Age imbalance concerns Douglas
NEW HAVEN –– The fact that the Green Mountain State faces an aging population and a declining number of young people in the work force is an issue that concerns many Vermonters, including former Gov. Jim Douglas.
“If we don’t have human capital in the state then we’d be in pretty rough shape and we’re moving in the wrong direction. We’re the second oldest state in the nation now based on median age,” the Middlebury Republican told a crowd of 25 members of Addison County Young Professionals (ACYP) at Lincoln Peak Vineyard in New Haven last Wednesday evening.
“That’s what I’m worried about most, trying to attract and retain more young, working age folks here.”
ACYP is an organization founded by Mike Corbett to encourage networking between the group’s target demographic in the county.
“Ultimately my goal is just to build the inventory of young professionals in Middlebury and Addison County,” Corbett said. “My vision is about keeping people here.”
ACYP holds monthly meetings and events that focus on issues important to the demographic they represent.
“We’ve had financial planners, we’ve had authors, we’ve had a guy who does energy audits,” Corbett said. “Those have been our more well-attended events.”
The group invited Douglas, who left the Statehouse in January 2011 at the end of his fourth term as governor, to come and discuss his ideas for keeping young people in the state.
Douglas cited four particular issues that he believes need to be addressed to make Vermont more attractive to young professionals.
“We need to address higher education, so kids want to stay here and go to school here,” he said. “Our health care costs are higher than other places because there’s virtually no choice, there’s just a couple of insurance companies that do business here now. Housing is not inexpensive in Vermont. We haven’t experienced a decline in property values that other parts of the United States have. Fourthly, our property taxes are high.”
These factors make it difficult to afford living in Vermont, Douglas said.
“We’ve got to make it more affordable to live here,” he said. “I think the bottom line is if we can lower the cost of living here more people would like to come, more people would start businesses.”
Douglas also took questions from the crowd and had some suggestions for the members of ACYP to address issues important to them, including working with United Way, getting involved in public policy, and running for local office.
Ultimately, Douglas believes Vermont has the framework to encourage younger people to come to the state.
“We’ve got a quality of life that is unsurpassed,” he said. “We’re the greenest state in America. We have the cleanest air in the Northeast. We have a well-educated, well-trained, highly motivated work force. We have access to government that you’re not going to get somewhere else. It’s a good place to live and do business.”
He stood by his earlier conviction that affordability will draw new residents to the state.
“People have to be able to make it work for themselves and their families,” he said. “If it’s affordable to live here, all the other factors will prevail.”
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