Vermont’s Working Communities Challenge announces planning grants to eight regions of the state Vermont’s Working Communities Challenge announces planning grants to eight regions of the state

With backing from the Boston Fed, Vermont communities aim for more than $1M in grant support With backing from the Boston Fed, Vermont communities  aim for more than $1M in grant support

February 4, 2020

Montpelier, Vt. – Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President and CEO Eric Rosengren, Vermont Governor Phil Scott, and public and private funders announced eight regional teams have been selected to receive $15,000 planning grants and move forward in Vermont’s Working Communities Challenge. The challenge, launched last May, is a grant competition that supports local collaborative efforts to build strong, healthy economies and communities in Vermont’s rural towns, regions, and smaller cities.

The eight regional teams selected include the Greater Barre, Greater Springfield, Lamoille County, Northeast Kingdom, Northwest Vermont, Southern Vermont, White River Valley, and Winooski teams. Each was selected by an independent jury after proposing initiatives designed to tackle issues in their communities ranging from workforce support to racial equity to economic inclusion.

Over the next six months, the grants will fund the teams’ work to turn their ideas into formal action plans. Four teams will then be chosen from the eight for larger, multi-year implementation awards – estimated to be $300,000 each – to fully execute their initiatives.

"This is an important milestone for the Working Communities Challenge in Vermont,” Rosengren said. “We are extremely grateful to Governor Scott, his administration, and our philanthropic and private sector partners for all they’ve done to help get us here.”

"We look forward to working with these eight community teams in the coming weeks and months as they refine their proposals with guidance from the Fed and other experts,” Rosengren said.

“It’s great to see Vermont communities collaborating together with a wide range of public and private partners to address complex issues to improve the future of Vermonters and make our state a better place to live,” Governor Scott said. “The Working Communities Challenge has given us another tool to help expand economic growth and opportunity in our rural towns and regions. I look forward to seeing these ideas progress as the teams and the Boston Fed move forward with the challenge.”

Each team has chosen an initial focus for their initiative. They are as follows:

  • Talent and workforce development – Northwest Vermont, Greater Barre, Greater Springfield
  • Social and infrastructure investments tackling intergenerational poverty – Northeast Kingdom
  • Developing a community network and system for new legal immigrants – Southern Vermont
  • Successful employment transitions for young people, older Vermonters, and workers struggling with substance misuse – Lamoille County
  • Regional and small-town cohesion and action – White River Valley
  • Increase participation of underrepresented populations in policy-making – Winooski

Funding for these grants and the broader competition is provided by the following organizations:

  • Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • NeighborWorks America
  • Avangrid Foundation
  • State of Vermont
  • Northern Border Regional Commission
  • USDA/Northern Border Regional Commission
  • William J. and Dorothy K. O’Neill Foundation
  • National Life Foundation
  • Vermont Community Foundation
  • TD Charitable Foundation
  • Green Mountain Power
  • Efficiency Vermont
  • Pomerleau Real Estate
  • People's United
  • Vermont Energy Investment Corporation
  • Vermont Electric Power Company, Inc.
  • Northfield Savings Bank
  • Vermont State Employees Credit Union (VSECU)
  • Housing Vermont

About the Working Communities Challenge

The Working Communities Challenge is built on Boston Fed research about why many of New England’s small cities have struggled economically over the past half-century. Boston Fed economists quickly discovered successful communities had something in common: leaders from the private business, public, and nonprofit sectors who collaborated on a shared, long-term vision for their community.

To help communities do this, the Boston Fed partnered with New England states to launch a competition that aimed to support diverse, local, collaborative leadership teams as they tackled complex issues within their communities. The challenge includes funding to accelerate promising local work, with a focus on increased economic opportunities for residents.

The competition began in smaller, post-industrial cities in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Now, the Boston Fed and Vermont leaders are adapting the competition model to the needs of rural towns, regions, and smaller cities in northern New England.