Vermont Economic Engines in Action:
How College, Hospital, Corporate and Government Expenditures can
Strengthen Local Businesses, Communities and the Environment
A Conference Summary Report
Prepared by the University of Vermont / Burlington Community Outreach Partnership Center.
103B Morrill Hall
Burlington, VT 05405
The UVM / Burlington Community Outreach Partnership Center wishes to thank everyone whose efforts made this
conference possible, particularly the presenters and panelists who gave so generously of their time. Thanks also go out
to the numerous co-sponsors of the event.
Contributions to this report come from a variety of participants. Special mention must be made of the efforts of
participants Stacy Mitchell, Michael Shuman, Nancy Nye, Kenneth Becker, Meghan Sheradin, Amy Simms, Garrett
Kimberly, Richard Schramm and Nancy Brooks, whose excellent notes provided much of the information for the
presentation an workshop summaries included in this report. Our special thanks to Jason Duquette-Hoffman, who
authored the executive summary and assembled and edited the workshop reports.
The Vermont Economic Engines in Action conference, held April 12, 2002 at the Sheraton Conference
Center in Burlington, Vermont, examined the role of governmental, educational and health institutions in building
local businesses, communities and the environment. This is a summary of the conference keynote address and
workshop presentations and discussions, and a list of the main policy and action recommendations that came out of
The UVM/Burlington COPC
The UVM/Burlington Community Outreach Partnership Center (COPC) sponsored the conference 1. The
UVM/Burlington COPC is one of about 70 university centers around the country funded by the U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development with matching support from universities, local governments and community
non-profits. The purpose of the COPC is to build effective and sustainable partnerships between universities and
communities to work on locally-defined concerns. The UVM/Burlington COPC is currently working in three areas:
Community Leadership, Fair Share Housing, and Local Economic Development.
The co-sponsors included: UVM Department of Community Development and Applied Economics, UVM
Department of Economics, Vermont Higher Education Council, Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health
Systems, Vermont Department of Economic Development, UVM Environmental Council, Vermont Businesses for
Social Responsibility, Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, Vermont Small Business Development Center, Peace and
Justice Center, Vermont Earth Institute, Middlebury College Environmental Affairs Program, Burlington Community
and Economic Development Office, Institute for Sustainable Communities, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Vermont
This conference grew out of a COPC study of the impacts of the University of Vermont’s employment and
purchasing expenditures on the local economy. This project, the UVM Impacts Project, is co-directed by Nancy
Brooks, of UVM’s Economics Department and Richard Schramm of UVM’s Department of Community
Development and Applied Economics, and overseen by an advisory committee from the University, the City, State,
and a variety of community organizations.
Institutional Impacts on the Local/Regional Economy and Environment
This UVM Impacts Project led everyone involved, working in partnership, to examine:
Employment conditions and opportunities at UVM, especially in lower wage categories;
The extent to which these opportunities are known to local residents who face special barriers to gaining
The nature of UVM’s purchases of goods and services, and the extent to which these have been from vendors
outside of Vermont;
The opportunities for UVM to purchase more from within state in general and within specific sectors, and to
support Vermont businesses while still meeting its other concerns;
Other impacts of UVM’s pattern of expenditures, such as their impact on the environment.
This examination of UVM’s impacts is but one of many studies of institutional impacts underway in
Vermont. Dozens of other individuals and organizations are addressing similar questions about other educational,
health and governmental institutions and their impacts on local Vermont residents, local businesses and specific
sectors (wood and food products), and the economy as a whole. This conference was designed to bring these people
together to share their ideas and experiences, to encourage others to join in this collective effort, and to establish an
agenda for working together in the future.
The Keynote Address
Michael Shuman, an attorney and director of the Village Foundation's Institute for Economic Empowerment
and Entrepreneurship, gave the keynote address at the conference. Shuman, author of Going Local: Creating
Self-Reliant Communities in a Global Age and other publications, is a leading advocate for community development
that increases local autonomy and control of the economy. Shuman’s talk, “Amazing Shrinking Machines: New
opportunities for Vermont institutions to Go Local,” focused on providing insights and examples of how local
institutions and communities can work together for economic development and prosperity.
Shuman argued that the next wave of economic development will not be focused on the attraction of
multinational corporations, but on the development of local, community-owned industry that is rooted in place and
serves the needs of the local community. Local ownership and import substitution are, according to Shuman, the best
ways for local communities to insulate themselves from corporate flight - the loss of major industry to cheaper labor
markets overseas and the often devastating effects of that flight on the local economy. Shuman offered four broad
strategies for promoting local ownership and import substitution: planning, skill building, local purchasing and local
investing. Strategies for each of these are outlined below:
Fresh Network, Northeast Organic Farming Association, Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation, Lake Champlain
Regional Chamber of Commerce
Buy Local Directories
Community Reinvestment Funds
Shuman closed his talk with three final points. First of these was that all of these strategies can be done by
any scale of institution, without government action. Second, there are real examples of cities doing each of these
strategies. Third and finally, these strategies work better as a package, implemented together. These strategies were
echoed in the workshop and roundtable discussions that followed. The summaries of those workshop discussions
follows this introduction.
A total of eight workshops were held, four each in the morning and afternoon sessions of the conference.
These workshops examined:
Institutional Impacts and Economic Self-Reliance: Theory and Practice
The Cornerstone Project: Linking Institutional Purchasing and the Vermont Wood Product Sector
Livable Wages: Improving Base Wages and Benefits to Meet Local Needs
Building Partnerships for Employee & Workforce Development
Reducing the Environmental Impacts of Institutional Expenditures and Operations
Linking Local Businesses and Institutional Purchasing
Linking Institutional Purchasing and the Vermont Food Sector
Livable Jobs: Improving Employment Conditions to Meet Local Needs
Issues, Questions and Examples
Panelists and attendees of the Vermont Economic Engines in Action conference represented a diverse
collection of stakeholders in the Vermont economy. Ranging from small business owners and labor organizers to
representatives from institutions, advocates for local workforce, business and community development groups, and
those with business sector and environmental concerns, the participants brought a variety of perspectives to the
discussions at the conference. Round table discussions following the afternoon workshop sessions provided a forum
for participants to extend the conversations generated in the workshops and work toward some action steps.
The discussions were wide ranging and raised many diverse issues, questions, and examples of effective
practice. These included:
How can we promote local purchasing and import substitution?
How can we remove some of the barriers to local economic development?
How can we improve base wages and benefits to meet local needs?
What are some strategies for institutions to have a more positive impact on the local economy?
