The future of Windham County after Vermont Yankee. That was the topic of a forum Wednesday in Brattleboro. It comes just weeks after Entergy announced that it will be closing the plant in the fourth quarter of 2014.
The Blue Moose Bistro in Brattleboro recently underwent a major renovation. It's part of co-owner Ken Flutie's long-term strategy.
"Reinvent, rethink what we do," he explained.
Flutie says that's the key. If businesses are able to adapt the town may not be much different in a post-Vermont Yankee world.
"Galleries and food establishments, not much is going to change downtown," he reiterated.
Change was exactly what was on the menu in Brattleboro Wednesday night. A forum hosted by a local newspaper called The Commons. The topic: the path toward a post-nuclear economy.
"We've known this is coming, it is not a surprise, but now that we have a date certain it escalates all of our economic planning efforts that we have been doing," explained Patricia Moulton Powden of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation.
Entergy announced it was closing the plant at the end of 2014. The closure will have a huge economic impact on the region; 650 employees work at the plant and 40 percent of them live in Vermont.
"We have put the message out to Entergy that we want to work with their workforce to hook them up with existing employers that are maybe looking for that talent. But also those who might say yeah, I want to stay here and I would like to start a business," Powden said.
Businesses in downtown Brattleboro are likely to feel the post-Yankee pinch. Employees shop in stores and eat in restaurants. Not to mention the charitable giving and support for local social service organizations.
"They are rolling up their sleeves, they are getting out there, they are really supporting this community any way possible. It has been something that we have counted on," said Jerry Goldberg of the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce.
John Mullin is a professor of economic planning at the University of Massachusetts.
He studied the impact the closure of Maine Yankee in Wiscasset had on that region's economy. It was a significant blow for jobs and tax rates. But he says when it comes to Vermont Yankee, there are positive signs.
"More importantly I think what it says is that you have to have an organization in place so that the recovery can occur. I applaud what is going on in Vermont. If you look at it from the state level, regional level, to the local. You are getting things in a row which is going to make a major difference," Mullin explained.
"We have to constantly think about how can we keep people here and stimulate business. Get the word out that we are here so that when Vermont Yankee does leave town, we are not hurt so bad," Flutie explained.
It is unclear when Vermont Yankee will begin phasing out employees and how many jobs will stay on for the decommissioning process. Officials from Entergy were invited to the forum but declined.