Highlights of State Business Roundtable Annual Meeting

 

by Lisa Ventriss, President

Colorado was this year’s host for the annual meeting of executives from the nation’s 25+ roundtables. From our meeting site in downtown Denver, over a three-day period of meetings and events, we were witness to 20” of snow on the Front Range; rain and thunderstorms downtown; tornado warnings to our east; and temperatures that ranged from 75 degrees in the day to mid-30s at night.

When we weren’t trying to avoid the weather, my colleagues and I focused on the issues that unite us all, regardless of size, geography, or economy…namely, workforce challenges and legalization of cannabis. I led a panel discussion on workforce development and used VTPM as a case study. Other states such as Colorado have evolved to a highly coordinated system that includes all the major stakeholders and funders under one unifying umbrella; it’s something to which Vermont should aspire. And other states still have economies that are attracting talent – think Washington, Massachusetts, Texas – and their struggles are with other issues like transportation infrastructure to move all those workers around.

We toured a 150,000 square foot marijuana dispensary, the largest in the country, which can’t keep up with demand. Its process for growing and harvesting is proprietary and, so, no photos were allowed of anything other than ourselves in clean suits. Since passage of their law to legalize pot, Coloradans have introduced over 20 bills to “fix”, “tweak”, and “clean up” those unintended consequences of the law. When I asked my colleagues from Colorado, Washington, and Oregon about the role of business during the run up to passage, they indicated that members were interested only in the revenue that would be generated from sales. Otherwise, they stayed mum.

The representative of the Business Roundtable (BRT) mothership used his time to focus on federal tax reform and shared with us a sophisticated yet user-friendly playbook of how to mobilize and empower their members, member employees, and others to call upon Congress to enact change in this term. While none of the state roundtables pay dues or report to the BRT, we do use them as resources on relevant topics and convene annually in Washington, D.C. each spring for issue briefings.

As ever, I returned from this meeting with colleagues feeling that time was well-spent and that I’d given as much as I got. Next year, we head to Louisiana, unless Mother Nature has other plans.