While many questions and issues were raised during the conference, there were some clear policy recommendations as
well. These policy recommendations came primarily from examples of each of the recommendations in action, and
were thus practice-based. These included the following:
The State of Vermont, as a policy, should emphasize place-based economic development that favors business
start-ups and support of existing local business rather than enticing outside businesses to move to Vermont;
More efforts to create and support partnerships and cooperatives and other forms of local ownership should
A targeted Buy Vermont policy that encourages Vermont institutions, where it has the greatest net benefits to
the organization and the economy, to buy from local businesses and support specific Vermont industrial
Local business development should precede the attraction of large, multinational industry or box stores as an
economic development priority;
Partnerships between local business, institutions and workforce development agencies should be encouraged
and supported to increase and enhance local employment and sales opportunities;
Livable wage policies should be pursued further by institutions and other employers as a means of local
Institutions should undertake an active, intentional approach to local procurement of goods and services,
share their experiences and apply their knowledge toward the improvement of the local economy;
There should be a continued effort to provide stakeholders in the Vermont economy with a forum to discuss
and develop partnerships, recommendation and ideas for local economic development.
The 100 participants exchanged information, ideas and examples and left the conference with new
connections to others working on redirecting institutional economic power to enhance local business, communities
and the environment. Many were optimistic about the feasibility of the recommendations that emerged from the
conference and felt a strengthened commitment of those in attendance to work together to turn these
recommendations into reality. This conference represents a significant step toward connecting these diverse interests
to achieve a more sustainable Vermont economy.
Institutional Impacts and Economic Self-Reliance: Theory and Practice
Building on the keynote address, this workshop explored both theory and practice in economic self-reliance for local
communities through institutional impacts. Stacy Mitchell discussed lessons learned from the “Place Matters”
conference in Minnesota (sponsored by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance) in 2000, specifically that:
Local, place-based institutions are adversely affected by policies that favor their larger multi-locational
competitors and the economic power derived from those policies;
Place-based businesses and institutions are highly inter-connected and interdependent
While struggling, place-based sectors of the local economy represent a substantial portion of the economy
and, with some efforts at cooperation, could effect real change in the structure and operation of the local
Doug Hoffer discussed his study, “The Leaky Bucket: An Analysis of Vermont’s Dependence on Imports” 2.
This study examined imports and exports of a variety of commodities (and trade balance) with particular attention to
food and energy, concluding that Vermont does not produce much of what it consumes. It also discussed the potential
benefits of import replacement by commodity group, as well as capital inflows and outflows. Hoffer also discussed
outflows for credit cards, mortgages, public investments (e.g. pension funds), private investments and insurance
company investments, and argued for Vermont to consider what California is doing to invest public dollars within the
Richard Schramm discussed the UVM Impacts project and the efforts of the UVM/Burlington COPC and
students in the “UVM and the Local Economy” class to focus the impacts of UVM purchasing and employment
policies more closely on the local economy. The project specifically examined how UVM expenditures impact
Chittenden County, the City of Burlington and the Old North End Neighborhood, both directly through UVM
employment and indirectly through UVM purchases from local business that employ lower skilled workers.
Additionally, the project looked to ways in which the positive aspects of these impacts might be enhanced. The UVM
Impacts Project goals were to:
Improve economic wellbeing of Old North End residents, mainly through employment (directly and
indirectly), working in partnership with UVM, city and community
Provide quality education for students (experiential, service learning)
Conduct useful research; create and share knowledge
Implement agreed upon recommendations
Disseminate knowledge beyond this experience
The Vermont Job Gap, Phase 6, Peace and Justice Center, July 2000
The Double bottom Line: Investing in California’s Emerging Markets: Ideas to action, June 2001,
Philip Angelides, California State Treasurer
The Cornerstone Project: Linking Institutional Purchasing and the Vermont Wood Product Sector
This workshop examined how the Cornerstone Project has encouraged Vermont institutions to purchase
more local wood and wood products, the benefits and difficulties of doing this, and the experiences of Middlebury
College, Fletcher Allen, UVM, and state government in this process. Topics of discussion centered around the efforts
of the Cornerstone Project link institutional purchasing with the Vermont wood products industry, the Middlebury
College initiative to utilize local suppliers of FSC-certified wood products, the efforts of Fletcher Allen to purchase
goods and services locally for the Renaissance Project, the efforts of the Vermont Department of Buildings and
General Services to showcase Vermont industry within its budget constraints and the efforts of UVM to focus its
procurement more locally.
Ed Delhagen represented the Cornerstone Project and discussed its efforts and goals. The goals of the
Cornerstone project are to:
Strengthen existing businesses and institutions in Vermont
Focus on new opportunities for existing and new businesses
Target institutional expenditures
Lower some of the barriers (support the environmental and wage-scale priorities of businesses by lowering
barriers in other areas)
David Keelty of Fletcher Allen Health Care discussed the efforts of FAHC to implement some of the
Cornerstone strategies through its wood and furniture procurement, early standard for certified wood products, the
integration of Cornerstone objectives into the architectural and construction efforts of the Renaissance Project.
Keelty outlined both the cost constraints and opportunities faced by the FAHC Renaissance Project as it strives to meet
Costs are regulated by the State
Project managers must look at the total life cycle costs of the project- sustainability vs. first cost basis
Get initial specifications to comply as closely as possible with Cornerstone objectives at the outset
Challenges are cost issues: supply of quality materials, linkages to facilitate sourcing of local suppliers and to
get local suppliers into the bidding process.
First cost vs. life cycle issues:
o Design and construction may cost more initially, but have a much longer life cycle
o leverage resources in the community
o overall sustainable design
David Burley of the Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services discussed the challenges of
incorporating and showcasing Vermont product in the engineering and construction efforts of the Department while
striving for the lowest cost. The Departmental objective of investing in the state coupled with the need to keep costs
down drives an interest in exploring opportunities for partnerships that would facilitate the realization of both of these
goals. Burley indicated that the State’s strongest interest is in showcasing Vermont products.
Robert Vaughn of the University of Vermont discussed purchasing and facilities at UVM. Vaughn indicated
the opportunities for local investment arising from the new student apartment complex, as well as the opportunities
with the Burlington Electric Department and Vermont Gas to develop more sustainable energy use to improve
efficiency and air quality. Vaughn also noted the importance of comparing costs up front with the life cycle costs of
Overall themes of the workshop were an interest in utilizing Vermont products and services in the major
institutional projects coupled with concerns about how to make such investment more economical. Partnerships and
incentives for utilizing local suppliers were discussed as options for addressing these goals.
