A Look Back

30 Years and Counting

by Jack Tenney     EXPAND TIMELINE

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How best to explain the fact that, with this issue, mighty Mill Publishing Inc. is beginning its 31st year of monthly magazine publishing?

Chairman Mao had the “Great Leap Forward.” It was the second of his five-year plans. His first five-year plan was basically to travel around the country for five years and develop a second five-year plan.

I confess, last month’s issue was not the final event of the magazine’s sixth five-year plan. Nor did we have three 10-year plans or 10 three-year plans or even 30 one-year plans.

We operate on a simple one-month plan. Basically, it’s “Put the next issue together and get it in the mail by the first Monday of the next month.” We have now done it 361 times in a row!

The premise of the magazine assumes business people like to read about business people. That being the case, businesses doing business with other businesses will purchase advertising in the magazine. Turns out that targeted magazines attract targeted advertising, and the target audiences read and react to the ads.

For instance, I like golf, so when I read a golf magazine, I spend time looking over the ads. Not all of the advertisers in golf magazines sell golf equipment, but have found that the demographic of the golf magazine is right for their products — automobiles, pain medicine, watches, food supplements, what have you.

Business People–Vermont’s audience is perfect for B2B advertisers, plus auto dealers, medical service providers, restaurants, golf clubs, personal real estate, and on and on.

Here’s a little exercise I do on occasion to try to justify my position at the magazine. I am, by the way, the publisher. Originally, I thought the publisher was like the editor but that’s not right. We have an editor, a managing editor, and a copy editor who work with writers, photographers, and on all things editorial. Sales people sell, graphic artists do design, and production assistants do layout. I don’t even manage any more — used to, but for years the magazine has had an outstanding general manager.

My job as the publisher is like the role of the executive producer in a television series. The exception to that description is that this magazine has one publisher and most television series or movies have a ton of executive producers. I never had a job in publishing before this one, so I rely on my other business experiences to perform my work. The only defined task I really have is banging out a column every month in time for its insertion.

And since this is a bit of a milestone — 30-milestone, I guess — and since I don’t like to work on any magazine issue other than the next one, I am going to do a little analysis of this wonderful business community, which I hope will shed a little light on how reading this magazine fits into the mix of worthwhile things you do.

Last month, May 2014, the magazine published a listing of Act 250 applications for commercial projects in 2013 with costs higher than $250,000. Cool, right? The information came from Louis Borie, chief coordinator of the Natural Resources Board.

I remember years ago (1991, to be precise) going to the state Agency of Natural Resources for a meeting. Jan Eastman was the secretary, a really good attorney who later headed the Snelling Center for Government. I forget what the meeting was about, but there was a sign on a cubicle and I have never forgotten what it said: “It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission.”

Anyway, this Act 250 chart has been a regular annual piece in the magazine.

A chart in Business People–Vermont? How come? The connection?

As business people, we are aware of the many rules and regulations we comply with as we try to make a dollar out of 99 cents, keep shoes on the baby, jobs, jobs, jobs. Yes?

So. I checked out 11 years’ worth of these Act 250 charts. They are broken out by the nine districts formed in the 1970 enactment. For instance, District 1 is Rutland County. Jim Jeffords was from Rutland, you know, and he, as Vermont attorney general, helped Gov. Deane Davis craft the legislation. So, just saying maybe that’s how Rutland County became District 1. Like District 2 is Windham and southern Windsor counties, and District 3 is Orange and northern Windsor counties. And so on. By the way, Chittenden is District 4.

For starters, here are a few tidbits. District 4 (Chittenden) accounted for 30.03% of the total value of all projects; Ski areas accounted for 15.48% of the total value of all projects. Colleges and UVM accounted for 9.24% of the total value of all projects.

Here’s where the dots get connected. The magazine features lots of biographical profiles of Vermont business people based on interviews. Education and tourism are kind of like exporters. Take education: All these out-of-state students come in bringing money. Tourism is really an export business, because we’re importing tourists and exporting our services to people all over the world. That’s how we get the money.

Knowing that ski areas and higher education are an important part of the economic makeup of the state, we have done a number of profiles on those business people. Here are some cameos from their stories.

It never surprises us how dedicated they are to our quality of life.

