Photos courtesy of VOREC, Onion River Outdoors, Timber & Stone, Kaden Apparel
Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance (VOBA) received a $150,000 grant from the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC) Community Grant Program for workforce development and business support in the outdoor recreation sector in Washington, Caledonia and Rutland counties.
“The prosperity of Vermont’s outdoor businesses—from specialty retailers to trail builders and manufacturers of outdoor gear and apparel—depends on special places in each community where residents and visitors walk, bike, boat, fish , hunt, ski and get outside. ‘ said Kelly Ault, executive director of VOBA. “The VOREC grant program not only connects recreational facilities with inner cities, but through VOBA’s recognition, enables local businesses to hire skilled workers and expand their delivery of quality goods and services to a growing number of outdoor participants.”
The VOREC grant will allow VOBA to bring together businesses and education partners to develop professional training programs based on the needs identified by businesses – particularly in the trades – leading to employment or placement in experiential learning with Vermont businesses. The grant also enables support for businesses that strengthen links between recreation areas and inner cities. VOBA will focus its project on the communities of St. Johnsbury, Lyndonville, Montpelier, Randolph, Poultney, Killington and Castleton.
human resource development
The VOBA project will establish employer/training talent pipelines for technical outdoor jobs such as track construction, bike mechanics, and outdoor gear and apparel manufacturing. Adult professionals and students receive industry-accredited certifications, training and access to internships/apprenticeships that advance outdoor career paths. The availability of a skilled workforce will ensure outdoor businesses can provide the goods and services needed to provide quality outdoor experiences for Vermonters and visitors.
“VOBA’s educational efforts will create opportunities for professional training in sustainable trail construction that not only supports short-term construction projects by companies, but also provides qualified employees for the growing number of new builders going into business for themselves or crews hiring for maintenance will be the future,” said Josh Ryan, owner of Timber & Stone, VOBA member and VOREC Steering Committee member. “Higher skill levels will ensure responsibility and career opportunities for the road construction profession.”
VOBA will provide technical support in the form of outdoor experts and mentors to a select group of startup entrepreneurs or existing companies. This support of unique expansion opportunities coupled with new equity and legacy recovery infrastructure will result in new operational, human resources or marketing strategies to grow local businesses. This capacity building means better equipment, services and amenities for downtown and village customers and further positions communities as outdoor recreation centers.
“Outdoor retailers face an ongoing labor shortage, particularly for technical positions like bike mechanics,” said Jen Roberts, co-owner of Onion River Outdoors in Montpelier. “VOBA’s work to establish training and internship/apprenticeship options is helping shops fill positions so they can support cyclists and others locally getting outdoors.”
VOBA’s work with businesses in specific communities creates a workforce and economic base that delivers benefits nationwide. “The goal of the VOREC grant program from the beginning has been to inspire and support great outdoor recreation ideas in every corner of Vermont,” said Drew Simmons, President of Pale Morning Media, VOBA Board Chairman and VOREC Steering Committee member. “Each of the 24 projects supported by the VOREC 2022 grant program is unique in its combination of natural resources, recreational infrastructure and community priorities. And when combined, the sum of these projects has the potential to be a major economic engine in the country for generations to come.”
The VOBA Manpower and Technical Support Project was selected from over 100 applicants statewide for the FY22 VOREC Community Grant Program Awards. In 2017, Governor Scott created VOREC with an executive order to help govern Vermont’s recreational facilities and support the growth of the outdoor sector. The VOREC Community Grant Program awarded $300,000 to 9 communities in 2019 and 2020, expanding the program to $5 million in 2021.
“Healthy and safe communities are places of opportunity,” said Hal Ellms, director of Pinnacle Outdoor Group, VOBA member and VOREC steering committee member. “They are places we want to live and take care of, they are places 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 connects, educates, and provides development services to businesses, organizations, and individuals working to strengthen, expand, attract, and retain Vermont outdoor recreation businesses.
VOBA works to educate Vermonters about outdoor recreation and to educate Vermont outdoor recreation companies about business development initiatives, collaboration opportunities and economic policies for outdoor recreation. Priority areas of VOBA for 2022 include people development, equity, equity, diversity and inclusion, and industry branding. For more information: VermontOutdoorBusinessAlliance.org
The Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC) was formed in 2017 by order of Governor Scott as a public-private initiative to leverage Vermont’s outdoor recreational resources, advance economic development in the outdoor sector, and contribute to the growth of Vermont’s economy.
VOREC’s five goals are the growth of outdoor leisure businesses; increasing participation in outdoor leisure activities among all population groups; strengthening the quality and scope of outdoor recreational resources; improving management of outdoor recreational resources and environmental quality; and promote and enjoy the health and wellness benefits of outdoor recreation. For more information: Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative
Montpelier – March 29, 2022 – The Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance