Notes From Outside the Box
June 2017  

Vermont Rural Innovation Hub

Ideas spin in Vermont. When it comes to getting connected across the state's innovation sector, a new web-based tool has recently come to life: the Vermont Rural Innovation Hub.
So, how does it work? A "host" posts a question or a thought-provoking statement to start a thread. The site changes rapidly, as people join the conversation and discussions begin. Current hosts include Lars Hasselblad Torres, executive director of The Generator in Burlington and member of the Creative Network Steering Team, and Matt Dunne, former candidate for governor.
The home page features three articles. Two speak directly to the creative sector world:  A Map of All Development Resources in Vermont and Building an Economy ... the Rural Way.
In the latter, host Alex Kelley explains that it is a resource for innovators, community leaders, and developers. The possibilities on what to ask or share are endless, he insists. For example: 
  • "Does anyone have experience winning a grant from the USDA? 
  • Check out this article about a tech company in small town Iowa. They employed some really creative strategies to attract talent. 
  • What is the best way to find a distributor in Brazil? 
  • Where can I have a meeting for 6 people in Townshend?"
The network requires an invitation to join, but membership is not exclusive. Kelley provides a link in case his readers know someone who could contribute to or benefit from the information on the site. He expresses his hopes for the Innovation Hub: "If this works as planned, we'll have a bustling hub for rural development resources in the state that connects individuals and organizations together."

Mark your calendar now!
Save the Dates

The second Vermont Creative Network Summit is planned for Wednesday and Thursday, November 8 and 9, at the State House in Montpelier.
Watch for more information as the dates approach.
At the most recent Network Steering Team meeting, a Summit planning task force was created. Working in tandem with Vermont Arts Council events planners, Summit plans include advancing vital policy issues for the 2018 legislative session.
USDA Grant News

The Creative Network is the very recent recipient of a $25,000 USDA Rural Business Development Grant for a creative economy study project in the Northeast Kingdom. These funds will contribute to a project, based on a similar economic report completed in east central Vermont, that will map assets and opportunities for the creative sector in Vermont's three northeastern counties: Caledonia, Essex, and Orleans.

The Network has begun initial conversations with Kane Consulting, Northampton, MA, the group who conducted the study in east central Vermont. Work will include multiple community forums and planning sessions, community asset mapping, research, and a final report.
Image provided by
Americans for the Arts
Arts and Business Collaborate
"There's a movement afoot across the country," claims Americans for the Arts (AFTA). What they are referring to may surprise you: lately there is increased acknowledgement that the arts foster creativity, innovation, and productivity in the business world. This is no surprise to those with naturally creative minds, but it has taken considerable effort to get the idea to the mainstream. Thankfully, AFTA has done its homework.
The relatively new program, entitled the pARTnership movement, provides resources for businesses and arts organizations to engage with each other. The main landing page is for businesses, and gives eight reasons why these partnerships are favorable. There's a blog with examples of successful partnerships as well as social media and news sections to stay up to date. But there is also a page for arts organizations, which includes promotional materials, webinars, and business toolkits. Whether you need statistical or anecdotal evidence that partnership works, they've got it all. Explore the site, add your organization as a partner, and share your story at

Vermont Creative Network Action Roadmap 
Community | Education | Funding 
Leadership | Technical Resources | Visibility

Maker and Co-Working Spaces Get Priority in State Tax Credit Program
Maker and co-working spaces have become increasingly popular in communities across Vermont. It makes sense, as they are an affordable option for start-ups, promote creative collaboration, and provide new companies with a degree of professionalism they would not have working from home. By supporting entrepreneurs, these spaces foster new businesses, help create jobs, and bring vitality to downtowns. Vermont's Downtown Development Board recently approved changes to the downtown and village center tax credit program to give priority consideration to maker and co-working spaces.
Tax credits are an important funding tool to restore older and historic buildings, leverage private investment, create jobs, and jump -start the revitalization process in designated downtowns and villages statewide. In 2016, the program awarded $2.25 million in incentives for 21 projects, supporting over $47 million in construction and rehabilitation projects, and leveraging $20 for each $1 in credits awarded. This year, the governor and the General Assembly also supported a $200,000 increase in funding, which brings the annual total to $2.4 million.
For additional information about the tax credit program, contact Caitlin Corkins via email or at  802-828-3047.
--contributed by Gary Holloway, downtown program coordinator, Community Planning and Revitalization, Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development

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