Livable Wages: Improving base wages and benefits to meet local needs
This workshop examined the benefits of institutions providing livable wages, the difficulties in putting such
policies in place, and how organizations can provide this form of support to employees while meeting their other
objectives. The workshop also discussed Burlington’s Livable Wage Policy and efforts to institute a livable wage
policy for support staff in public schools. Following are synopses of the presentations of each of the three panelists
and a summary of the major discussion points. 4
Ellen Kahler, Executive Director, Peace and Justice Center
To define livable wages, the Peace and Justice Center commissioned the Job Gap Study. This study asked
what are Vermonters’ basic needs and essentials? What does it cost to live in Vermont? And what wages are needed to
cover the basic costs? It relied on federal and state data to define the costs and generate the livable wage.
In 1999, a legislative study committee added savings to the basic costs, so the basic needs wage calculated
with this formula is higher than the Peace and Justice study wage. As part of the legislation, the Joint Fiscal Office
updates the data used to calculate the livable wage. In 2000 for a single person the wage was $10.93/hour for urban, 2
working parents with 2 kids required a wage of $13.66, one parent with 1 child needed $18.75. This translates to a
livable annual income of $18,500 - $55,578 depending on family size. At the same time minimum wage in the US is
only $5.15/hour and in Vermont it is $6.25. The study found there is not just one livable wage, but that it depends on
where you live and family size.
The study found that low wages were concentrated in 4 service areas – health, retail, food & beverage, and
education. 45% of the jobs in Vermont are paid less than $10.82 per hour. Education is not the answer to raising
From the notes of participant Nancy Nye, April 12, 2002
income since 41% of VT jobs require short term on the job training, and only 12% of jobs in Vermont require a BA/BS
The Peace and Justice Center is trying to educate the public on what is the livable wage to understand the
Sharon Bushor, Burlington City Councillor
The Burlington City Council was impressed with the Job Gap Study and with the book by Holly Sklar, Raise
the Floor, that described the basic idea of the minimum wage when it was adopted in 1938 to provide a floor for
families and to stimulate the economy. To keep up with inflation and productivity gains since 1938, the minimum
wage today would need to be $24/hour. The City of Burlington responded to the need for creating livable wages by
capping the salaries of the top jobs to create funds to raise the wage levels of traditionally low wage positions. The city
has a pre-qualification ordinance for contractors doing business with the city that examines the wages paid (looks for
Davis Bacon wage levels).
The City of Burlington wants to be a model employer. If you do business with the city you need to pay a
livable wage. The council looked at what other cities were doing on this issue, 50 cities have adopted some type of
livable wage order. The council looked at model ordinances. It believed that income from full time work should meet
basic needs, and not require public assistance. The Council adopted a livable wage ordinance in October 2001, with a
rate of $9.91 per hour or $11.68 without health benefits. The Council focused on the wages for a single individual
since it felt it could not adjust for family size. It will look at the annual Joint Fiscal Committee report to evaluate
whether its wage level is adequate.
The City wanted to include everyone who does business with the city, but it exempted businesses with fewer
than 5 employees or less than $15,000 in contracts with the city. Construction workers were included, union
employees were not covered due to the requirements of collective bargaining. Volunteers, apprentices, and interns are
excluded. The School Department is not included due to their own funding.
For enforcement of the ordinance, the city informs people of their rights. It verifies city contractors wage
rates. If a company violates the ordinance, it cannot do business with the city for two years. The city has some ability
to exempt companies, for example, companies receiving business loans provided by the city are exempt, but are
supposed to have a wage agreement.
Ellen David Friedman, Labor Organizer
Noted her different perspective as a labor organizer. Wages go up when workers organize, and workers
organize to survive. The major gains for workers have come from organizing including the minimum wage,
unemployment insurance, child labor laws, and even weekends.
The 1990s were a period of unprecedented prosperity and stratified wealth creation, but middle income
wages declined. For example, Vermont teachers who earn an average of $36-37,000 with a masters degree and 15
years experience, are making less than in 1973, if adjusted for inflation. The 90s prosperity was fueled by huge debt
on the part of consumers, businesses and institutions and by globalization or the “bigness” economy in which small
businesses and mom & pop businesses can’t benefit.
Thus there has been an increase in organizing in service employment where businesses can’t run away –
especially in health care, social services, and education. Jobs that can’t run away can compel higher wages. In the
public sector, workers have more labor rights, so it is easier and safer to form a union. People have access through their
public officials to labor policies.
Vermont NEA uses the levers in the public sector to improve wage levels in education. In Vermont, there are
8,000 teachers, 2-3,000 administrators and 5,000 para-educators, custodians and other service workers. Those in the
last category average $8,000/year income. NEA promotes a Campaign for a Basic Needs Budget by the legislature,
and makes presentations to local school boards on the livable wage issue. The Livable Jobs Toolkit includes a
compensation plan for how to get to a livable wage.
At UVM, 318 organized service workers have been negotiating with the university. In 3 cycles of
negotiation, the union found 54% do not earn a livable wage and 96% of custodians do not earn a livable
wage. We are trying to get the university to adopt a stepped program, but so far the only offer is for a 1 ½ %
raise. This is what COPC is all about – UVM low-wage workers, most of whom live in the Old North End.
Higher wages would benefit the local economy.
Consumer expenditure surveys show what people spend money on as incomes rise. Food and Beverage
establishments gain from spending as wages rise as more people eat out, although these are some of the
lowest paying employers.
Brattleboro has introduced the idea of a sticker given to businesses that pay livable wages to encourage
people to patronize those establishments. E.g. Brattleboro Savings Bank. It is like the idea of the Childcare
Fund honor roll of businesses.
Building Partnerships for Employee and workforce development
This workshop discussed ways to build partnerships between employers and workforce development
agencies and advocates to provide employment opportunities where they are most needed while meeting institutional
needs for qualified workers. Examples included institution-based mentoring programs for individuals moving from
public assistance into jobs and for those with disabilities, as well as partnerships that greatly increase the information
about job opportunities available to those residents who often have the least access to such information or jobs.
In this workshop, Lynne Budnick discussed UVM efforts to link local job seekers with available positions at
UVM, and to assist other organizations in their workforce development efforts. UVM and the Vermont Department of
Prevention, Assistance, Training and Health Access (PATH) have begun a partnership to provide training and
mentoring for job seekers transitioning into employment. Additionally, UVM human resources personnel and the
Department of Employment and Training conduct mock interviews with job seekers to help prepare them for the
interview process. Finally, UVM has connected with various workforce development agencies and organizations to
provide a tour of job sites and opportunities for job seekers at the University. These efforts were facilitated
substantially by the UVM Impacts Project and the efforts of students in the “UVM and the Local Economy” class.
