Vt. lawmakers want ideas to spur rural economy

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) What are the most pressing issues in rural Vermont? That's a question legislators asked residents from across the state Tuesday night.

The state's Rural Economic Development Working Group wants to get a head start on this legislative session. It held a hearing at the Statehouse to get input from residents about what impacts the rural economy and what could stimulate it. Some of the common themes that homeowners have brought up to the caucus are high-speed internet and issues surrounding the forest economy.

Rep. Chip Conquest is the co-chair of the group.

"We'll meet with all the legislators that we can convince to come to a meeting to say, 'What are the things here that seem most important if we had to prioritize,” said Conquest, D-Wells River.

"The Legislature continues to be misinformed, continues to misidentify small rural schools as the problem of education spending," said Ed Metcalfe of Whitingham.

"I would suggest that this commission and the Legislature should foreshadow and look to the energy economy of the future, creatively boosting job creation in the area,” said Paul Costello of the Vermont Council on Rural Development.

Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson, the Commerce and Community Development Agency, and the Council on Rural Development helped organize the hearing.

Conquest says the working group will try to use the ideas to create legislative proposals to tackle in the upcoming session.

"I think it's important that we recognize that the challenges and opportunities in rural areas are different then they are in the more populated parts of Vermont," said Conquest.