University Of Vermont

Dan Fogel, December 2007 He cites Kiplinger’s ranking of the top 100 values in public higher education. “One of the columns is net student cost after financial aid. They show that, unlike our sticker price, which is at the top, the net student cost for financial aid for Vermont residents is under $10,000, room and board as well — right in the middle of the country, ranked 49th. And while our cost for nonresidents is much higher than for Vermonters, even that, with financial aid, takes us from the top and puts us 18th out of the hundred in the publics.”

St. Michael’s College

Paul Reiss, September 1987 What is education for? ... He’s still asking that question of faculty, administrators, and students. A sketch of the answer is beginning to emerge, and any answer that involves the appointment of a director for peace and justice is not one that sees a college as a retailer of knowledge to be consumed by students.

“You have to take into consideration the external environment, the demography, where there are markets, where there would be for students, what resources you have, what resources you can get, what the competition is — all those are business approaches. But it’s absolutely essential to keep in mind one of the major variables: What is the mission of the institution? What is it here for?”

Marc vanderHeyden, January 2004 “As my wife, Dana, and I visited St. Michael’s on various trips during the interview process, it became very clear to us that we were falling in love with the place. I saw its potential as an academic institution, and I liked the idea of being in a place that I could embrace and put my arms around, where I would get to know it inside and out.”

John J. Neuhauser, December 2013 “I had driven through Burlington a lot in the past, but I had not spent much time. I hadn’t had the leisure to watch the sun set over the Adirondacks. There are days when it’s drop-dead gorgeous. I had underestimated how much fun Burlington is: There are great restaurants, great art, the Flynn Theatre, walking and biking along the waterfront. I will never tire of driving to the harbor in Charlotte, just to see it, and then turn around and drive back.”

Certainly it’s not only these lifestyle attractions that interest Neuhauser. It is the special nature of a college that fosters a sense of community and cohesion by requiring students to live on campus (exceptions can be made for married students and a very few others), a goal at the heart of the dedication, in October 2013, of the new Dion Family Student Center and Quad Commons Residential Hall.

Middlebury College

Peter Mackey, August 2011. Vermont is blessed with many downhill and cross-country skiing areas, but one ski place is different from others in the state and rare throughout the nation. Middlebury College Snow Bowl, with its sibling, Rikert Ski Touring Center, stands alone in its ownership by a college, and in its management by a man who, literally, has been shaping the place since he was a preschooler.

Olin Robison, September 1988 “I’ll never forget my first view of Middlebury. It was April 12, 1975, during mud season. It was a dreary, cold, wet day. I told Sylvia, ‘Well, I don’t think it will ever look worse.’”

“Middlebury College is really a mid-sized multi-national university masquerading as a cozy liberal arts college. It’s like administering the United Nations in a way. The complex web of international relations here is amazing.”

Vermont State Colleges

Charles Bunting, August 1994 Vermont State Colleges is a corporate entity — a public corporation, not a state agency, as you might suspect — that holds under its aegis five colleges: Johnson, Lyndon, Castleton, Vermont Technical, and Community College of Vermont.

“Higher education is, in itself, an important economic activity, as a place that employs a lot of people, as a place that is something of a growth industry, and as a place that trains people with resources from outside of Vermont. In terms of economic development where education systems like the Vermont State Colleges have a responsibility to try to serve that purpose of strengthening the workforce, that’s something we’ve worked at pretty hard.

Champlain College

David Finney, December 2008 One result of Finney’s vision is what he calls a “three-dimensional education — or more apt for Vermont, a three-legged milking stool. It doesn’t work without that third leg.” The legs, or dimensions, are professional education, a core curriculum, and a life skills program.

Students begin taking classes in their majors in their first semester — the start of the professional education leg.

“The core curriculum encompasses a four-year journey and a body of knowledge that faculty here believe every college grad ought to know about culture and history — so their abilities in writing and critical thinking and thinking analytically are being strengthened pretty dramatically.

“... We have observed,” says Finney, “that students get out of college and they just don’t know anything: whether to buy or lease a car, what to look for when they lease an apartment; an employer talks about a retirement plan and they glaze over. This is a four-year sequence of what we call a life-skills experience. ...”

One part is to increase the students’ ability to manage relationships, so every entering freshman this fall completed a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator before arriving. “We talked with them about what we know based on that,” says Finney; “then we did it with their roommates. In every case, they made a living contract with their roommates about how they were going to get along together and respect each other’s tendencies.”