There was some concern raised on how to reconcile the mentoring and training programs with the objectives
and requirements of labor organization, specifically that the training programs not supplant the role of hired workers in
Several directions for new and continued partnerships and collaborations between organizations were
introduced. Youth organizations were identified as a target category for increased collaboration, as well as small
businesses, vocational rehabilitation organizations and agencies and governmental workforce development programs.
New partnerships that explore ways to subsidize the transition to work were identified as an important next step.
Overall, increased collaboration and connection among workforce development agencies and organizations,
job training programs and local businesses and institutions was identified as a critical step to enhance the success of
Reducing the environmental impacts of institutional expenditures and operations
This workshop described the range of environmental impacts of institutional purchasing and operations and
some of the ways institutions have reduced negative impacts. Examples included internal campaigns to change certain
types of expenditures and operations, choices of materials, methods and design in construction projects, and partnering
to reduce emission of global warning gases through use of co-generation and biomass fuel.
Goia Thompson of the University of Vermont discussed the UVM Environmental Report Card, a report on
UVM’s environmental impacts. Report Card areas include trash and recycling, radioactive waste, water use, land use,
electricity use, heating fuel use, commuting miles and green house gas emissions. Thompson discussed the recent
increase in trash volume (up 21%) and decrease in recycling (down 32%), as well as increases in electricity use (11%)
and green house gas emissions. Thompson addressed the need to set priorities and for UVM to compare its
performance to other institutions, not just to itself over time. Positive impact trends for UVM included a reduction of
projected year 200 energy usage by an estimated 15% due to conservation efforts, a 15% reduction in water usage per
square foot and a 75% reduction in radioactive products. 5
Nan Jenks-Jay of Middlebury college discussed the efforts of the college to minimize the environmental
impacts of its growth through sustainable design, development and construction. Through environmental audits the
college works to learn from each building to improve design efforts. The college uses green standards, partnerships
and a climate that fosters innovation to enhance its efforts to improve the environmental footprint of the campus.
Through deconstruction to reclaim materials, contract requirements for reclaiming and recycling materials and more
responsibility for environmental health placed on the managers, the college is working to reduce material waste.
These efforts resulted in the recovery of 97.4% of the materials from the Old Science Center deconstruction for reuse,
recycling and energy fuel. Co-generation, design of the next building to utilize natural ventilation and avoid air
conditioning and a move toward a goal of being a “carbon-neutral campus” are all ways the college is working to use
less energy. Other goals of the college include increased use of partnerships, soil improvement and decreased light
In response to non-compliance with environmental standards, audits, internal discussion within the college
and an informed community, Middlebury College set target measures to reduce energy use and minimize
environmental impacts. An assessment of prior projects and the college’s needs resulted in a new philosophy and
different strategies for new building.
Middlebury College’s recent and continued expansion has resulted in a need to control growth and minimize
its environmental impacts. Nan Jenks-Jay highlighted the problems facing Middlebury, their current strategies and
some positive outcomes from recent projects.
Middlebury College is the 9th largest business in the state and thus will have a significant impact on the
Vermont economy and environment no matter what.
Thompson, G. (2002) “Environmental impacts of Campus Operations at UVM.” Presentation of data collected by the
UVM Environmental Council.
A science building that had been state of the art in terms of energy efficiency now proves to be one of the
college’s larger demands on energy resources.
Air conditioning in residence halls constitutes a significant drain on energy resources.
The college feeds 2000 people every day, and this results in much waste.
Take the time to reflect on a project to learn from mistakes. Make sure Middlebury gains the knowledge as
opposed to the knowledge only accruing to the professional contractors.
The college’s actions will have an impact on the state’s economy, so they might as well make it positive and
Match philosophy with practice.
Nurture an environment that allows people to try something new without feeling they could be punished for it
Lay the groundwork for a project at the beginning to ensure that all participants understand the goals.
To arrive at the best long-term decision, combine building design and purchasing, and ensure that all the
relevant departments are involved.
A project review committee will make decisions about cost according to the philosophy of long-term
sustainability and efficiency.
Identify areas where the college will not give in regardless of cost (this stems from matching philosophy with
Designs must meet “U.S. green building standards”.
Provide specific guidelines to contractors outlining exactly what the college wants.
Use locally produced materials when possible.
Require contractors to recycle any and all materials that can be recycle or face the consequence of being
Middlebury plans to build its next dormitory without air conditioning to save costs. The building will use
cooling towers, fans and the topography of the landscape.
Middlebury plans to complete an emissions inventory by the end of the year. They will make a
recommendation to make Middlebury College a “carbon neutral” institution in the region.
The college will work on reducing light pollution to keep the rural essence of the town.
Positive Outcomes So Far:
Middlebury requested the purchase of green-certified wood for a library, and the action created a new
industry and market for the wood in Vermont.
The next building constructed will utilize 50% local materials
The new library being constructed will contain lots of wooden chairs and carrels that will be built by a local
Although wood is a very expensive material, Middlebury would not give in and use a cheaper material
because the college is committed to having an environment conducive to learning and inspiration.
When the desired resources proved to be more expensive relative to alternatives, Middlebury could always
find ways to cut costs in other areas.
After lengthy review and processing, the college decided to deconstruct the old science building instead of
demolishing it. They were able to recycle or reuse 97% of the materials from the building.
The college cogenerates 30% of its energy.
Middlebury purchases from Black River Produce and the Vermont Fresh Network and composts 300 tons of
organic waste annually. This saves the college $100,000 in soil amenities. This area benefits from
considerable student involvement.
Lessons learned from the deconstruction of the Old Science Center include:
Designing and constructing appropriate buildings from the start maximizes initial material fiscal resource
investment and provides opportunities for new uses.
Substantial harvesting of material resources is possible through deconstruction
Data collection and learning process component of innovative projects must be included in contract
Rural Vermont lacks infrastructure for local marketing of recovered building materials, could be crested if
the amount of salvaged materials continues or increases6
Loren Doe of the Burlington Electric Department discussed BED initiatives with regard to energy generation,
use and conservation. The Burlington Electric Department is the municipal utility for Burlington. A municipal bond
voted by residents to fund energy efficiency has helped the BED to achieve greater efficiency and Burlington’s energy
usage has declined 5% since 1989.
