A small team, led by the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) and its great project partners, has made a tremendous difference in Vermont communities, in hundreds of organizations (including both nonprofits and small businesses), and, most importantly, in the lives of individual Vermonters.
VCRD had just 18 months to leverage a $1.8M federal disaster relief grant from the Economic Development Administration. The Vermont Digital Economy Project had an aggressive work plan to deliver eight different grant services in dozens of Vermont communities impacted by 2011 flooding. It was a unique project in that it bolstered virtual infrastructure, and not roads and bridges.
In those 18 months, the project delivered Front Porch Forum to every town in Vermont, created 26 free Wi-Fi zones/hotspots and 25 new municipal websites, and advised over 120 nonprofits and 260 small businesses. It also placed 24 internet interns in libraries across the state to help teach digital literacy.
Created by VCRD, with the goal of constructing more resilient communities after the 2011 floods, the Vermont Digital Economy Project was a continuation and expansion of the work performed by e-Vermont. This Project offered free support that helped speed flood recovery, spur economic development and job growth, and improve community resilience to disasters. The project delivered digital tools and services to towns across Vermont.
Expanding the use of online resources has benefits far beyond emergency management. Through these resources, downtown businesses, service providers, farmers, and the tourism industry will find opportunities to reach new audiences and markets. At the same time, the social fabric of our communities will get stronger as neighbors share local online conversations. Through this project, businesses improved their bottom line, while government and nonprofit organizations developed ways to deliver services more effectively. Rural Vermont communities have tremendous opportunities to develop as centers of cultural and economic creativity in the digital age. The Digital Economy Project supported this innovation and through its services to promotes the future vitality and prosperity of Vermont.