Vermont Business Roundtable Blog

Win Smith Op-Ed: Killing Us with Kindness [5.28.15]

May 28th, 2015 by Sherra Bourget

by Win Smith, Jr., President, Sugarbush Resort and
Chair, Vermont Business Roundtable

A childhood friend of mine had a mother who had a wonderfully loving and generous heart. Meals at their home were always a feast with large portions of tasty food, which usually included a pile of creamy mashed potatoes. She would insist that we have seconds before serving us a large slice of fresh apple pie with vanilla ice cream. My friend later moved away, and I did not see him for many years until I heard he was suffering from terminal heart disease. Read the rest of this entry »

Ventriss OP-ED: Having the Courage to Change [5.12.15]

May 12th, 2015 by Sherra Bourget

Opinion Editorial by Lisa Ventriss, President

The good news is that Vermonters have had a very robust dialogue on education reform this year, which has moved us farther than previous years in terms of understanding of and agreement on the need for system-wide change. This is due primarily to the tremendous work of Vermont’s Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe who, in a very brief period of time, has created a database of “current state” information on every school in Vermont. The bad news is that so much of our school data is suppressed because of micro-sized schools, but the available data tell a very troubling tale of the students currently in our PreK-12 education system. The worse news is that we have an even more challenging population coming into the system and we are not prepared for them. Read the rest of this entry »

New Video Encourages Vermonters To Engage in Public Education Debate [4.13.15]

April 13th, 2015 by Union Street Media


Green Mountain Imperative Says Get Smart, Talk, Vote


[4.13.15] A new two-minute animated video from a Vermont coalition appeals to Vermonters civic-mindedness and urges them to participate in the ongoing debate about the future of public education in the state.


The video, created by the Green Mountain Imperative coalition and viewable at the coalition’s YouTube channel (, suggests that the future of public education in Vermont is too important to our state’s future to leave the debate exclusively to our representatives in Montpelier.


“Depending on who you talk to, Vermont’s public education system is either the best in the nation or near collapse,” observes Lisa Ventriss, president of the Vermont Business Roundtable and one of the Green Mountain Imperative coalition members. “The truth is somewhere in the middle.


“What we aim to do with this video is begin to help Vermonters better understand the challenges and complexities of the critically important civic resource we call public education.”


The video follows a two-day summit meeting hosted by Green Mountain Imperative in November, 2014. At the summit, 200 students, teachers, administrators, lawmakers, business leaders, and others collaborated to figure out how Vermonters can fulfill the promise of equal education opportunity at reasonable cost. The participants identified six areas of focus:


  • Building student-centered learning systems,
  • Establishing new accountability and metrics for evaluating school systems,
  • Simplifying education governance,
  • Establishing a sustainable funding system,
  • Creating a 0-20 education continuum, and
  • Tackling poverty through greater education and human services integration.

Green Mountain Imperative is a non-partisan coalition organized in 2014. Its convening members include:


  • Julie Coffey, Building Bright Futures
  • Stuart Comstock-Gay, Vermont Community Foundation
  • Steven Dale, Vermont School Boards Association
  • Jeff Francis, Vermont Superintendents Association
  • Scott Giles, Vermont Student Assistance Corporation
  • Rebecca Holcombe, Vermont Secretary of Education
  • Stephan Morse, Vermont State Board of Education
  • Shap Smith, Speaker, Vermont House of Representatives
  • Lisa Ventriss, Vermont Business Roundtable


The video was produced and animated by Urban Rhino in Burlington.




Ed Matters: H. 361 – The “Big Bill” on Education

April 2nd, 2015 by Union Street Media

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

This week the Roundtable sent the following letter to the Vermont House of Representatives. While the current “big bill” in education reform is not perfect, it represents an effort to create a system’s infrastructure for future reforms.

Dear Legislator:

The education reform bill that will be considered by the House this week, H.361, represents an important shift in the debate over education quality and finances. The Vermont Business Roundtable believes this bill will improve student opportunities and provide for more efficient delivery of public education. We applaud the work of the House Education Committee, and we urge the House to pass this bill.

