Op Ed: Eclipsing 802,000: Making Vermont a Destination for a Lifetime

This commentary is by Kevin Chu, Executive Director of the Vermont Futures Project, and Amy Spear, Vice President of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce

On April 8th, over 160,000 people visited Vermont to observe the solar eclipse. Vermont briefly surpassed the 802,000 population goal that the Vermont Futures Project set last year, and we saw a glimpse of the vibrancy that’s possible in our state. Our downtowns and villages were full of life, full of people engaging in commerce and connecting with communities.

When totality occurred, there was a palpable sense of shared humanity and joy. For three and a half minutes, it didn’t matter if the person next to you was a visitor or resident. It didn’t matter if they were rich or poor, what languages they spoke, the color of their skin, or who they loved. For three and a half minutes, we were all human. What we observed in the sky was rightfully described by many as a once-in-a-lifetime event. What happened on the ground doesn’t have to be. Vermont needs more people, and more people need Vermont, whether it’s for a day, a week, months, or years.

The Vermont Chamber of Commerce recently convened Tourism Economy Day at the State House to highlight the collective impact of the visitor economy. The industry accounts for $3 billion in spending and supports 35,000 jobs (11.5% of Vermont’s workforce). Tourism also plays a profound role in connecting people to places. It unlocks much of the economic activity and vibrancy we see in our rural communities – visitors develop an affinity for Vermont, and some dream of moving here. We can make those dreams a reality by welcoming them with open arms and continuing to leverage the strength of our tourism economy to attract future residents.

Yes, doing so will mean we need to build more homes. It can also mean rural revitalization that taps into existing capacity in areas of the state that have depopulated. More housing and more people can make Vermont more affordable. It means a more robust workforce, thriving businesses, and a growing tax base that can support vital programs and services. Schools can be full of children again, and children won’t be told they need to leave Vermont to be successful. Opportunities to live, work, and play in this great state will be more abundant. A growing economy means that more needs, of more people, are being met more of the time.

We can’t afford to let Vermont be a once-in-a-lifetime place. For once, let’s make it a place that anybody can choose for a lifetime. 


About the Vermont Futures Project

The Vermont Futures Project is an independent non-partisan organization pursuing answers to their mission question: How can we use data to support the evolution of Vermont’s economy towards a thriving future full of opportunity for all?

About the Vermont Chamber of Commerce

The Vermont Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to advancing the Vermont economy. Trusted by the businesses that make living, working, and thriving in Vermont possible, we prioritize collaboration and uphold the core values that define our state. As the preeminent not-for-profit business organization, we advocate, build community, and provide resources for businesses statewide.