BED is working to increase its utilization of renewable resources. These include wood chips, natural gas and
wind power. BED sold its Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant share, so nuclear power will no longer be one of its
energy sources. BED operates a thermal energy plant, the McNeil plant, near the Intervale. The plant burns low-grade
trees and wood waste from cities, and uses wood chips from Vermont forests for approximately 70% to 80% of its fuel
needs. In addition to helping the economy by purchasing locally, using low-grade trees contributes to the health of the
BED is in the process of completing the design for a community energy project. The McNeil plant will
co-generate electricity by utilizing the waste heat from the plant. The waste heat will be converted into steam, hot
water or cold water and fed through pipes up to the UVM campus. Co-generating electricity in this manner can
increase the efficiency of power plants between 30% and 80%.
The community energy project will utilize natural gas, biomass or oil. This project will also achieve
efficiencies by replacing separate boilers with a single central unit. Environmental quality will thus be improved, as
UVM will use 35% less fuel for its heating needs. This will provide savings in both emissions and cost. Use of
biomass will avoid the production of 30,000 tons of carbon dioxide. Further, if the wood is harvested sustainably, the
forest can reabsorb all of the carbon dioxide.
The cost savings target is $100,000 per year. Revenue-producing space will increase. The quality, efficiency
and reliability of heating and cooling services will be improved.
Regarding economic development, the price of wood fuel has been steady for 15 years. Twenty percent of fossil fuel
spending will stay in Vermont, and eighty percent of renewable fuel spending will be retained in Vermont.
The timing for this project is favorable, particularly as gas and oil prices are volatile and wholesale power
markets are changing. Additionally, federal and state governments are now showing an interest in renewable energy.
Other Benefits of the Community Energy Model:
Supports sustainable forests
Complements the state’s energy policy (biomass power)
Enhances energy security and independence
These items were quoted from a handout provided to workshop participants by Nan Jenks-Jay of Middlebury College
entitled “Old Science Center Deconstruction”
BED will own and operate the system. The design phase is nearing completion and the proposal has been
accepted. Planning is now underway to secure funding through federal grants. The pipeline will cost six to seven
Linking Local Businesses and Institutional Purchasing
This workshop examined ways to increase local purchasing by Vermont institutions through increased
information to businesses about purchasing opportunities, partnerships with local businesses to meet both purchaser
and vendor needs, and the use of various forms of Buy Vermont policies to guide institutional decision-making.
Robin Miller began the discussion with an overview of the State of Vermont economic development program
ThinkVermont.com. The Government Marketing Assistance Center program began in 1992. In 1997 it took over the
bid opportunity system and in 2000 launched “ThinkVermont.” ThinkVermont enabled businesses to add themselves
to a business registry. Businesses pick keywords and bids also have keywords attached. Emails are sent directly to
local businesses whenever their keywords match the bid’s keywords. Last year 47 local companies received 119
contracts with the help of ThinkVermont. ThinkVermont has expanded into a multipurpose business portal.
Ken Feld introduced the activities of the Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services. This office
purchases all the goods and services for the State of Vermont. Until 2002, purchases of services occurred at the
agency level. Total purchases were $60 million in 2001. The Department of Buildings and General Services can also
purchase for political subdivisions that include municipalities, school districts and state universities and colleges. The
department can offer these organizations the same price and conditions the state receives.
In deciding from whom to purchase the Department of Buildings and General Services is mandated to pursue
“whatever is in the best interest of the state.” Low price tends to be the most important criteria. Other criteria also help
define “the best interest of the state.” According to statute, however, there is no preference given to in-state vendors
over out-of-state vendors. This clause is to prevent possible economic retribution from other states.
In-state purchasing has advantages, though, because costs of transport and freight must be included in
factoring costs. Additionally, statute includes language about preferential purchasing if it will have a positive
economic impact. This criteria, referred to as “Criteria 11”, is not often employed because it is difficult to quantify.
The state does work with local businesses if familiar with their niche. Bid requests will be directed to them in such
David Martin discussed the practices of the UVM Purchasing Department. Six people in his office
coordinate $63 million in purchase-order purchases at UVM as well as act as information providers to the many
decentralized purchasers around campus.
UVM is an instrumentality of the state. This means that they can develop their own policies and procedures but still
take advantage of state prices.
Departments at UVM are free to buy up to $50,000 without a bid process. This change in policy greatly helps
local venders because they are often not as good at writing formal bids. Since the Purchasing office is so small, Martin
considers the students that work with him to be his outreach organization.
Rachel Skelley discussed the role of students in linking local businesses to purchasing opportunities at UVM.
Students provided a lot of leg work to share information with local, primarily ONE businesses, about how to sell to
UVM. The student work, a function of the UVM and the Local/Regional Economy course that came from the UVM
Impacts Project, was integral in much of the recent work undertaken by the Impacts Project.
Nancy Brooks introduced the UVM Impacts Project. This project examines primarily how the University of
Vermont and other institution can use their purchasing power to increase positive local and statewide economic
The UVM/Burlington COPC’s economic impact project’s overall goal has been to develop strategies to
increase the economic benefit the region and the state receives from the University. In time, as the University adopts
some of these strategies it will be modeling behavior that other large businesses and institutions might also want to
The UVM/Burlington COPC has been studying the impacts of UVM’s purchasing. In the process we learned
that in Fiscal Year 2000, over 40% of the purchases came from businesses located out of state. Our targeted Buy
Vermont policy is a proposal to shift, under certain conditions, some of these out-of-state purchases to venders located
The argument for purchasing locally is well known, but in brief: purchasing locally supports local businesses
that buy some supplies and services from other local businesses and who employ local residents. These residents and
other businesses, in turn, may spend their money locally, creating a multiplier effect that can translate each dollar of
initial local purchases into a larger amount of final economic transactions. Local purchasing also reduces
transportation costs and the energy use and pollution that might entail.
The argument against purchasing locally is that some needed goods and services may not be provided locally
or, if provided, may be more costly, of lower quality, take longer to get to the purchaser or not be available in sufficient
Consequently, we realize that there may be tradeoffs between UVM’s short run profitability and the benefits
of more local purchasing. Moreover, we realize that UVM can increase its positive impact on the local community and
economy in other ways other than through its purchasing. For example, instead of buying higher priced goods from
local vender, UVM could use those resources to increase the wages of its lowest paid workers. For these reasons, we
support a Buy (more in) Vermont program that is targeted toward the local industries that can be expected to produce
the largest positive impacts on economic growth, stability, and quality of jobs.
How, though, do we figure out which local industries should be targeted? We used our rich knowledge of the
University’s purchasing patterns as a case study. Garrett Kimberly discussed that data. In order to determine how
UVM purchasing can best impact the Vermont economy, we looked at the industrial sectors from which the University
purchases. We compared the rate at which the University purchases from a sector within the state, and the level at
which that sector impacts the local economy.
