03.06.09

Remarks At Economic Recovery Conference At Champlain College

...Champlain College, Burlington, Vermont

Thank you, President Finney and Champlain College, for hosting us at this timely conference today.  We welcome this opportunity to offer Vermonters, Vermont businesses, and Vermont communities a chance to learn more about how they can take advantage of the recently passed federal economic recovery act.  And the more rapidly and effectively that Vermont puts these resources to work, the better we will be able to keep Vermonters working today, and the better we will be able to lay the groundwork for growing our economy for the jobs of tomorrow.   

I’d like to thank the Vermont Procurement and Technical Assistance Center and the Vermont Small Business Development Center for sponsoring and helping to organize this event.  For those of you who don’t know about the great work these organizations do – and the many other organizations represented at this conference today – I really encourage you to take advantage of their superb knowledge and expertise about doing business in Vermont.  

I also want to thank Governor Douglas, Legislative leaders, and so many Federal and State officials for being here today.  The Congressional Delegation worked closely with the Governor and the Legislature – under the leadership of Senator Peter Shumlin and Speaker Shap Smith – and with State agencies to make sure that the economic recovery plan is a good match for Vermont’s job needs today and in the future. 

Vermonters are hurting today because of the economic and financial crises gripping the world.  We have a rising unemployment rate.  The State’s budget, local municipal budgets and local school budgets are all stretched to the breaking point.  Our roads and bridges are strained and worn.  And hard-working families are struggling to put food on the table.  This really is one of the worst economic messes our country has seen since the Great Depression. 

As President Obama so clearly told the nation last week before a joint meeting of the Congress, rebuilding the foundation of a strong economy won’t be easy.  It will take sacrifice, and it will take wise, concerted and sometimes courageous action.  And this economic recovery package is just one part of the solution.  We still have to stabilize our financial markets, our housing market, and consumer confidence in our overall economy.

Some want these efforts to fail.  Worse yet, some pundits and even some politicians seem determined to try to make these efforts fail.  We cannot afford that kind of corrosive negativism in the best of times.  And when it comes to setting right an economy that has been going off keel for many years, this is anything but the best of times.  As for this Vermonter -- and I think as for many, many Vermonters -- I want this President and this country to succeed.  

Some of the tools we need for economic recovery are in this legislative package, and the workshops where these tools will be put to work are right here in Vermont and in other states.  If Vermont gets a little head start on other states -- that’s OK by me.  This conference, which we’re told is the first statewide conference of its kind, can help us jump off the starting block.   And I must say that the interest you have shown in being here is a sign that Vermonters are ready to lead the way back to economic vitality.  

The economic recovery package is bold action taken by the Federal government to help put Americans back to work – and we must be prepared to quickly and constructively take advantage of it. 

The package includes tax relief for working families and for businesses.  There are investments for broadband deployment, for job training, for electrical smart grids, for water and transportation infrastructure, for better schools, for housing, for first responders, for new energy sources, and for a whole host of other items that will help cushion pressures on the State budget, and for helping to lay the groundwork for a renewed and vibrant Vermont economy.

In all, we expect Vermont will receive more than $700 million in direct federal funding under this economic recovery package, with hundreds of millions more coming to the State through competitive grant programs and tax reductions for individuals and businesses.

President Obama has ordered Federal agencies to detail all of their economic recovery plans on the www.Recovery.gov Website – a site that I suggest you all bookmark on your computers.  According to the site, most of the Federal funding won’t be released to states or noticed for competitive bidding until May.  But all of Washington has been impressed by the quick and competent way that formula grant funds already are flowing to the states, including millions of dollars to Vermont. 

Nevertheless, we hope that today’s sessions will give you a sense of the breadth of opportunities available in the economic recovery package, will help you get a sense of how these resources will be directed, and will get you started thinking about ways your business, your organization, your municipality, or you yourself can take advantage of these opportunities.

I’ll caution you now -- we probably won’t have answers to all of your questions today.  As this bill goes into implementation it’s impossible to know the details of everything.  My staff, the governor’s staff, and our workshop panelists will do their best with the information they have available.  Most Federal and State agencies are still working on their rules and distribution plans right now, so please feel free to follow up with any of us in the weeks and months ahead. 

Again, thank you all for coming.  We appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedules to be here today.  I hope you’ll find this a worthwhile conference because the economic recovery package really is a unique opportunity to save and create jobs and to make life better here in Vermont. 

Thank you.    

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