By Bob Ackland
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(HOST) Commentator Cheryl Hanna is a professor at Vermont Law School and a member of the Council for the Future of Vermont. She's been thinking about Vermont's potential to be a leader in these turbulent times.
Vermonters have reverence for the state's rural landscape, and they hope for economic development that will provide jobs and housing for the future.
They cherish their small communities and value their ability to participate, and they cherish the freedom and privacy afforded each individual.
As Vermont evolves and the economic climate changes, it seems the need for a broad assessment of the state, along the values of the people living here, crops up periodically.
The Council on the Future of Vermont was created by the Vermont Council on Rural Development in the fall of 2007 to tackle the challenge of compiling data on a wide range of topics, a process that involved numerous public forums, surveys, and interviews with business and organizations.
...It was a lot of words, but the message was simple: At a time when public funding for necessities such as roads and schools is imperiled, public arts funding could simply cease to exist. When the recession chopping block comes out, programs that enhance people’s lives in intangible ways — say, by putting paintings and sculptures in public spaces, or funding the artists toiling in every community — tend to be the first to go.
The nonpartisan Council on the Future of Vermont made news last week by releasing a report warning that the state's lack of diversity may endanger its growth.
Noting that dairy totals nearly 80 percent of agricultural sales, for example, the study says "putting all your eggs in one basket' is always a risky proposition."
COLCHESTER -- Agriculture in Vermont depends more heavily on a single commodity -- dairy -- than in any other state. Yet despite efforts to diversify the farm sector, sales of most nondairy products have remained relatively flat since 1991.
Vermont takes pride in its dairy farms and a population that rates high in national health rankings.
And that could be a problem, the Council on the Future of Vermont warns.
(Host) The Council on the Future of Vermont was formed two years ago to help the state chart a course for the next two decades.
And now two St. Michael's College professors have identified the most important trends that are shaping that future.
Shelburne Museum is one of Vermont's top tourist attractions.
Upwards of 110,000 people visit every year from states across the country. But only half of all visitors to the museum are out of staters.
"And that has shifted in the last 20 years dramatically," said Leslie Wright of the Shelburne Museum. "We used to have our visitor base much more out of state."
And Shelburne Museum isn't alone. Vermont is seeing little growth when it comes to the number of tourists visiting the state.