Vermonters Wanted: How Vermont Is Turning Tourists Into Residents
Want to live in Vermont? The state's new "Stay to Stay" program sets weekend visitors up with home tours, job interviews and networking events to help them make the move.
It might happen when you catch a glimpse of a particularly stunning vista from the ski lift. Or when you’re wandering through a farmers’ market on the brick-lined streets of a historic town. It might happen when you’re in the middle of an outdoor yoga retreat. Or maybe when you take your first sip of a flight of local ciders.
But at some point during your trip to Vermont, you will probably look around and say, “Wow, I wish I could live here.”
Here’s some good news: Vermont wants you to live there too. And thanks to an innovative new partnership between Vermont’s Departments of Tourism and Economic Development, and local businesses and real estate agents, your next weekend trip to Vermont can be the first step toward making that dream a reality.
The state recently launched its “Stay to Stay” weekend program as a way to encourage visitors to take real steps toward relocating. Part vacation, part professional networking event, part relocation boot camp, the program aims to help visitors become residents by providing some answers to commonly asked questions like “Where will I work?” and “Where should I live?”
“We have 13 million visitors that come here each year,” says Wendy Knight, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing. “We already know that people come to Vermont as visitors first, and a lot of them would like to stay. When they come for the weekend, we want to connect them with people to help them really see themselves here.”
Vermont will be hosting four Stay to Stay weekends this year, in three different cities around the state: Brattleboro, Manchester and Rutland. All the weekends follow a similar structure, while highlighting opportunities and attractions specific to each city.
Guests begin the weekend with a Friday evening welcome reception attended by community leaders, city officials, entrepreneurs and local business leaders. This event provides ample networking opportunities and allows guests to mingle with locals and ask questions about life in Vermont. “Guests can make connections on Friday that they can continue throughout the weekend,” says Knight.
Saturdays and Sundays are left open so visitors can explore on their own just like they would during any other weekend getaway. The Stay to Stay website provides suggestions for activities in the city but visitors create their own itinerary, underscoring the fact that this program is not a guided tour, but rather a free (and invaluable) add-on to your Vermont vacation.
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On Monday morning, visitors get the opportunity to meet more people who can help make their move to Vermont a reality. They can choose between touring some local neighborhoods and housing options with a realtor, meeting with potential employers who are looking for new talent, or visiting a co-maker/generator space to speak with entrepreneurs about the creative economy. Employers and maker spaces that have signed on to participate include GE Aviation, Green Mountain Creamery, The Vermont Country Store, Mondo Mediaworks, Rutland Regional Medical Center, The Cotton Mill and The Mint.
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“In economic development, we’re interested in recruiting businesses to the state, and the number one question we get is, ‘What is the workforce pipeline like?’” says Joan Goldstein, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Economic Development. “We need to be ahead of the curve on where is the workforce going to come from, which is why we’re building awareness that Vermont is a great place to live and do business, not just visit.”
Indeed, talent attraction is a hot topic around the country right now, and Vermont’s Stay to Stay weekend stands out as an innovative way to bridge the gap between tourism and relocation.
“We’re looking at this like it’s an open house — ‘Hey, welcome to Vermont, this is what we do here,’” says Knight. “Vermont is more than just a tourism destination.”