New thoughts for Vermont prosperity

In Vermont, we need to manage our economy putting Vermonters and homecoming Vermonters first. But we could also allow more immigrants to legally live and work here. I therefore propose that we:

Continue to work for efficiencies in state government, to reduce taxes and make our state more affordable for Vermonters.

Adopt smart-growth policies, and enable homebuilders to build at prices more workers can afford.

Continue to fund and expand Next Generation scholarships and skills training for Vermonters.

Request a waiver from the federal government to grant Vermont-based residency for engineers, doctors, nurses and other specified workers, to work or bring their businesses to our state.

Vermont should implement an immigration system that connects job-openings with people who can fill them. It could be based on the Canadian system, which assigns points to an applicant based on education, chosen career field, and net worth, to measure his or her ability to contribute to life in our state.

According to research by Duke University and University of California at Berkeley, 25.3 percent of engineering and technology companies founded between 1995 and 2005 had at least one foreign-born founder. Those companies produced $52 billion in sales and employed 450,000 US workers in 2005. Of all immigrant-founded companies, 26 percent have Indian founders, and nearly 80 percent of immigrant-founded companies in the U.S. were in software and innovation or manufacturing-related services.

In 2006, 24 percent of patents granted to U.S. residents were granted to foreign nationals residing in the U.S.. up from only 7.3 percent in 1998.

Theres room in Vermont for innovators like these. Our state has challenged the federal government on slavery, prescription drug purchases, air quality and other policies. It is time to add immigration to the list.

A century ago, my great grandfather, John McKenzie, founded McKenzie Meats. His first employee was a German immigrant named Gene Burnhart. Stuck at Ellis Island without a sponsor, Gene was going to be deported back to Germany when John hired him.

Because he only spoke German, no one knew Gene was a master of German sausage making, until a German-speaking Burlington mailman made the connection. Gene worked for McKenzies for the next 50 years, becoming a real leader and innovator as the company grew to employ more and more Vermonters over the years.

Throughout our history, motivated opportunity-seekers like Gene Burnhart have improved their own lives, and made America and Vermont a better place.

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