Vermont Business Roundtable Blog

VBR Launches Executive Leadership Series with Award-Winning Filmmaker

September 2nd, 2014 by Sherra Bourget


Women’s Advocate, Filmmaker and ‘Dynamo’
Jennifer Siebel Newsom Is Coming to Vermont in October

Vermont Business Roundtable Launches Its Inaugural Executive
Leadership Series with ‘What’s Holding Women Back in the Workplace?’

September 2, 2014 – South Burlington, Vt.—Despite graduating from college and graduate school in greater numbers than men, women continue to face significant hurdles in the workplace. Read the rest of this entry »

VBR & EPR Release 2nd Qtr Business Conditions Survey Results

August 19th, 2014 by Union Street Media

Vermont Business Roundtable and Economic & Policy Resources
2nd Quarter 2014 Business Conditions Survey Results Show Neutral Outlook

8.19.14 – (South Burlington, Vt.) Today Lisa Ventriss, President of Vermont Business Roundtable (VBR) and Jeffrey Carr, President, Economic & Policy Resources (EPR), announced the 2nd Quarter results of their joint initiative, the VBR-EPR Business Conditions Survey. Read the rest of this entry »

VBR Addresses Current State and Future Trends in Education [8.14.14]

August 14th, 2014 by Union Street Media

South Burlington, VT – At the invitation of Kevin Dorn, South Burlington City Manager, Roundtable President, Lisa Ventriss, addressed state leaders at the Vermont School and Municipal Leadership Conference on Education Property Tax and Funding Reform  on the “Current State and Future Trends: Public Education in Vermont” today.

In her opening remarks, Ms. Ventriss acknowledged that the Roundtable’s Board of Directors convened last year to discuss ways in which to:

  • “Get Unstuck” from our education rut, where there has been a lot of talk, but little action.
  •  Gain traction on comprehensive, system-wide education reforms, and move beyond words to actions,
  •  Create an “Informed and Engaged Public,” which is essential to any major policy change.
  •  That results in improved educational experiences and outcomes for all our career or college-bound students.

Since then the Roundtable has used data to tell the story and convey the “urgency” with which we believe change must happen.


An Issue of Sustainability: Since the passage of Act 60, school property taxes have increased almost 3X greater than the rate of CPI. Source: Vermont League of Cities and Towns

Download Ms. Ventriss’ presentation, “Current State, Future Trends: Public Education in VT.”

Chair Summer Column: The Dog Days of Summer

July 11th, 2014 by Union Street Media

By Mary Powell, Chair

The dog days of summer have arrived.  Days that are perfect for enjoying Vermont’s mountains, lakes and rivers.  Days that are perfect for lazing around and not thinking about much, days that are perfect for… summer vacation.

Speaking of summer vacation, that is what roughly 86,000 Vermont kids are doing right now – vacationing until the school doors open at the end of August. Vermont makes a huge investment in our children.  We invest approximately 1.67 billion in the public school system,  we invest significant sums  in human services programs to support our kids and a strong network of non profits that provide important programs and services for Vermont youth.  All total, we invest billions in a very small state.

Investing in our economic future is directly tied to investing in our children.  Improving outcomes and ensuring that Vermont children have access to high quality early care and education has been a priority of the Vermont Business Roundtable for well over a decade. We have made some progress but there is a lot we still can, and need, to do.  As the summer winds down, we will need to summon our courage, summon our intellect and get ready to dig deeper on how to take a bigger step forward  in improving outcomes in our education system in a way that is sustainable and cost effective.

The Vermont Business Roundtable will be hosting an Appreciative Inquiry Summit this fall to delve into the brutal facts of our system and develop thinking on how we can dramatically improve outcomes given the very significant investment we are making.  So, over the summer, between business and pleasure, I hope you find even a little time to reflect on this challenge, think about the persistent obstacles and create new ways to overcome them and I look forward to seeing you in the fall at the Appreciative Inquiry Summit.

Wishing you all the best,

President Summer Column

July 11th, 2014 by Union Street Media

By Lisa Ventriss

During the last six months the Roundtable has been involved, in some fashion or other, with policy discussions, retreats, planning sessions, and summits surrounding economic development, education reform, health care reform, and opiate addiction. All of them are big, top-heavy, and complex issues that do not lend themselves easily to grassroots approaches to policy development. And because the issues are multi-faceted and reflect the local flavor of their communities, discussions can easily become overly emotional and personalized in the public domain. For each of these issues, the challenge is to anchor the work in irrefutable Vermont-centric data from credible sources, so that all stakeholders will have agreement as to the problem definition and current state of affairs. It works easier for some topics than others.

And when we haven’t been involved in these issues, we have been carefully watching the evolving story of IBM and its 57-year history in Vermont. Whether it continues to be a major part of our economy is unknown at this time, but perhaps by the time this newsletter hits your inbox there will have been an announcement about IBM’s future and ours. Though it is not currently a member, IBM was a founding member of the Roundtable and over the years has made particularly significant contributions to our education work, particularly the Medallion Awards Program (1993-2005) to encourage educational excellence in the elementary, middle and high school grades. In all cases, IBM’s investments have made lasting and positive imprints on the Vermont landscape.

This is also the time of year when I make my summer rounds to visit with members, so I hope to see many of you in the next couple months. I thank you in advance for making time to chat about your company, your workforce, your market, and your motivations.

Until then, I hope that you all take the time to smell the summer flowers and jump in the lake!