Melissa Hersh, July 2006 Champlain’s BYOBiz (bring your own business) program, encourages young entrepreneurs to enroll at the college and simultaneously grow their businesses, earn a degree, and access “wrap-around” resources like business coaching, financing assistance, marketing and technology resources. Look for other creative offerings by area colleges.

Is there a workforce development “silver bullet”? Yes. Investing in your employees’ continuing education is the proven answer. Effective development strategies require the collaboration of three partners: employer, employee and educator.

Robert Skiff, October1984 Skiff is open-minded about competition, and considers the University of Vermont an asset comparable to Lake Champlain and the Medical Center. “Literally, we compete for students,” he allows, “with Trinity, St. Mike’s, UVM, Burlington College — but we are all different institutions. That competition is not destructive; it is, in fact, healthy. ... We’re 87 percent Vermont and damned proud of it! We want to serve Vermonters, making sure that the programs we provide are in areas where they can get jobs.”

Roger Perry, January 1998 Using email and bulletin board discussion groups, Champlain On-Line students can take more than 50 courses online. The college offers six associate degrees and three bachelor degrees via modem, and Perry suggests all of Champlain’s 24 associate degrees will eventually be offered.

More than 50 percent of faculty at Champlain have opted to teach online courses. The college also employs a half dozen instructors who reside at other institutions to teach via modem for Champlain On-Line. ... “Distance-learning is just one demonstration of that technical competence.”

In addition to traditional student exchange programs that allow Champlain to swap students with those in France, England, Russia, and Sweden, the college has partnered with the Israeli College of Business Administration in Israel to serve 1,200 full-time students at campuses in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Beer-sheba, and Ashdod. The goal is twofold: to raise revenue and to teach students international competitiveness by example.

Trinity College

Janice Ryan, RSM, September 1990 Ryan became acting president of Trinity College in 1979, when “women’s colleges were supposed to be dying,” she says. Some 11 years later she reports a 30 percent increase in traditional enrollment, and an 88 percent gain in non-traditional students in the weekend and evening programs.

“Whereas it is perceived that you have the power, the reality is, power is given to you by the people. So, yes, you’re paid and expected to lead, but you also have to know how to be a follower, and you have to know when to be the follower and when to lead.”

Vermont Technical College

Bob Clarke, July 1999 It’s not just about educating students — as if that weren’t significant enough. According to Clarke, the economic well-being of the state hangs in the balance. “If you look at all the things we do, economic development is the part that’s weaving everything together. There’s a tremendous shortage of skilled workers. We are providing the skills that are needed by the business community. We can’t graduate enough students to meet the demands of industry.”

Vermont Law School

Geoffrey Shields, June 2012 More than one legal scholar has quipped about Vermont Law School’s being the only academic institution in the U.S. that offers a Juris Doctor (JD) in a town without a traffic signal. That would be South Royalton.

Well, at least two scholars have made this observation — and as it happens, both have served as deans of the law school in northern Windsor County, some 15 miles from the Connecticut River. The first to point out this odd fact was Jonathon Chase, dean from 1982 to 1987: South Royalton, he said, was the only town in America “with a law school and no stop light.”

The other is Geoffrey B. Shields, who will be stepping down August 1 as dean and president of the 600-student school. Interviewed for the spring issue of the alumni magazine, Loquitur, Shields enjoyed the irony of leading a distinguished institution — the nation’s top-ranking environmental law school for four consecutive years (U.S. New & World Report) — where you can’t even get a ticket for running a red light.

Community College Of Vermont

Barbara Murphy, July 1996 “Vermont seems to welcome variations and the experiences and perspectives they bring. All boundaries we make between areas of learning are artificial. People don’t think like that. We’re meant to be full people, moving back and forth among many areas. That’s one of the things I love about CCV. It teaches students about the whole self.”

Tim Donovan, January 2006 “Go places, start here,” said Tim Donovan, president of the Community College of Vermont. For many students, CCV has been the “doorway to getting started,” before they move on to professional careers and roles as active community members.

Tim Donovan should know. He has spent more than half his life guiding the only two-year college program in the state, helping it grow to the current enrollment of 5,885 full- and part-time students. “One percent of the state population is enrolled at CCV every semester, so that almost every family in the state has some kind of connection to the college community.”

