If you build jobs, will they come (back)?

It sounds like a good idea: retain our young people or recruit those who left Vermont to come back home. With the popularity of attending college in Vermont many institutions with bulging lists of wanna-come-here student applicants and the laid back Green Mountain recreational lifestyle, recruiting youth here seems like a piece of cake. But can a state government successfully play a role in luring young people to Vermont for the long term, especially when the perception and reality is that the state doesn't have much to offer ambitious young people in search of careers and economic earning power? No matter, the official state campaign to retain young people and recruit those who have left Vermont to return and join the workforce got a big introduction this week. But with all the weeks media hype about the states campaign called Pursue VT a few questions were never asked: What are the states specific recruiting goals in numbers? 50 new young residents a year? 100? 150? 1,000? Better yet, how many businesses with job creation plans, will be recruited to the state each year? Will these businesses be given financial and other incentives to relocate here? Officials announced the Pursue VT campaign Sept. 24, days before the state held an event in Boston designed to recruit potential employees and launch a new web site, PursueVT.org, aimed at providing information about jobs, housing, and activities in Vermont. PursueVT is more than a name or a tag line, said Christine Werneke, the states chief marketing officer. Its a call to action and an invitation. We are asking our target audience to make the decision to live and work in Vermont, and to pursue those goals. The campaign is one product of a comprehensive study of young people designed to identify what features will make the next generation of Vermonters want to live and work here. The report, released in April, was commissioned by Gov. Jim Douglas in response to official census figures showing that Vermont had become the second oldest state in the nation and is the most rapidly aging. That fact, the governor said, represents a threat to the states economic future, a concern he said was reinforced by hearing from employers worried they wouldn't be able to find workers as more and more of the workforce reaches retirement. On Sept. 26 the state held a networking event in Boston aimed at young people who attended colleges in Vermont but are now living in the greater Boston area. Several of the young attendees at the event responded similarly if Vermont attracted the kinds of businesses that operate in the Boston area, they'd come back. Representatives from information technology, software, and other companies were on hand to let attendees know about job opportunities in Vermont. In-person recruitment efforts at the event will be supported by targeted and timely information sent to attendees following the event. Potential recruits will be offered the chance to sign up for email alerts from the state keeping them connected to information about living in Vermont including job opportunities, events of interest, and housing options. One attendee at the Boston event was Michael T. Burt, age 29, formerly of Killington and a graduate of Castleton State College. Burt is a personnel manager at a Boston high-tech firm he declined to identify. Ironically, he is a former Vermonter who left the state for Bostons job market. There's not much job turn over or job creation in much of Vermont. I worked for a couple of years at a company in downtown Rutland. I left in 2004. There was no chance for advancement; at the time I heard other stories like mine. Then a few of my friends moved to Boston and I came here and found a similar job, although it was better paying. I got promoted within a year. You know, I dont see a lot of Vermonters wanting to make the hard choices: supporting the kinds of businesses that will make the states economy viable in the long run. But I miss the place, that's why I am here. I love the mountains and skiing. Maybe Ill move back if the job and money is right. So if you pursue them will they come? Maybe. But only time and jobs will tell. To read the full report, visit the Department of Economic Developments web site: http://www.thinkvermont.com/publications/ .

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