This commentary originally aired on Vermont Public Radio on August 15, 2018
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It’s well accepted that a picture is worth a thousand words, as any visual learner or marketer will attest. But, how does one visualize something as enormous as the U.S. economy – the largest in the world at $19 trillion – and how do we view Vermont’s economy in comparison?
Recently, I’ve been fascinated with a comparison of each state’s GDP from 2017, with that of equivalent countries. California, Texas, and New York are the top three state economies, which align closely with the GDPs of the U.K., Canada, and South Korea, respectively.
Yes, Texas’s GDP is larger than that of our neighbor to the north.
At the other end of the spectrum, Montana, Wyoming, and Vermont – three of the most sparsely populated states and owning the three smallest U.S. economies – are comparable to Uzbekistan, Tunisia, and Libya.
Yes, even we have a country-sized economy.
But more than just size, Vermont is indeed a World-class economy with critically acclaimed world’s best whiskey, cheese, breweries, and Best in the World Certified B Corporations. We’re home to the world’s third largest and U.S. largest captive insurance domicile; and our native and Vermont-trained athletes are World Cup and Olympic champions.
We boast world-class incubators, medical research, health care services, resorts and ski areas, and socks. Our manufacturers are partners of choice to the world’s most successful companies. We’re home to highly-selective colleges delivering world-class educations. And world-renowned studio and performing artists whose works inspire audiences around the globe also contribute to Vermont’s world class economy.
Leading all these enterprises are strong and successful innovators who navigate rapid change and major disruptions in their industries and companies; see around corners; and compete mightily against global companies with cheaper prices, lower costs, and more workers.
But, business leaders are also facing domestic headwinds in the Green Mountains that stem from lack of an adequately prepared workforce, high costs of living, lack of affordable workforce housing, and lack of access to high-quality childcare. And with each Biennium, there’s also the threat of potential legislation that would layer on costs and mandates to employers, which reduce their ability to hire and retain an adequate workforce.
These constraints keep Vermont’s GDP from growing more robustly to, say, that of Ethiopia – or its state economy equivalent of New Hampshire.