Ed Matters: Nordic Education Trust Update

July 11th, 2014 by Union Street Media

By Mary Barrosse Schwartz, Executive Director
VBR Research and Education Foundation

The Nordic Trust Education Trust Scholarships underwent changes this year as investments were moved from a firm in Boston to be managed by Peoples United Bank here in Vermont. Currently the fund stands at approximately $500,000. Meetings with the investment officials in Vermont outlined a conservative approach in order to maintain the corpus for annual scholarships.

In 1988, the Nordic Educational Trust was created to offer scholarships to Vermont students who have a strong desire and potential to succeed in a technical field. Ross and Gail Anderson, former owners of Nordic Ford and Toyota in South Burlington, created the Trust to encourage young men and women to pursue studies in fields such as; automotive technology, computer assisted design, diversified agriculture, or health information technology, to name a few. Each year, the Trust grants scholarships to deserving students at two-year, post-secondary educational institutions throughout Vermont. These scholarships are not based upon previous academic performance, but are targeted to students who have an aptitude for applied learning.

Workers today must be good problem solvers in order to succeed. As Vermont moves further into a knowledge-based economy, all of the state’s workforce, even in the more traditional trades, will require more sophisticated skills to compete in the marketplace. Through the leadership of the VT Business Roundtable and support from The Nordic Educational Trust, Vermont businesses set the example of how to best support tomorrow’s problem solvers through postsecondary credentials, certification, and degrees.

The 2014 Selection Committee met three times in mid-April to review more than a dozen applications from a pool of fifty. Three talented college-bound Vermonters were chosen by the committee to receive two-year grants, ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 per year.

A young man, senior from Green Mountain Union High School, will study plumbing at Southern Maine Community College. Another young man, senior at Mount Anthony High, will study automotive technology at Ohio Technical College. A young woman, senior at Randolph Technical Career Center, will use her grant to study culinary arts at White Mountains Community College.

For more information, or to join the 2015 Selection Committee, please contact me at Special thanks to the 2014 Committee for their help, and to Ross and Gail Anderson for creating the scholarship fund.

Summer Time, Survey Time

July 9th, 2014 by Union Street Media

SurveyTimeTwo important surveys will necessitate your attention this month and your participation is required in order to make both statistically significant.

The Health Care Working Group, which is chaired by Don George, is asking members to weigh in on matters regarding the provision of health care benefits, health care expenditures, and attitudes about health care reform initiatives. This is an update to the Roundtable’s baseline 2011 survey, which seeks to understand any effects following the passage of the Affordable Care Act and the launch of the Vermont Exchange. Because of the technical nature of many of the questions, CEOs will need to enlist the support of their HR department. The confidential survey launched on July 1st and runs through July 22nd. Preliminary results and analysis of the survey will be shared with the board in September and presented to the full membership at our annual meeting in January.

The Q2/2014 VBR/EPR Business Conditions Survey will launch on July 15th and run through July 29th. In conjunction with our partners at Economic & Policy Resources, this survey follows the sentiments of Roundtable members over time and serves as a tool for analyzing and presenting insight into the Vermont economic outlook. As you know from participating in previous surveys, this one will require a very modest amount of your time to complete.

Thank you in advance for your participation in both these important surveys.

CEO Spotlight: Exit Interview with David Finney, Champlain College

July 9th, 2014 by Union Street Media

CEO Spotlight David Finney

Lisa Ventriss interviewed David Finney, Champlain College, prior to his retirement at the end of June to discuss his parting thoughts on Vermont’s ongoing education reform and the business community’s role.

Watch Full Interview Here

Welcome New Members

July 9th, 2014 by Union Street Media

L to R: Ralph Carlton, Greg Dewey, Dimitri Garder, Gary Karnedy


Don Laackman, Stephanie Mapes, Michael Nobles, Charlie Smith

The Roundtable is pleased to welcome one new member this summer:

  • Dimitri Garder, Executive Vice President, Global-Z International, Inc.
We are also pleased to welcome several new members of existing companies this spring and summer. They are:
  • Ralph Carlton, CFO of King Arthur Flour, who succeeds retiring Steve Voigt;
  • Gregory Dewey, President of Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, who succeeds Jim Gozzo;
  • Gary Karnedy, Shareholder of Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer, who succeeds Jeff Johnson;
  • Donald Laackman, President of Champlain College, who succeeds Dave Finney;
  • Stephanie Mapes, Managing Partner of Paul Frank & Collins, who succeeds Crocker Bennett;
  • Michael Nobles, President and CEO, Union Mutual of Vermont, who succeeds Josh Fitzhugh;
  • Charlie Smith, Interim President of Vermont PBS, who succeeds John King.

We invite you to make our new colleagues feel welcomed by reaching out to them at your first opportunity.

Mark Your Calendars for a Powerful Event

July 9th, 2014 by Sherra Bourget


On October 1st, the Roundtable will proudly present Jennifer Siebel Newsom, award-winning filmmaker, speaker and President and CEO of the non-profit organization, The Representation Project. She wrote, directed and produced the award winning documentary film, “Miss Representation,” which exposes the underrepresentation of women in positions of power
and influence in America. Newsom was also recognized on Newsweek’s List of “150 Fearless Women Who Shake the World”, Fast Company’s “League of Extraordinary Women” and San Francisco Business Times’ “Most Influential Women in Business.” Her latest movie, “The Mask You Live In”, asks: As a society, how are we failing our boys?

We invite you to plan to join us, with your team, as we address the question, “How can we increase the ranks of eligible women at the highest levels of influence and leadership within Vermont’s private, public, and not-for-profit sectors?”

Click Here to take a look at Newsom’s work
Click Here to check out some astounding statistics on women’s leadership

Contact the Roundtable’s office if you would like to help sponsor this event.