H.361 creates a system of accountability with stronger connections to taxpayers through:

  • Integrated preK to grade 12 educational systems with larger groups of students, designed to expand educational opportunities, achieve management efficiencies, and improve oversight and accountability;
  • Consistent financial reporting and student outcome data systems;
  • Required ballot language regarding per pupil spending, and spending increase or decrease from previous year;
  • Improved predictability through a fixed homestead base rate, rather than one that varies each year.

The bill also creates financial incentives and disincentives to support more effective education delivery systems through school district consolidation.

The bill gives school boards time to work with neighboring boards to find ways to work together in newer, larger integrated preK to 12 school systems. If towns can’t figure out how to consolidate by a date certain, support will be provided.

Finally, the bill attempts to provide more study and discussion around several complex areas of education reform, including funding adequacy, special education delivery, collective bargaining, and overall education oversight.

H.361 keeps students and taxpayers at the center of Vermont’s educational system. The House Education Committee should be applauded for its effort, and we urge your support for this legislation.

Lisa Ventriss, President, Vermont Business Roundtable
Win Smith, Jr., Chair, Vermont Business Roundtable and President, Sugarbush Resort

Green Mountain Imperative: a Call to Action for All Vermonters

April 2nd, 2015 by Union Street Media


As you may know, VBR and a eight other partners convened a two-day summit, entitled Green Mountain Imperative, this past fall on the state of affairs in Vermont’s public school system to bring together 200 participants representing a wide array of stakeholder groups.

While consensus was not reached on all things, one truth emerged:“Public Education in Vermont has reached a turning point. We must move forward with solutions that will give every Vermont student access to quality learning at a cost the state can afford.”

Based on that truth, and to serve as a visual “Call to Action” and bring broader awareness of Vermont’s state of public education to all it’s citizens, a simple video was produced. We encourage you to Watch it Here and then share it.

Latest Business Conditions Survey Discussed on Roundtable Today! CCTV Segment

April 2nd, 2015 by Union Street Media

RoundtableToday-0315-ScreenshotA respectable 70% response rate and generously honest commentary offered by members who participated in the latest Business Conditions Survey made for a content-rich segment on the latest Roundtable Today! airing now on CCTV.

Lisa Ventriss and Amanda Wassel, Research Assistant, Economic & Policy Resources, were joined by member, Jesse Beck, President, Freeman French Freeman to discuss the latest results and illuminating commentary.

Click Here to View Broadcast Segment or Click Here to Read the Full News Release on Findings.

VBR & EPR Release 1 Qtr 2015 Business Conditions Survey Results [3.31.15]

March 31st, 2015 by Union Street Media

1st Quarter 2015 Business Conditions Survey Results Show Neutral Outlook

March 31, 2015 –  Today, Lisa Ventriss, President of Vermont Business Roundtable (VBR) and Jeffrey Carr, President, Economic & Policy Resources (EPR), announced the 1st Quarter results of their joint initiative, the VBR-EPR Business Conditions Survey.

The survey, which is conducted quarterly, provides both a look back at the previous quarter and a predictive index going forward. The data for both the backward and forward-looking questions are weighted to the Vermont economy by sector employment and turned into “diffusion indices”.1 These diffusion indices provide a tool for analyzing and presenting insight into the Vermont economy over time through the sentiments of the Roundtable members.

The survey also looked closely at the non-weighted, “raw” data that the survey provides. The raw data can be easily compared to the national Business Roundtable CEO Survey, a quarterly survey of national and multi-national companies. The national Business Roundtable CEO Survey contains similar questions to the VBR/EPR Survey in terms of employment and capital spending. Comparing these two surveys revealed that Vermont companies expect a greater degree of hiring or stability than national companies, while both national and Vermont business expected a similar degree of capital spending.

