Montpelier- March 29, 2022—The Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance (VOBA) received a $150,000 grant, part of the $5 million in grants announced today as part of the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC) Community Grant Program.
The VOBA grants will go toward workforce development and business assistance in the outdoor recreation sector in Washington, Caledonia, and Rutland Counties.
“The prosperity of Vermont’s outdoor businesses – from specialty retailers to trail building companies and outdoor gear and apparel manufacturers – relies on special places in every community where residents and visitors can walk, bike, boat, fish, hunt, ski, and get outside,” said Kelly Ault, executive director of VOBA. “The VOREC grant program is not only connecting recreation assets to downtowns but through VOBA’s award allows local businesses to employ a skilled workforce and scale up their delivery of quality goods and services to growing numbers of outdoor participants.”
The VOREC grant will enable VOBA to bring together businesses and education partners for developing professional training programs based on needs identified by businesses – especially in the trades – leading to employment or placement in experiential learning with Vermont companies. The grant will also allow for business assistance that strengthens linkages between recreation places and downtowns. VOBA will focus its project in the communities of St. Johnsbury, Lyndonville, Montpelier, Randolph, Poultney, Killington, and Castleton.
The VOBA project will establish employer/education talent pipelines for technical outdoor occupations such as trail building, bicycle mechanics, and outdoor gear and apparel manufacturing. Adult professionals and students will gain industry-accredited certifications, training, and access to internships/apprenticeships that advance outdoor career pathways. The availability of a skilled workforce will ensure that outdoor businesses can provide the goods and services necessary for quality experiences in the outdoors by Vermonters and visitors.
“VOBA’s efforts with education will establish options for professional training in sustainable trail building that not only supports companies building projects in the near term but will provide skilled employees for the growing number of new builders going out on their own or crews being hired for maintenance in the future,” said Josh Ryan, owner of Timber & Stone, VOBA Member, and VOREC Steering Committee Member. “Higher skill levels will ensure stewardship and career opportunities for the trade of trail construction.”
VOBA will facilitate technical assistance in the form of outdoor experts and mentors to a select group of startup entrepreneurs or existing businesses. This support of unique expansion opportunities linked to new participation and legacy recreation infrastructure, will lead to new strategies for operations, human resources, or marketing to grow local businesses. This capacity building means better gear, services, and amenities for customers in downtowns and villages, further positioning communities as outdoor recreation hubs. VOBA has played a key role in helping to publicize and support outdoor recreation and its related businesses in some of the regions where VOREC grants have been awarded in the last two years.
“Outdoor retailers are facing an ongoing shortage of workers, especially for technical positions such as bike mechanics,” said Jen Roberts, co-owner of Onion River Outdoors in Montpelier. “VOBA’s work to establish training and intern/apprentice options helps shops fill positions so they can support cyclists and others getting outdoors locally.”
VOBA’s work with businesses in specific communities establishes a workforce and economic foundation that offers statewide benefit. “From its inception, the goal of the VOREC grant program has been to inspire and support big outdoor recreation ideas in all corners of Vermont,” said Drew Simmons, President of Pale Morning Media, VOBA Board Chair, and VOREC Steering Committee Member. “Each of the 24 projects supported by the 2022 VOREC grant program are unique in their combination of natural resources, recreation infrastructure, and community priorities. And in combination, the sum of these projects has the potential to be a significant economic driver in the state for generations.”
The VOBA workforce and technical assistance project was selected from among 100+ applicants across the state for the FY22 VOREC Community Grant Program awards. In 2017, Governor Scott created VOREC with an executive order to promote the stewardship of Vermont’s recreation assets and help grow the outdoor sector. The VOREC Community Grant Program awarded $300,000 in 2019 and 2020 to 9 communities and expanded the program to $5 million in 2021.
“Healthy and safe communities are places of opportunity,” said Hal Ellms, principal of Pinnacle Outdoor Group, VOBA Member, and VOREC Steering Committee Member. “They are places that we want to live in and take care of, they are places where people want to visit and vacation. These are the values that the VOREC Community Grant Program celebrates.”
The Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance (VOBA) is a nonprofit business organization that networks, educates, and provides development services to businesses, organizations, and individuals working to strengthen, expand, attract, and retain outdoor recreation economy businesses in Vermont.
VOBA works to educate Vermonters about outdoor recreation and to educate Vermont outdoor recreation businesses about business development initiatives, collaboration opportunities, and outdoor recreation economy policy. VOBA’s priority areas for 2022 include workforce development, justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, and sector branding. For more info: VermontOutdoorBusinessAlliance.org
The Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC) was established in 2017 by an executive order of Governor Scott as a public/private initiative to leverage Vermont’s outdoor recreation assets, to drive economic development in the outdoor sector, and help grow Vermont’s economy.
VOREC’s five goals are to grow outdoor recreation-related businesses; increase participation in outdoor recreation activities among all demographics; strengthen the quality and extent of outdoor recreation resources; increase stewardship of outdoor recreation resources and environmental quality; and promote and enjoy the health and wellness benefits of outdoor recreation. For more info: Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative
Opening photo: Governor Phil Scott announces the 2022 VOREC grant winners at the Danville train station.