Smugglers’ Notch

Bill Stritzler, March 1999 “Family” became not only a key marketing focus, but also a philosophy. “We think we have to run everything at Smugglers’ that way. We train, recruit, motivate, plan and invest, all based on our commitment to families.” What that means, he says, is there’s a generous concentration on providing family guests with experiences that go beyond the enjoyment of the physical facilities. “So when you come to Smugglers’, if you don’t want to ski today, you can go to a very special arts and crafts day as an activity. Those things are part of our programming. Kids today will be exposed to the science of snowmaking, not just through signage, but also through a well-prepared science program, where they will experience and be taught the science of snowmaking in different levels depending on their age groups.”

Sugarbush

Win Smith, August 2007 Recognize the guy in the ski jacket and helmet helping carry a customer’s skis? Win Smith’s work attire as president and CEO of Sugarbush Resort in Warren may be far removed from his former days as chairman of Merrill Lynch International, but Wall Street’s loss is Sugarbush’s gain.

Since Smith’s Summit Ventures partnership bought the resort in 2001, skiers are rediscovering this mountain jewel in the Mad River Valley. The key, explains Smith, is managing what he terms guests’ “bookend experience.”

“Their first and last impression of the resort is in our power,” he says. “We can’t control the weather or economy, but we can control our customer relations and service.”

Suicide Six

Chuck Vanderstreet, August 2008 Chuck Vanderstreet, manager of the health and fitness center, country club, and ski areas owned by the Woodstock Inn & Resort, had never been on a pair of skis when he moved to Vermont 25 years ago. Nowadays, with Suicide Six in his back yard — and under his watch — he never misses a chance.

Mount Mansfield/Stowe

Hank Lunde, August 2004 “The master plan defines what the Mount Mansfield Co.’s physical assets will look like 10 years from now: trails, lodges, homes, and condominiums. It also says that this is it; there won’t be any phase two or phase three or phase four!”

In a virtual reversal of the normal process, Lunde obtained the input of all interested parties before applying for the permit. His efforts, welcomed by the community, have also been nationally recognized as trail-blazing achievement with the 2004 Ski magazine Golden Eagle award.

Along with his capacity to organize and inspire, one of Lunde’s strengths has been his integration into the community of Stowe. Within weeks of taking on the job, he was becoming part of the town and turning around a previously difficult relationship between town and resort. The Mountain Company now participates actively in the community and supports local artistic programs.

Lunde is a member of the Stowe Area Association and the Vermont Business Roundtable, and serves on several health care boards, including Rutland Regional Medical Center, Fletcher Allen Health Care, and the Vermont Health Plan.

Jay Peak

Bill Stenger, August 2003 Unlike 30 years ago, however, skiing is no longer the only activity to enjoy on the mountain. There are snowshoe tours, cross-country skiing, and snowboarding. “It’s more of a complete winter experience going on and not just alpine skiing,” says Stenger. “It’s a much broader experience than it used to be.”

There are warm-weather activities available, as well, which is an aspect of the resort that Stenger is trying to build upon. This summer, construction has begun on a new golf course that should be ready to tee off in the spring of 2005. “... we will be adding this golf facility and that will help us become a more four-season facility.”

Still, skiing is the bread and butter of the resort, and Stenger would like to see the sport grow. Vermont gets about 4.4 million skier visits per year, and Stenger says his goal is to get that number up to 6 or 7 million. The thrust of his growth initiative will be centered on the middle of the week.

“... Monday through Friday our goal as an industry is to bring more people into the state to either learn the sport or just continue to enjoy the sport, and think of Vermont as a vacation destination.” With a little snow-making now and then.

Killington

Allen Wilson, August 2006 Originally from Wethersfield, Conn., where he and his brother ran a family-owned seafood business, Wilson started skiing at Killington in the early 1970s. His passion for the sport led him to move here in 1979 to work in the industry. “I’ve never regretted a day of it, although our restaurant business was very successful ... in 1979 I moved up here with a Mercedes and a new jeep; by 1981 I had a Chevette and an old jeep,” he quips.

Since then, Wilson has skied many slopes: he’s been president of Vermont’s Sugarbush Resort, vice president of Killington Resort Villages, and chief financial officer of the Bear Mountain Resort in California

Business People–Vermont

We (Business People–Vermont) aren’t exporters, but one of the few “no-export,” 100 percent local businesses. •