By Steve Costello, as seen in the Rutland Herald: https://www.rutlandherald.com/opinion/commentary/rutland-s-growing-sense...
Your Sept. 27 editorial and this week’s Vermont Council on Rural Development conference at Castleton University, featuring a panel discussion on Rutland’s ongoing revitalization, were wonderful reminders of the importance of celebrating victories along the way. Rutland has a lot to celebrate.
While some of us may take for granted local attributes – Wonderfeet, the Paramount, art galleries, public gardens, public art, great schools, hiking trails, bike parks, world-class skiing, higher education, an historic downtown and yes, affordable housing – visitors often remark on them.
In recent weeks, I’ve had conversations with nearly a dozen people who have moved here recently or are contemplating a move to Rutland County, and their perspectives are a tonic for the soul. They are, almost uniformly, aware of and enamored with local assets, including:
— The enormous sense of community. Over and over, people describe where they are coming from as devoid of human contact, where people don’t know their neighbors, and are amazed to be able to build social networks here in short order.
— The Paramount. Newcomers are shocked at the breadth and depth of the playbill at the 848-seat theater.
— The natural beauty. As much as many of us take advantage of the mountains, lakes, trails and parks around us, we can forget how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place. One relocated couple said that in their old neighborhood, nature amounted to potted plants and small patches of grass.
— The cost of housing. While some Vermont housing costs are high, new residents note that Rutland offers homeownership opportunities for a fraction of what a renter would pay in much of the country.
— Safety. Despite what some might think based on old stats and older mythology, Rutland and Rutland County are incredibly safe. Vermont is among the safest places in the country, and Rutland’s crime rate, a fraction of what it was years ago, is infinitesimal.
— Available jobs. Unemployment is barely 3 percent. Large employers like General Electric, Rutland Regional Medical Center, schools, colleges and dozens of others have good jobs open, and in many cases, training available. Virtually all 80 contributors to the Rutland Innovation Home participated, in part, to raise awareness about jobs they want to fill.
— A collaborative nature. From Rutland Young Professionals to the Innovation Home to the blood drive record to the regional marketing initiative, visitors notice a sense of camaraderie they have never seen before.
Perhaps most importantly, there is a growing sense of pride, and a new attitude that visitors and new residents are noticing. Five to 10 years ago, Rutland was its own worst enemy when it came to talking about the community. But new residents and visitors are hearing and seeing a new level of positivity about Rutland, a sense of optimism not seen here since my childhood. That’s perhaps the most important aspect of Rutland’s rebirth, and one every one of us can help nurture.
Steve Costello is a Green Mountain Power vice president who lives in Rutland Town.