to town websites, since these are the two most requested services from the towns that applied, as well as the most resource-intensive for us to deliver,” said Combes-Farr. “Our announcement today is just the beginning. Fortunately, we have the resources and partnerships to serve nearly every town that has applied so far. The Digital Economy Project is interested in hearing from additional towns that may need services and will identify a second round of communities for services before the end of the year.”

Over the past several weeks, the VCRD and Vermont Digital Economy Project staff had reached out to town clerks, local chambers of commerce, libraries, and all of Vermont’s state senators and representatives to encourage as many communities as possible to apply for project services by the March 15th round-one application deadline. Twenty-four towns applied. The Vermont Digital Economy Project is an 18-month project that ends in July, 2014. In the coming months, we will announce the procedure and timing for how additional towns can submit applications for grant services.

About the Vermont Digital Economy Project

The Vermont Digital Economy Project was created to address vulnerabilities of Vermont business and communities that are not fully utilizing online tools. The project will offer free support that will speed flood recovery, spur economic development and job growth, and improve community resilience to disasters. The project will work directly with at least 25 of the towns that were affected by flooding to help businesses, nonprofits, and municipalities expand their innovative use of online tools. The Vermont Digital Economy Project is funded by a disaster recovery grant from the Economic Development Administration and from the donations and expertise of its partners: IBM, the Snelling Center for Government, the Vermont Department of Libraries, the Vermont Small Business Development Center, Microsoft, and the Vermont State Colleges, to provide project services. More information can be found online at: http://vtrural.org/programs/vermont-digital-economy-project/.

About the Vermont Council on Rural Development

The Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the support of the locally-defined progress of Vermont's rural communities. A dynamic partnership of federal, state, local, non-profit and private partners, it is actively non-partisan with an established reputation for community-based facilitation. Through collaboration with government entities, businesses, and other groups, VCRD helps Vermonters and Vermont communities develop their capacity to create a prosperous and sustainable future through coordination, collaboration, and the effective use of public and private resources. To find out more, visit www.vtrural.org.

Contact:
Sharon Combes-Farr, Project Director, Vermont Digital Economy Project
(802) 488-5135; sharon@vtrural.org

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