A think tank says Vermont should grow to 802,000 people by 2035. Here's why — and how
Vermont’s population hovers around 645,000 people, making it the second-smallest state by population in the country, after Wyoming. Its small size is one of Vermont’s biggest selling points to many of its residents, but to keep the state’s economy going strong, Vermont needs more people.
That’s the driving mission behind the Vermont Futures Project, a nonprofit think tank. One of their goals is to increase the state’s population by more than 150,000 people by 2035.
That goal, according to executive director Kevin Chu, came from data analysis on the workforce gap.
"Our analysis shows that we need an additional 13,500 new people entering the workforce each year," Chu said. "The Department of Labor projects about 14,800 retirements per year through the end of this decade alone, and our supply of young talent entering the workforce is nowhere close to offsetting those exits. There were only about 5,300 12th grade students across the entire state of Vermont during the last school year."
"The Department of Labor projects about 14,800 retirements per year through the end of this decade alone, and our supply of young talent entering the workforce is nowhere close to offsetting those exits. There were only about 5,300 12th grade students across the entire state of Vermont during the last school year."Kevin Chu, Vermont Futures Project
Starting today, the Vermont Futures Project is launching a statewide tour that will "convene community conversations, and make strategic stakeholder visits in all fourteen counties" to gather input for its 2024 Economic Plan for Vermont.
The tour began in Addison County this week, and will continue in Windsor and Caledonia counties next month.
"We had a wonderful conversation this morning and folks in Addison County can point to exact spots in their towns where a new house could be built, or a municipal change would make it easier for developers to pursue projects," Chu said. "So I'm hearing some great information on the ground from fellow Vermonters."
As for how to achieve the goal of 802,000 Vermonters by 2035, Chu says that population change will be a balance of births, deaths and in- and out-migration.
"The largest bump in population came shortly after the pandemic, when we saw a lot of domestic emigration to Vermont," he said. "And as we set this goal for population change, we see in-migration as the primary lever for achieving that goal."
Chu also said housing — some 350,000 new, non-seasonal units — as well as climate change mitigation will have to be part of the equation.
"I am looking at the Vermont Climate Action Plan, and seeing a bit of language that really stands out to me, which is Vermont needs to prioritize helping the people who will be most affected by climate change," Chu said.
But the people who will be most affected by climate change might not live in Vermont yet, he added, and it shouldn't just be people with wealth who can move here.
"I want to make sure that opportunity exists across the socioeconomic spectrum equitably, so that people can find a home here in Vermont, regardless of what background they come from," Chu said.
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