VBSR Testimony to Senate Economic Development and Senate Natural Resources on Act 250 9(L)
January 21, 2015
Andrea Cohen, VBSR Executive Director
VBSR is committed to ensuring that Vermont is a place where we have clean air, clean water, vibrant natural habitats and beautiful working lands. Vermont’s environment is key to a strong economic future. While VBSR businesses are certainly in support of predictable and efficient permitting processes, they also want to ensure appropriate environmental safeguards are maintained. VBSR members have long supported financial and regulatory incentives to concentrate development in downtowns and designated growth centers in order to promote vibrant downtowns.
We are in the process of completing a new survey of our members and the feedback we have received to date is consistent with the feedback we receive every year on the topic of “contributors” and “barriers” to the success of businesses in Vermont.
When we ask our businesses what is the greatest contributor to the success of their business, “Vermont quality of life” and the “Vermont brand” are #1 and #2 respectively. This can be interpreted in many ways, but the comments often speak to the working landscape, the lack of sprawl, safe communities, and vibrant downtowns as positive contributors to business. These assets contribute to the ability to attract and retain talented employees, capitalize on the Vermont brand, and support tourism and natural resource based industries. In sum, Vermont’s environment is not something to be trifled with- we cannot compromise this precious asset.
Vermont businesses also require regulatory systems that are clear and navigable. It is a burden on businesses to have processes that do not add value and that force them to expend time and resources that they could otherwise invest in their business and job creation. Good business people who care about this state want your help in ensuring predictable and efficient permitting, AND they do not want to compromise our environment and rural landscape to do so.
In another survey a few years back, we filtered respondents to include only those that reported they went though a permitting process and only 7 % said the process was “broken”. 14 % percent said it “wasn’t broken but in need of major improvements”, 64% said “overall works pretty well but could use some improvement”, and 14 % said it “works great, with no improvement needed”. When asked what improvements were needed, the respondents offered in descending order; timeliness, redundancy, and lack of clarity. Only three respondents said standards were too strict. It is interesting to note that it was only a few years back when VBSR testified that one of the necessary improvements to our environment permitting program was the need to improve land use decisions and incentives so that the regulatory systems would ensure less scattered development and sprawl, and would promote more development in our downtowns. Let’s continue to base our policy directions on information from a large segment of our businesses and citizenty and continue to support these important public policy priories that benefit so many Vermont businesses.