For example, if the University buys an apple from a local farmer, it’s making a local purchase in the
‘Deciduous Fruit Tree Sector.’ If it buys an apple from Washington State, it’s making an out of state purchase in the
‘Deciduous Fruit Tree Sector.’ If the ‘Deciduous Fruit Tree Sector’ has the potential to significantly impact the local
economy, and the University buys its apples from Washington, then we’d like to see those purchases move in-state.
The University is already purchasing food locally. How, then, do we determine which industries to target?
The University makes a substantial number of purchases, so we limited our examination to purchases of $750
and greater. Fiscal year 2000 was the most recent year that data was available at the time we began the research. In
FY2000 the University made approximately 8,800 individual purchases totaling about $136 million. We had to cull
some of the data; about $23 million were purchases from individual contractors (so we couldn’t identify a sector),
about $5 million were international purchases (so we couldn’t get economic data) and, about $4 million worth of
records were incomplete. We also combined multiple purchases to the same vendor. We were thus left with a list of
2620 vendors accounting for about $104 million in purchases. This equates to 76% of all purchases of $750 and
We then designated each vendor as either in or out of state. For the most part we simply used UVM’s
designation, which reflects the headquarters of the vendor. In a few cases, we re-designated based upon our
understanding of the vendor’s impact on the local economy. For example, Sudhexo Marriott is headquartered out of
state, but it employs over a hundred Vermonters and purchases food locally when possible. Therefore, we recoded it
as an in-state vendor.
We then aggregated vendors and purchases by their sector. To do this we used the standard industrial
classifications assigned by the vendors and the IRS.
The University makes purchases across 382 sectors, as diverse as: ‘Deciduous Fruit Trees,’ ‘Highway and
Street Construction,’ ‘Surgical and Medical Instruments,’ ‘Home Furnishings,’ ‘Sporting Goods,’ and ‘Legal
Services.’ Overall, about half the purchases are made within the state.
Once we had a sense of the sectors that UVM purchased from, and to what degree they purchased in and out
of state from each sector, we sought to describe the potential economic impact of each sector.
For each sector we examined five characteristics: 1. its size in Vermont and the U.S., 2. its growth rate
relative to the sector nationally, 3. its ability to stimulate the Vermont economy relative to other sectors in Vermont, 4.
its average wage for non-supervisory workers in Vermont, and 5. its concentration within Vermont (that is, is it a
sector of many small firms or dominated by a few large firms?).
Now, these five characteristics (size, growth, stimulation, concentration, and wage) give us a sense of the
relative impact each sector has on the local economy. We can compare this level of impact with the rate at which
UVM purchases in-state from each sector.
This brings us back to our original question, “How can the University of Vermont use its purchasing power to
increase its local economic impact?” Nancy Brooks discussed how comparing a sectors impact with the University
purchasing behavior helps us answer that question.
Brooks focused on just two of the five characteristics identified. They are: 1) the multiplier, which is a
measure of how much an additional dollar of expenditures in a sector stimulates the overall Vermont economy, and 2)
the average wages paid in that sector.
We sorted the 362 sectors by these two characteristics and ranked them then added the ranks and divided the
data into 6 groups.
Ranking of Average Wages and Multipliers by the Percentage of Purchases In-State
Low High Totals
Low in-state purchases 91 sectors 70 sectors 161 sectors
(0-10%) (43%) (46%) (45%)
Medium in-state purchases 47 sectors 34 sectors 81 sectors
(11-89%) (23%) (22%) (22%)
High in-state purchases 72 sectors 48 sectors 120 sectors
(90-100%) (34%) (32%) (33%)
Totals 210 sectors 152 sectors 362 sectors
(100%) (100%) (100%)
The 48 sectors in the bottom right are in-state businesses that pay high wages and have big multiplier effects. UVM
should be praised for those purchases. Our primary goal, though, is to look at the sectors in the low-high and the
medium-high categories. Are there purchases in these categories that could be shifted in-state without much
additional cost to the University?
In some areas, this is unlikely. For example, “Periodicals” is one of the sectors in the low-high section. Those
periodicals must be purchased from wherever they are published.
Another example is the computers, peripherals and software sector. As IBM has moved out of the personal
computing market, UVM purchases more PCs from Dell and other out-of-state suppliers.
On the other hand, while UVM currently purchases much of its professional, technical and electronic
equipment from out-of-state, as new high technology businesses start up locally, UVM could greatly benefit not just
these new businesses but help stimulate the broader economy if it shifted some of its out-of-state purchases to these
Soon, every time UVM purchasers make a purchase they will know what impact that purchase would have if
it were done locally. Purchasers can then use that additional information when they are balancing tradeoffs in their
General discussion and comments from the audience:
Vermont economic development plans should be coordinated with their purchasing activities.
Link research and development activities and economic development goals with some muscle from
If price for local goods is too high, perhaps R&D could address some of the barriers preventing those goods
from being cost-effective.
Linking Institutional Purchasing and the Vermont Food Sector
This workshop discussed actual and potential linkages and partnerships between Vermont institutions and the
Vermont food sector. Topics included applying Cornerstone Project lessons (see workshop #2) to the food sector,
forming networks to promote institutional buying, university efforts to buy local food, and initiatives to increase local
food purchasing throughout the public school system.
Wayne Fawbush, of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, discussed the agricultural sector in Vermont and the
successes and challenges facing its further integration. Fawbush identified the need to develop a “long term meaning”
for agriculture in the state, as opposed to commodity agriculture over which farmers have little control. Fawbush
identified niche markets as a strength for Vermont producers, and advocated for increased attention to value-added
products in Vermont agriculture. Fawbush identified three major challenges to improving the sustainability of
agriculture in Vermont:
Need to develop infrastructure- create conditions under which producers can add value to products,
allowing more producers to remain in the industry.
Volume- Vermont is good at serving niche specialty markets. There is not enough volume currently
to deal with institutional demand.
Consistency of volume and quality
Fawbush indicated that there are projects working to connect value-added producers in Vermont, but that further steps
are needed to address these challenges. Finally, Fawbush identified three major steps toward resolving these
challenges, as follows:
Deal with agriculture as an economic sector to better provide support and improve development
Invest in the agricultural sector on a level equal to that given the manufacturing sector
Find a market that farmers have more control over and access to (i.e. specialty markets, local
Charles Sargent, Food Service Purchaser for Middlebury College, discussed the efforts of the college to
purchase local food, as well as some of the challenges facing local food production and distribution. Middlebury
College purchases locally for foods from apples to pasta and edible flowers. Sargent discussed the need for a local
“peel and slice” food processing facility for local growers to improve their capacity to serve local consumption needs.
