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My Vermont: Andrew Wellman

06/13/08 7:50AM
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To me, Vermont's charm is a double edged sword.

I moved back to central Vermont after Graduate school in 2002 because of the quality of life, the natural beauty, the mountain biking and the Vermont community. However, I was naive regarding how underdeveloped the professional job market and communication technology is in this state.

Now after 6 years, in my view, the truth about Vermont is that along with an excellent quality of life, people here are industrious, well educated, intelligent, clever, tenacious, and hard working. But we've done our best to hide this from the rest of the nation. By this I mean we represent ourselves in terms of quaint, outdated nostalgia.

Our economic dependency on nostalgia has served Vermont well in the past, but now it's a virtual brick tied to our collective ankles as we try to swim in the Vermont of today. To quote a friend, "Vermont is suffering from "death by nostalgia". His meaning is that Vermont has flogged its nostalgia cache too long - that the market has changed and now it hurts us economically. Hospitality professionals, business owners and freelancers tell me that Vermont is seen as New Englands version of "Disneyland". But this doesn't match the truth of who we are as Vermonters.

We've abandoned "Authentic Vermont" in favor of the lazy and uncreative harvesting of the low hanging fruit of nostalgia. People can go to Disneyland if they want fantasy, but most folks I've talked to, visit Vermont for authenticity, not kitsch. We don't put our effort into selling the authenticity of our landscapes, history, culture, work force, quality of life and professionals. We fabricate what we wrongfully imagine the rest of the world wants to see.

The Vermont Cache is a liability unless you're in the business of skiing, hospitality or specialty foods. Tell someone that you work in high tech and their eyes light up. Then say you work in Vermont, and it's like saying you're not a serious professional.



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