Town welcomes ‘mobile workers’

MIDDLEBURY — The Better Middlebury Partnership (BMP) is leaving no stone unturned in its effort to promote new jobs — including those that might not necessarily be located within the town’s borders.
The BMP is reaching out to telecommuters and “mobile professionals” — individuals who choose to live in the Middlebury area but who travel long distances to their respective jobs or perform them from home with the aid of a computer and cell phone. The BMP has, with just a little effort, already identified more than 50 such workers who earn better-than-average salaries that are spent locally.
Around 40 of those workers turned out on Sept. 20 at the first in a series of BMP-sponsored events aimed at supporting telecommuters and mobile professionals. That support, according to BMP President Ben Wilson, could someday include creation of joint work space for this mobile workforce — which could in turn lead to new business ventures laying down roots in Middlebury.
“It is an amazing group of talent,” Wilson said of the community’s traveling and telecommuting workforce. “We want to help these people out, and recruit more.”
Represented professions include lawyers, writers, photographers, company CEOs, financial traders and computer programmers. Many of them are young, participate in civic affairs and have children who are helping to fill the thinning ranks of local elementary schools. And their presence is not taxing the local infrastructure.
“It is a good demographic for us to be targeting,” Wilson said. “It is a diversified group.”
Included in that group is author and Sports Illustrated senior writer Alex Wolff. He and his wife, Vanessa, had been living in Manhattan, were expecting their first child and yearned for a more pastoral lifestyle — ideally closer to family in New England.
The family moved to Cornwall in 1998 after Wolff did some calculations and noted a cab ride from Manhattan to Kennedy Airport was around the same distance as a cab ride up Route 7 from the Middlebury area to Burlington International Airport.
“And it’s a lot prettier in Vermont,” Wolff said during a phone interview as he drove to Albany to board a train for his next adventure.
Wolff can now go off on assignment, fill several notebooks and return to his Cornwall home to do his writing, with the Champlain Valley out his front window to get his creative juices flowing. The advent of high-speed DSL, transit service to rail stations and airports, and improving cellphone coverage have allowed Wolff to perform his job while enjoying what he considers a stellar quality of life. The proximity of Middlebury College and its amenities have also been a plus.
“People can make it work,” Wolff said about being a mobile professional. “This is a solution that I think has a lot of appeal.”
Wolff agreed that it might make sense for like-minded, traveling and telecommuting professionals to have some joint office space with common amenities.
“It seems like an easy way to achieve economic development without laying down a lot of new infrastructure,” he said.
Jud Bartlett is CEO of Square Spot Design, a marketing and communications business based in Manchester, N.H. He and his wife are both Middlebury College alumni and had been looking to move back to Vermont, where they have family. The couple evaluated several school systems and elected to move to Cornwall in 2007.
Bartlett travels the two-and-a-half hours to Manchester every week or so, but is able to maintain a foothold in Addison County. He is content working out of his home, but sees the value of a joint office space emerging some day in Middlebury for his fellow travelers and telecommuters.
“I would be 100 percent for a facility that would provide opportunities for networking,” Bartlett said.
?Telecommuters and mobile professionals interested in participating in the BMP’s Telecommuter/Mobile Professional initiative are encouraged to contact the BMP at [email protected] or at (802) 377-2557.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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