Enid Wonnacott, of the Northeast Organic Farming Association and a board member of the Vermont Fresh
network, discussed school nutrition and the importance of early and continuing education for children on the
importance of agriculture. Wonnacott discussed efforts to bring local food into the school system. While schools are
feeding children two to three times every day, Wonnacott felt that nutrition was not a dominant agenda in school
curricula. Wonnacott identified several perceived and real barriers to increasing the reliance of schools upon locally
produced food. The perceived barriers for primary and secondary schools using local foods were cost effectiveness,
seasonal availability and reliability of volume. Wonnacott identified as a real barrier only the “hassle of ordering.” To
address these barriers, Wonnacott identified a number of actions:
In-service food training in the summer for staff
View cooks as faculty, as in Huntington
Mentor programs with exceptional cooks
Seasonal menus that meet dietary guidelines
Pro-active legislative initiatives
Farmers forming a collective to sell to schools
Lindsey Ketchell, of the Intervale Foundation and President of the Vermont Fresh Network discussed the
activities of the Vermont Fresh Network and the Intervale Foundation incubator program. The Vermont Fresh
Network connects chefs with local farmers in handshake agreements to feature local food in menus. According to
Ketchell, 20% of the food in Vermont Fresh Advertised Eateries is locally produced. The Network improves
communication and links between busy chefs and farmers, and provides as a research and product database and
catalyst through its regional meetings. The Network is improving restaurant participation and consumer education,
but is still working on infrastructure and distribution issues. Currently, distributors are active vendors (Black River
Produce, Squash Valley, and Burlington Food Service).
The Intervale Foundation incubator program provides an advisory council for farmers and is developing an
ecologically designed food processing center with a community kitchen, co-packing facility and interim processing,
conduit and aggregate supply.
Topics for discussion extended to the roundtable sessions and included:
The education of school children as a way to exonerate adults of the burden of social responsibility
The Local Food Web and the important role faith organizations could play in that
Commercial distributors in schools (e.g. Domino's Pizza)
Division between the northern and southern regions of Vermont
Livable Jobs: Improving Employment Conditions to Meet Local Needs
This workshop examined ways that institutions can improve their employment conditions and opportunities
and serve themselves and the local community in the process. Topics included an overview of strategies to make jobs
more livable, ways to enhance entry level jobs to better meet the needs of non-native speaking employees, increasing
usage of benefits and movement up the organization by lower wage employees, and presenting model small business
practices that institutions can learn from.
The University of Vermont offers employees a variety of benefits to improve employment conditions and
develop the local workforce. The Individual Development Plan offered to employees through the Human Resources
department provides a mechanism for employees to develop a plan for their career advancement with the assistance of
the IDP program specialists. Education benefits are included in the University compensation package for many
employees. In the fall of 2001, students worked with the IDP program to develop a multi-lingual brochure describing
the program for employees whose first language is not English, and developed a list-serve for distribution of other
information about IDP and related activities to employees.
Additionally, the University offers ESL training for employees who do not speak English as their first
language. The development of computer literacy training, particularly in the lower wage grade sectors of the
University is another way that the University offers employees opportunities for personal and professional
Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility offers a variety of strategies for improving employment
conditions through its website, www.vbsr.org. These include leave plans, employee morale strategies, employee
wellness and safety strategies, equal opportunity, employee surveys and exit interviews and conflict management.
Stacy Mitchell- Presentation on Local Ownership and Import Substitution
Two years ago, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance convened a conference in Minnesota. We called it the Place
Matters conference and invited the directors of a wide range of place-based enterprises and institutions: the local
bookseller, pharmacist, hardware dealer, community banker, representatives of public libraries, community colleges,
local hospitals, credit unions, independent media outlets, food coops, family farmers, and neighborhood organizations.
Several lessons emerged that day during what proved to be a very lively conversation.
First, place-based businesses and institutions of all kinds---whether its local bookstore or community hospital---face
very similar challenges brought on by concentrated economic power, changing technologies, and by public policies
that almost always favor their big competitors.
Second, place-based enterprises and institutions are interdependent. They are connected in innumerable ways by a
whole web of economic activity. Local retailers do business with the community bank, which in turn is a major source
of loans for small businesses and family farmers. Prosperous farms in turn support downtown merchants. Community
institutions like colleges and libraries both rely on and enrich the local economy. The well-being and success of any of
these sectors inherently benefits the others. Likewise, the failure of any sector undermines the viability of all the
Finally, we learned that, although each of these sectors is struggling, together they still represent a substantial segment
of the economy. By joining forces and finding ways to cooperate, place-based enterprises could not only help to ensure
one another's survival but initiate substantial changes in the structure and operation of local economies.
In America, we are hypnotized by the idea that bigger is both better and inevitable. But in fact, it's amazing just how
little evidence there is to support the conventional wisdom. There's a powerful case to be made that small scale and
locally owned is dynamic, cost-effective, and a far superior choice in almost every sector of the economy.
Consider banks for example. We've been through a decade of massive bank mergers, at every turn told that
consolidation creates efficiencies and lowers costs for consumers. Studies commissioned by the Federal Reserve,
however, have found that banks reach their peak efficiency at about $750 million in assets. Above that, they actually
become less efficient. Yet our economy is now dominated by banks many times this size. Nearly 70 percent of all
deposits are held by banks with more than $10 billion in assets.
Nor has consolidation has been good for consumers. In its annual survey of bank fees, the Federal Reserve finds year
after year that large banks charge significantly higher fees. Monthly fees on checking accounts, for example, are about
35 percent higher at banks with assets of more than $1 billion, compared to those with assets of less than $100 million.
And big banks provide far less support to community-based businesses. The Federal Reserve has found that small
banks account more than 80 percent of all commercial loans made to very small businesses.
Or consider the case of schools. An extensive and compelling body of research has concluded that large schools breed
alienation and violence, sever the role of parents and neighbors and undermine student achievement. Students at small
schools have higher test scores and attendance rates. They participate more in extracurricular activities, and are more
likely to graduate and go on to college than are students at large schools. But, despite the evidence, most districts
continue to pursue consolidation. Two-fifths of the nation's high schools now enroll more than 1,000 students. Some
schools have as many as 5,000 students and enrollments of 2,000-3,000 are common.
Or consider farms. Food that is produced and processed locally is safer and more nutritious. It requires far less in the
way of fossil fuels to reach our plates. And in many cases, it is less expensive. During the three years in which the
Northeast Dairy Compact was in effect the program added about a nickel to the cost of a gallon of milk and
substantially reduced the rate of failure among New England's dairy farms. Congress killed the Compact last fall, in
part because of the cost to consumers. But losing our local dairies is likely to be far more expensive. Importing milk
from the Midwest costs about 50 cents a gallon. In Florida, where local dairy farms have all disappeared, consumers
pay 20 percent more for milk than we do in the northeast.
