Vermont Digital Economy Project TeamI am excited to join the Vermont Council on Rural Development as the Director of the Vermont Digital Economy Project.

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.

The genesis for VCRD’s application for this grant was the key learning from Tropical Storm Irene that the towns with the best virtual infrastructure were both better able to cope with the disaster and recovered more quickly from it. Therefore, the project has several components, all of which have the common theme of addressing the vulnerabilities of Vermont businesses and communities that are not fully utilizing online tools. We offer free services that will speed flood recovery, spur economic development and job growth, and improve community resilience to disasters. We commit to do this by working 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.

In the last two weeks, the Vermont Digital Economy Project has really come to life. Through a competitive RFP process, we selected Front Porch Forum as the vendor for the online community-based forum and integrated calendar portion of the project. Three full-time staff members joined the project the week of March 4th. In addition to me, Rob Fish has joined us as the Project’s Non-Profit Advisor & Community Organizer and Caitlin Lovegrove as our Outreach & Network Coordinator.

We solicited applications from towns all over Vermont by directly contacting them, by using our partners to reach key community stake-holders, like community libraries, and reached out to area chambers of commerce and state legislators. Round One applications were due on March 15th and 24 applications were submitted.

My commitment to you is that, not only will the Project Team work tirelessly to exceed the ambitious deliverables of the Vermont Digital Economy Project, but we will also take the time to keep you updated on our progress twice each month.