Economic Vitality

The MRVPD assists member towns in defining, pursuing, and achieving community goals. One way this is done is through devoting energy toward “promoting and maintaining a vibrant, diverse economy” (MRV Vision Statement).

Recent community visioning processes have identified housing, transportation, stewardship of natural resources, historic preservation, and placemaking as key focus areas for economic development.

In 2014 the MRVPD commissioned the Mad River Valley (MRV) Economic Study, which analyzed the local economy, researched obstacles and opportunities and recommended actions that support economic vitality.  The study was shared at a community gathering attended by over 350 people that included public input to guide next steps. This led to a community-business collaboration called the Economic Vitality Series (EVS), a 13-workshop series designed to create an inclusive discussion surrounding the MRV’s economic development barriers and opportunities.

Key findings and recommendations from the 2014 Economic Study can be found here on p.2. A summary presentation of findings presented at the June 2014 Economic Summit can be found here.

Source: 2014 MRV Economic Study, SE Group, Birchline Planning LLC, & Doug Kennedy Advisors.
Source: 2014 MRV Economic Study, SE Group, Birchline Planning LLC, & Doug Kennedy Advisors.

What the MRV is Doing Well:

  • Attracting & maintaining an engaged, passionate, and talented population.
    • How? 15% (2x the VT avg.) of employees work from home, attracted by recreation, natural resources, innovation & agricultural economies, and high quality schools.
  • Supporting small-scale and diversified agricultural enterprises, while valuing the legacy of “commodity” agriculture in the Valley.

Where the MRV Can Improve:

  • Continuing to encourage an all-season economy.
    • How? Support counter-cyclical industries like summer recreation/tourism, conferences/events/weddings, property management, landscaping, design & build schools/ businesses. Encourage acquisition and adaptive reuse of year-round spaces.
  • Overcoming regulatory hurdles.
    • How? Amend policies related to permits, occupancy, parking, event frequency, adaptive reuse, minimum lot size, wetland overlay zones, etc.
  • Creating affordable housing options and capacity for higher-density development.
    • How? Revamp Visioning/Planning for Irasville and develop wastewater infrastructure to support housing/business development that matches community values (affordability, sensitive to landscape, vibrant & unique).
    • Encourage zoning policy changes to allow for residential hamlets, support energy-efficient innovative projects (Tiny houses, modular homes, weatherization/adaptive reuse).
    • Support land transfers to provide space for affordable housing development.
  • Supporting commuting workers & local employees who live outside MRV.
    • Reliable public transportation options.

MRV Economic Vitality Series (2015):

Through the summer and fall of 2015, the MRVPD, MRV Chamber of Commerce and a local volunteer business consultant led the Economic Vitality Series (EVS), a 13-workshop series designed to create a discussion with the business community around the issues and opportunities that arise while doing business in the MRV.

In what was termed a “tsunami” of interest and input from over 150 workshop attendees as well as survey respondents from the broader community, several themes emerged, which the steering committee organized into asset and issue areas.  These were further refined at a culminating workshop of sector representatives. Four asset areas, Recreation, Creative Economy, Wellness, and Food System, as well as the top priority issues, marketing, economic development and business support, were identified to inform the work plan of the Chamber of Commerce.

Following these workshops, the process and areas of focus were shared with the larger community at a second Economic Summit, held on December 19, 2015 with over 250 attendees. The summit included the unveiling of a MRV Vision Statement and presentation by community members and business owners who had formed well-organized alliances: Wellness Alliance, MRV Food Network, Creative Economy, and Recreation, as a result of participating in the workshops.

Explore a summary presentation of the Posters from the Economic Summit here.

Summit attendees were invited to learn more and sign up for ongoing engagement with the newly organized groups, as well as existing ones (ex: MRV Housing Coalition, MRV Transportation Advisory Committee, Waitsfield Planning Commission), to help guide strategic planning in these areas over the next year. To get involved in these efforts, contact office@mrvpd.org

MRV Economic Development History 1904-2014

Source: 2014 MRV Economic Study, SE Group, Birchline Planning LLC, & Doug Kennedy Advisors.
Source: 2014 MRV Economic Study, SE Group, Birchline Planning LLC, & Doug Kennedy Advisors.
Economic Vitality Series (EVS) (June 2015). Source: MRVPD.
Economic Vitality Series (EVS) (June 2015). Source: MRVPD.
Economic Vitality Series (EVS) Dot Chart of Community Priorities. (June 2015). Source: MRVPD.
Economic Vitality Series (EVS) Dot Chart of Community Priorities. (June 2015). Source: MRVPD.

MRV Economic Initiatives and Resources

  • Vision & Vitality Series
  • 2014 Economic Summit & Community Picnic
  • MRV Economic Study
  • Vermont Downtown Action Team Reports

Vision & Vitality Series

The MRV has a history of engaging in community visioning, as illustrated in the three town plans, 1980 MRV Perspective Series, 1990 Valley Forum Series, and 2004 Valley Vision 2020. The MRVPD has reviewed and distilled these important documents into a Summary of MRV Vision Initiatives. The goal of this exercise was to identify both the MRV community’s evolution as well as its common values and concerns.  This information served as context for the MRV Vision Statement (2015), which was further developed from the most current town plans in Fayston, Waitsfield and Warren. This vision, which is intended to evolve, served as a framework and backdrop for the economic conversations that took place throughout the Economic Vitality Series.

Through the summer and fall of 2015, the MRVPD, MRVCC and local business consultant Patricia Floyd, led the Economic Vitality Series (EVS), designed to create a discussion with the business community around the issues and opportunities that arise while doing businesses in the MRV. The 10 community workshops took place in each of the MRV’s industry sectors. The sector definitions can be found here.

2014 MRV Economic Summit & Community Picnic

Results from these studies were presented to the community at the MRV Economic Summit & Community Picnic on June 4th, 2014, hosted by MRVPD and the MRV Chamber of Commerce. The Summit highlighted significant economic changes that have transpired over the past three decades as well as identified emerging trends, opportunities, and challenges. Public input was provided regarding the Valley’s economic future, vitality, and resilience.

Mad River Valley Economic Study

This project focused on understanding and quantifying the Valley’s economic profile and economic health by assessing relevant data and interviews, identifying industry sectors of strategic importance, establishing a MRV economic baseline, and exploring initiatives that support our economic future. The study was commissioned by The Mad River Valley Planning District and completed by a consultant team consisting of SE Group, Birchline Planning LLC & Doug Kennedy Advisors. A 2013 Municipal Planning Grant from the Vermont Agency of Commerce & Community Development and a contribution from the MRV Chamber of Commerce funded the study. The consultant team presented the results from the project’s analyses at the 2014 MRV Economic Summit & Community Picnic.

Vermont Downtown Action Team Reports for Waitsfield & Warren Villages

The Villages of Waitsfield & Warren were two of seven villages or downtowns affected by Tropical Storm Irene that served as the focus of action-oriented planning projects aimed at strengthening identity and economic vitality. Directed by the VT Downtown Program, the Vermont Downtown Action Team (V-DAT) worked with Warren & Waitsfield in 2014 to develop long-range economic development plans and strategies for targeted flood resilience work.