Small, local enterprises are also wildly popular. According to a study by Wilson Health, consumers who fill their
prescriptions at independent pharmacies report significantly higher levels of satisfaction compared to those who
patronize chain, supermarket, and mail order pharmacies. A Consumer Reports survey found that independent
bookstores not only out-rank their Internet and chain store competitors, but their exceptionally high ratings put them
"on a par with the highest-rated stores from any Consumer Reports survey in recent years."
Small-scale, locally owned enterprises are not only cost-effective and efficient, but they also build community and
nurture democracy. When Alexis de Toqueville toured America in 1831, he concluded that one of the key reasons for
the vitality of our democracy was the strength of our local enterprises and institutions. "Without power and
independence," he wrote, "a town may contain good subjects but it can contain no active citizens."
More recently, Dr. Thomas Lyson of Cornell University examined 225 counties nationwide, comparing those with
economies dominated by a few large corporations to those with many small, local enterprises. He found that counties
dominated by big businesses had greater income inequality, fewer owner-occupied homes, higher levels of worker
disability, lower educational outcomes, and higher crime rates. Not only did the small business counties score higher
on all of these socioeconomic measures, they had a larger independent middle class. This in turn led to higher rates of
civic engagement, as measured by voter turnout and membership in various civic and community associations.
In almost every sector the evidence is the same. Small-scale, locally owned enterprises are dynamic and cost-effective;
they are popular; and they provide community benefits unmatched by their big competitors.
Why then are so many small, local enterprises struggling, and all too often, failing to survive? The answer, I believe,
lies in the overwhelming bias in the economic and political system against sustainable, self-reliant communities. Land
use and transportation policies encourage "big box" and chain store sprawl, while undermining local retailers and
downtown commerce. Federal farm policies support the expansion of factory farms and global agribusiness at the
expense of small-scale agriculture and local food systems. Energy policies foster large, centralized, dirty power plants
and inhibit decentralized, renewable technologies.
How might we do the opposite? How might we design public policies to support, rather than undermine, strong,
sustainable local economies and healthy communities?
Four years ago, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance launched a program called the New Rules Project with the goal of
identifying and building support for public policies that foster sustainable and economically self-reliant communities.
The centerpiece of the project is an on-line clearinghouse at www.newrules.org of more than 200 innovative policies
that activists and elected officials can download and implement in their own communities.
Let me give you a just a few examples of the kinds of policies we're advocating. Two states---Nebraska and South
Dakota---as well as ten townships in central Pennsylvania have adopted laws that bar agribusiness corporations from
owning farmland or engaging in farming. A recent analysis found that these communities have faired much better
economically in recent years than similar communities in states not protected by anti-corporate farming laws.
Many communities are starting to use their purchasing power to support local agriculture. They are adopting policies
that see sustainability and self-reliance as two equal and interrelated goals. The city of Berkeley, for example, requires
that it school system serve food that is both organic and locally grown. Just a few weeks ago, the state of Missouri
enacted a law that gives school districts financial incentives to run their buses on biodiesel, a fuel derived from
soybeans and other vegetable oils. Not only does the policy encourage them to use a less-polluting fuel, but the finical
incentives apply only if the biodiesel is purchased from a farmer-owned cooperative.
Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of communities have taken steps in the last few years to curb the proliferation of national
chain stores and adopt policies that support local merchants. In January, Hood River, Oregon adopted an ordinance
banning stores over 50,000 square feet, meaning no Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Target, or other big box superstores will
invade this rural community. The town of Warwick, New York recently revised its Comprehensive Plan so that it now
calls for supporting "small, locally owned businesses and retail centers" and encouraging "alternatives to typical
modern highway oriented commercial development." Other communities, like Coronado, California, have adopted
local laws that outlaw uniformity by banning the proliferation of "formula" restaurants and retail chains.
Elsewhere, states are adopting policies that ensure that communities receive the maximum value from their local
resources. Idaho requires that any timber harvested from state-owned lands must be processed into lumber within the
state. This prevents what often happens, which is that the timber is shipped out of state, even out of the country, for
processing---and the community receives only a fraction of the value and the jobs associated with its forest resources.
Local communities are taking action on energy and climate change. Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington have
adopted Kyoto locally, vowing to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels. San Francisco residents
have voted to install solar cells on many city rooftops. States, like Minnesota and Wisconsin, have adopted strong net
metering laws that allow consumers to install solar cells or high efficiency microgenerators and sell the power back to
the grid for the going retail rate. Such policies foster decentralized production and local control, and obviate the need
for Dick Cheney's fantasy of building one new power plant every day.
As you may have noticed, all of these innovative policies have been initiated by local or state governments. One of the
biggest challenges I think this movement faces is to block the growing inclination by the federal government and
international bodies like the WTO to preempt local and state policy-making authority.
Beyond government policy, place-based enterprises and institutions are also finding ways to change their own
practices and to work together to enhance one another's viability.
In Tucson, Arizona, more than forty independent restaurants got together two years ago and started a joint buying
program that has reduced their food costs by about 15 percent, helping them better compete against chain restaurants.
Independent bookstores nationwide have created an e-commerce site called Booksense.com that works much like
Amazon, but every time you buy a book, the sale is credited to your nearest locally owned bookstore.
In Boulder, Colorado, more than 150 businesses organized the Boulder Independent Business Alliance and launched a
broad public education campaign to promote the benefits of supporting locally owned businesses. The group also
works to ensure that its members support one another through their own purchasing practices.
Farmers across the country meanwhile are forming new processing and manufacturing cooperatives to ensure that the
full value of their crops stays in the local community. South Dakota soybean farmers realized a few years ago that they
were selling most of their crop out of state for processing and buying about half of it back in the form of livestock feed.
So they pooled their resources and built a plant to process soybeans locally. More recently, they began to manufacture
urethane plastics derived from soybean oil, providing a lucrative and viable alternative to petrochemical based
The movement to build more economically self-reliant communities holds within it the potential to solve many of our
most pressing problems. Tens of thousands of rooftop solar cells and windmills don't lend themselves to terrorist
attacks---unlike nuclear power plants and oil pipelines. Localizing commerce reduces the amount of fossil fuel it takes
to move goods from factories and farms to store and households. And when the output of production is in one's own
backyard, consumers are more likely to choose sustainable products and demand strict pollution controls.
Decentralizing ownership also means a more equitable distribution of resources and decision-making power, and
ultimately a more vibrant democracy.