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Southern Vermont Economy Summit:
Cultivate Change
May 12, 2022

Summit speakers

Plenary Keynote Speaker: Building Systems to Welcome New Americans 

with Joe Wiah and Thomas Huddleston, ECDC MCC

Sponsored by Brattleboro Savings and Loan

This winter Southern Vermont welcomed 90+ people displaced from Afghanistan. Learn about the process of refugee resettlement, from arrival to making community connections and accessing job opportunities.

Housing for a Strong Town


Daniel Herriges

Record-high housing prices and few options mean nearly everyone is feeling squeeze these days. Join us for a workshop with one of the country's foremost experts,Daniel Herriges from Strong Towns, to understand what's in the way of meeting our communities' housing needs, and what we can do about it.

ARPA Funding


Katie Buckley

How is YOUR town going to use ARPA funding? Start thinking beyond reducing the municipal budget! From understanding rule changes to learning how to leverage additional funding using ARPA, this session will help your community look at the
big picture and seize this opportunity.


Passing the Torch: Succession Planning for Your Business

This session will explore National, State and Regional perspectives on business succession. Panelists will provide insight into examples of successful business transitions and opportunities for business owners on the cusp of retirement.

On Belonging


Özge Savaş

Southern Vermont is welcoming international arrivals through asylum and refugee projects. Özge Savaş of Bennington College is a psychologist who goes beyond the immediate material needs to understand the aspirations and challenges that newcomers face as they build self, identity, and community in a new place.

Lunch Keynote Speaker: Decriminalize Development

with Chet Clem, Lyme Properties

Sponsored by MSK Engineering

Did your last planning board hearing feel like a parole board? Let’s change the conversation around the D-word: development. It’s time to shift our thinking, respond and react to our present reality, and Decriminalize Development. Chet Clem is a real estate developer (and recovering comedy writer) who shows how to combine a little levity with common sense and collaboration to create planning processes that are less prosecutorial, and more productive.

Jump-Starting Downtown


Daniel Herriges, Strong Towns

Has mixed-use development on Main Street stalled out? Can entrepreneurs afford to get a start in your town, and can local businesses find the workforce they need to grow? This interactive workshop will help you identify and alleviate barriers to local incremental development.

Sparks to Shovels: The Messy Project Process 


Katie Buckley


When lack of funding isn’t the biggest problem stopping us from completing projects, the challenge remains: how do you translate great sparks of ideas into shovel-ready projects? Katie brings her experience to bear as we explore projects from across Southern Vermont to learn more about how our region is getting things done. 

Recognize the Elephant in the Room: Preparing your business for changes and seeing opportunities

A diverse panel will discuss tactics and strategies for dealing with change. This will include managing team dynamics, perceived challenges, vulnerabilities, and recognizing opportunities all while being able to make the decision to adapt your business in an ever changing world.

How Do We Create More Welcoming Workplaces?

We’re seeing more women in manufacturing, growing racial diversity among VT high school grads, and increasing numbers of newcomers from across the country and world. Vermont’s future workforce is increasingly diverse. Learn about steps employers are taking to embrace change.

Featured Speaker Information 

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About Joe

Joe Wiah became the director of the The Ethiopian Community Development Council, Inc. (ECDC) with more than a decade of experience in the non-profit sector serving vulnerable populations both in Vermont and internationally in Africa. Most recently, Joe was a Housing Case Manager for Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) in Brattleboro, through which he helped Vermonters from 15 towns within Windham County access housing, fuel, food and home repair services. Prior to that, Joe worked for Pathways-DC and Pathways Vermont, providing needed services to clients struggling with mental health issues or returning to communities after time in prison. Internationally, Joe’s work focused on creating legislation, policies and programs that contributed to the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration of child soldiers in Liberia. 

About Thomas

With 15 years of international experience with Migration Policy Group & Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX), Thomas Huddleston (PhD, Maastricht) is a leading international expert on migration, integration and diversity. He currently organizes, trains and supports co-sponsorship groups and volunteers across Southern Vermont, building friendships and community between 100 Afghan evacuees and refugees and the 100+ Vermonters ready to welcome them. Thomas is working to build up Southern Vermont’s new Multicultural Community Center, located in Brattleboro. MCC is part of the ECDC family—America’s first and only community-based, refugee-led resettlement agency.

ECDC, based in Arlington, Va., is one of nine national resettlement agencies that has been resettling refugees since 1991, working with a network of 15 affiliate organizations around the country. The mission of ECDC is to empower refugees and immigrants to become self-sufficient and integrated members of American society who receive support from and ultimately contribute to their local communities.

Session: Building Systems to Welcome New Americans


About Chet

Chet Clem is President of Lyme Properties, a West Lebanon, NH-based Real Estate Development company that focuses on the master planning, permitting, and execution of transformative real estate projects, grounded in a philosophy of community-conscious development. A contributing member of Proud Places and 3rd generation leader of the "Damn It, Do It" movement, Chet was formerly the Editorial Manager at The Onion, has an MBA in Entrepreneurship from Babson College, and was an Environmental Policy major at Bates College. He’s a second-stint Vermonter, living in Norwich with his wife, twins, and a dog named Willie Nelson. He is Vice Chair of the West Lebanon Revitalization Committee, the Town of Norwich representative on the Connecticut River Joint Commission, and a semi-competitive BBQ cook.

Chet Clem
President, Lyme Properties

Session: Decriminalize Development

Daniel Herriges
Senior Editor and Founding Member, Strong Towns

About Daniel

Daniel Herriges serves as Senior Editor for Strong Towns, and has been a regular contributor since 2015. He is also a founding member of the organization. Daniel has a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Minnesota, with a concentration in Housing and Community Development. He grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, before moving west to the San Francisco Bay Area, and later east to Sarasota, Florida, where he lives with his wife, daughter, and too many pets.

Daniel’s obsession with maps began before he could read; a general fascination with cities and how they work was soon to follow. He can often be found exploring out-of-the-way neighborhoods (of his own town or another) on foot or bicycle. Daniel’s lifelong environmentalism can also be traced all the way back to age 4, when he yelled at his parents for stepping on weeds growing in sidewalk cracks.

Sessions: Housing for a Strong Town and Downtown and Village Centers

Özge Savaş
Faculty Member, Bennington College

Session: On Belonging

About Özge

Özge Savaş is a faculty member at Bennington College. She received her PhD in Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of Michigan. Her research examines marginalized people’s sense of belonging in groups, institutions, and nations; privileged individuals’ beliefs and attitudes about who deserves to belong; and everyday practices of homemaking and citizen-making amidst social inequality. Before moving to Vermont in 2020, she worked with Syrian refugees and houseless populations in Southeast Michigan.

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Katie Buckley
Director of the ARPA Assistance and Coordination Program, Vermont League of Cities and Towns

Session: ARPA Funding and Sparks to Shovels

About Katie

Katie Buckley is the Director of the ARPA Assistance and Coordination Program with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.  She works closely with the 277 Vermont municipal entities that accepted funding through the American Rescue Plan Act to help them navigate the complexities of this rare federal funding and leverage the opportunities it presents.  Prior to joining the League, Katie was a Principal with M&S Development, served as the Commissioner for the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development, ACCD, Director of Real Estate Development for Windham & Windsor Housing Trust and served as the Town of Guilford’s first Town Administrator for almost a decade.  Presently, she is the Chair for VHFA and a Member of VCF sitting on the Nominating Committee. She is a passionate advocate for Vermont’s communities and understands firsthand the critical role local government plays in the daily lives of all Vermonters. 


Summit Hosts

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