1 Each question on the survey is weighted by sector employment and the diffusion number is formulated by giving each “strong positive” answer a numerical value of 1.0, “mild positive” answers a numerical value of 0.5, neutral answers a value of 0, “mild negative” answers a value of -0.5, and strong negative values of -1.0. The diffusion index numbers are then formulated based on these numerical values. A value of 100 would mean that every respondent answered “strong positive”, a value of 0 would mean that every respondent answered neutrally, and a value of -100 would mean that every respondent answered “strong negatively.”

The latest survey, which was conducted during the first two weeks of March 2015, achieved a response rate of 70 percent overall, and included a 50 percent or greater response rate from all but two sectors within the membership. The survey asked eight retrospective and prospective questions about the economic outlook, demand, capital spending, and employment. Survey results show that:

  • For the fourth quarter in a row, most responses to the overall question about the state’s business climate outlook were neutral to mildly optimistic.
  • More than half of respondents (62 percent) shared negative outlooks specifically with ease of hiring for available positions; and,
  • For the first time, the professional/technical services sector had the most optimistic outlook on expected demand and employment (58 percent and 50 percent, respectively).

The first graph below shows the diffusion index of overall economic outlook, which measures the level of confidence (optimism or pessimism) respondents have about different aspects of the economy based on the first question on the survey, and can range from 100 (where 100% of respondents answered “strong positive”) to -100 (where 100% of respondents answered “strong negative”).
For this reporting period, the diffusion index of overall economic outlook shows an overall decline in optimism from Q1 2014 to Q1 2015, indicating that Vermont CEOs continue to feel neutral to mildly optimistic about the business climate for the coming three months.


The next graph below shows the composite index of the diffusion index points for the questions relating to demand, capital spending, and employment in the next three months. The majority of responses were neutral or mildly positive, keeping the line steady between 15 and 20 index points (recall that the maximum index points would be 100, and 0 would be true neutral).


Also included in the survey was the opportunity for Roundtable members to express their opinions on other topics affecting their businesses. The greatest frequency of responses from members concerned the state’s efforts around health care reforms, including health care financing (including the payroll tax increase). According to members, such uncertainty has resulted in many businesses delaying investments in their growth strategies.

The next survey will be conducted in early June, 2015.

The Vermont Business Roundtable (VBR) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of chief executive officers of Vermont’s leading private and nonprofit employers, representing geographic diversity and all major sectors of the Vermont economy. The Roundtable is committed to sustaining a sound economy and preserving Vermont’s unique quality of life by studying and making recommendations on statewide public policy issues.

Economic & Policy Resources, Inc. (EPR) has been providing private and public sector clients throughout the U.S. and Canada with problem-solving economic research and analysis services for more than 25 years. Our professionals bring a broad spectrum and a deep reservoir of problem-solving knowledge and experience in applied economics to each assignment. We put our capabilities and experience to work for our clients so that they have the insight and understanding necessary to move forward with confidence. EPR has successfully completed assignments throughout the United States and in eastern Canada.

#  #  #

VBR Releases Letter of Support for H. 361

March 30th, 2015 by Union Street Media

March 30, 2015 – Vermont Business Roundtable released today the following letter to Vermont legislators in support of H. 361, a bill addressing Education, Education Funding; Education Spending and Education Governance.

H 361 letter to House


Click Here to view pdf if letter is not displaying correctly.

VBR Releases Letter of Support for H.76 [3.24.15]

March 25th, 2015 by Union Street Media

March 24, 2015 – Together with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, Vermont School Boards Association and the Vermont Superintendents Association the Vermont Business Roundtable released the following letter in support of H. 76 to the Vermont General Assembly. Read the rest of this entry »

VBR and Vermont Chamber Release Statement on Payroll Tax

March 16th, 2015 by Union Street Media

Business Organizations Oppose Payroll Tax
Claim as Bad Public Policy at Any Rate

3.16.15 – (South Burlington, Vt.) Today the leadership of two major statewide business organizations released a joint statement in opposition to the Administration’s proposed payroll tax on businesses. Read the rest of this entry »