Burlington officials try to stimulate job creation

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(Host) Economic development officials in the Burlington area say they’re trying to be prepared for further deterioration in the regional economy.

They’ve developed resources for people who’ve been laid off and want to replace their jobs with businesses of their own.

As VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, one economist says the idea is a good one – but it’s not likely to ease the impact of the recession.

(Sneyd) Bruce Seifer has worked in economic development for the city of Burlington for two decades.

From his experience, he’s seen that economic catastrophe, can sometimes lead to ingenuity.

(Seifer) "I’ve been through, in my job, three economic downturns. And the entrepreneur that meets a market, meets a need, can be successful. They need the same things they needed when the economy was doing well. They need access to capital, they need a market, they need space, they need a trained work force. They need support from their local community. And there’s going to be a lot of interesting innovative companies that get started this time around. I’m working with lots of them right now.”

(Sneyd) No matter what the economic climate, Burlington’s Community and Economic Development Office is responsible for helping to create jobs.

Seifer says the city has worked with a group known as MicroBusiness Alliance to help people start their own businesses.

(Seifer) "The organization has been meeting for several years but in response to the economic situation that the country is facing right now, we decided to hold a series of meetings to get a better understanding of all the different resources in our community.”

(Sneyd) That’s because someone who wants to make the transition from recently out of work to budding business person generally has a simple question: Where to start?

Burlington wants to be ready with that answer. It’s met with commercial lenders to understand which banks and agencies have money to loan – and under what rules.

The city has developed information about technical support that’s available and job-training programs.

(Seifer) “These are challenging times but there’s a possibility for companies to get started or expand and this is a time to redouble efforts to help these companies do that.”

(Sneyd) Economist Dick Heaps says Vermont continues to slide into a recession and the job losses will continue throughout the year.

He says Burlington should help people set up businesses if it can.

(Heaps) "There’s no reason not to do those kind of things. But in terms of doing anything that’s going to significantly affect the downturn, that’s not something that one is going to be able to do something on such a local level as Burlington. It’s really something that only the national government is in a position to take significant action on.”

(Sneyd) Burlington officials can’t change the world economy. But they hope the silver lining of the current downturn will be a new company like Ben and Jerry’s or Vermont Teddy Bear Company.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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