March 2017 In the Round Digest


by Lisa Ventriss

The last month has seen a flurry of activity around some important collaborative work that the Roundtable and its members are doing with other public and non-profit leaders to impact public policy and our business climate. In early February, members participated in the launch of the Early Childhood Business Council to underscore the fact that child care is a critical piece of the puzzle that Vermont needs in order to attract and retain a young, vibrant workforce. The following week, the Roundtable and its partners released the Early Care and Learning Dividend Report, which demonstrates the economic value to state government and the public of investing in early care and learning (ECL) for Vermont’s children age 0-5. And, we ended the month with a luncheon panel that included Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson and women chairs of the legislature’s four money committees to discuss fiscal and budgetary issues.

I thank the members who have been involved in and supportive of these efforts to shine a light on ways to fulfill our vision, to make Vermont the best place to do business, be educated and live life.

As you’ve read previously, the Talent Pipeline Management model is an innovation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. At a high hover, it is a two-phased approach to rethinking the development and sourcing of Vermont’s future workforce by first creating Employer Collaboratives that identify and communicate to education providers around shared employer needs, and secondly, then “value map” backwards by analyzing talent flows, implementing performance measures, and aligning incentives for education providers.  Employer Collaboratives benefit their members because they can accomplish more working together and speaking with one voice than working alone to address their workforce needs.

Collaborations allow employers to: focus on most critical needs and pain points; create strong brand recognition to providers; better communicate job projections; share expertise as peers to better engage in talent supply chain practices; and improve leverage for getting results.

The VTPM has selected two high-needs industries to pilot in this first phase, both of which are stated priorities of the Scott Administration: construction and health care. We thank John Brumsted of University of Vermont Health Network and Tom Clavelle of Engelberth Construction who have agreed to serve as conveners for their respective collaboratives. Initial meetings will be held in March or April. Future Employer Collaboratives will be formed around manufacturing and tourism industries. If you are interested in participating, please contact Roundtable President Lisa Ventriss.

The industry collaboratives will be staffed and supported regionally by Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, Franklin/Grand Isle Workforce Investment Board, and LCRCC’s Workforce Development Program.

The VTPM is comprised of statewide and regional partners including: Vermont Agency of Education; Vermont Business Roundtable; Vermont Chamber of Commerce; Vermont Department of Economic Development; Vermont Department of Labor; Vermont Student Assistance Corporation; Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation; Franklin/Grand Isle Workforce Investment Board; Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation; Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce; and, South Burlington Schools Superintendent.

In his annual plea for action by the Legislative Branch, David Coates, KPMG Managing Partner (retired), has made it excruciatingly clear – Vermont taxpayers are on the hook for $3.6 billion of unfunded liabilities for 32,000 state workers and teachers. Despite paying over $200 million annually from the General Fund, the unfunded benefits have been increasing nearly every year.

But rather than just shrieking about it, Coates has again presented a number of reasonable solutions; none of which would adversely impact the current benefits that former state workers and teachers are receiving. However, there is only so much strain that the system can tolerate. “Promises made are promises kept” may become an outdated mantra. Coates’ recommendations include:

  1. Prohibit new state workers and teachers from participating in the defined benefit plan. Instead, set up a defined contribution plan for them that is similar to a 401(K) plan; the very same type of plan that many Vermonters have for their retirement needs.
  2. Require state workers and teachers to contribute more to these lifetime benefits. Most of the plan participants pay 5-6% of their annual pay and receive a pension of around 50-60%, based on the last few years’ average pay, for their lifetime.
  3. Either eliminate or restructure the retiree health benefit; a very generous “Cadillac” benefit that most Vermonters do not enjoy. Additionally, increase co-pays for current beneficiaries to a level that will make this a sustainable or pass-through benefit.

On the positive side, Treasurer Pierce has requested that another Actuary examine the discount rate of return that the state builds into its calculations. And a meeting has been scheduled between the Roundtable and House Speaker Mitzi Johnson to review the latest numbers. Any solution is in the hands of the Legislature, and Johnson holds the reins.

EGGS and POLICY with CONGRESSMAN PETER WELCH on APRIL 3rdth Congressman Peter Welch on April 3rd
The Roundtable will convene its annual joint breakfast meeting with the New England Council on April 3rd at the Burlington Hilton. The event provides an important yet informal forum with Congressman Welch to discuss federal policies affecting, or threatening to affect, the economy of the New England region.

Congressman Welch is a Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Caucus and a member of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. He serves on the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Members wishing to must register quickly as only a couple of seats are still available. RSVP to Sherra Bourget no later than March 27th.

The Roundtable is pleased to welcome its newest member, Peter Engard, General Manager of Sheraton Burlington Hotel. Peter is responsible for associate relations, all phases of sales and revenue management and pricing, operations, and capital planning for Vermont’s largest hotel and conference center.

Brattleboro Retreat President Louis Josephson Warns, “Fragile Safety Net Needs Attention”
Recent news of the closure of Maple Leaf Treatment Center in Underhill took many of us in the field of mental health and addiction by surprise. Too many Vermonters in need of addiction treatment are already underserved. Read Full Op-Ed

SymQuest Group Names New President
SymQuest Group, Inc, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc, and regionally based IT services and office technology provider, has announced the appointment of Meg Fleming as President of SymQuest effective April 1, 2017. Fleming will succeed Co-Founder, and acting President and CEO, Larry Sudbay, after 21 years of service with SymQuest Read Vermont Business Magazine Article

VELCO and IBM Joint Venture Aims to Tackle Renewable Energy’s Grid Effects
Vermont Electric Power Co. and IBM have announced a new venture that will have the computing giant analyzing local weather and electric meter data to anticipate conditions on the grid as increasing reliance on wind and solar energy makes that difficult. Read VTDigger Article

Vermont National Guard Welcomes Back 300 Vermont-Based Airman from Combat Operations
The roar of jet engines and excited yells from family members heralded the arrival home of Vermont Air National Guard pilots from a combat mission in the Middle East. Read Burlington Free Press Article

Vermont PBS Gets ‘Transformational’ $56 Million for Sale of One of FCC License
Officials at Vermont PBS announced that the station sold one of its four FCC broadcasting licenses for $56 million in a federal auction Read VPR Article

College and Career Readiness Task Force (CCRTF) Meeting: Tues, 3/21, 3:00- 4:30pm
Location: DRM Office, 199 Main St., Burlington

Joint Breakfast with New England Council & Congressman Welch: Mon, 4/3, 8:00- 9:30am
Location: Hilton Burlington
Only a couple of seats left
Contact Sherra Bourget to RSVP

CCRTF Meeting: Tues, 4/18, 3:00- 4:30pm
Location: DRM Office, 199 Main St., Burlington

Annual League of Extraordinary Women Luncheon: Thurs, 4/20, 12:00-1:30pm
Also open to female business leaders outside of the Roundtable
Location: Essex Resort & Spa
Evites to be sent 3/20

Quarterly BOD & Member Meeting: Mon, 5/8, 3:00- 5:30pm
Location: Killington Grand Hotel

CCRTF Meeting: Tues, 5/16, 3:00- 4:30pm
Location: DRM Office, 199 Main St., Burlington

2017 Summer Membership Meeting & Dinner: Thurs, 6/15, 12:00 – 5:00pm; 6:30 – Dinner
Location: Basin Harbor Club, Vergennes

CCRTF Meeting: Tues, 6/20, 3:00- 4:30pm
Location: TBD