WCAX reports the Scott administration will keep Vermont Life Magazine rather than continue recent efforts to sell the state-published regional lifestyle magazine. According to Vtdigger.com the state turned down nine bids from outside businesses for the magazine. Vermont Life, in publication since the late 1940’s, is now in debt and struggling with declining circulation numbers, as many periodicals are.
I have fond memories of Vermont Life from over fifty years ago – the outhouse attached to woodshed at the back of the barn at my grandfather’s farmhouse was wallpapered with pictures he cut from the magazine. So in one sense, I am pleased with the news. But I wonder about the Scott administration’s overall marketing scheme.
The magazine will now be put to use as one part of the administration’s plan to market Vermont to out-of-state businesses and people. Speaking to WCAX, Governor Scott’s Commerce Secretary (and former Burlington top cop) Michael Schirling explained that Vermont Life now has a “bright future” as part of the plan to market the state around the country. Another element of the plan – the administration wants people displaced by hurricanes last summer to move to Vermont. “There are folks from all over that – whether it’s in one of those areas affected or elsewhere – that are looking for opportunities,”
When Vermonters were digging out from hurricane Irene-our own climate disaster that devastated large parts of the state, do you suppose many Vermonters would have packed up for the Lone Star state if a free issue of Texas Highways popped up in the mailbox?
Perhaps inadvertently Scott may have previewed his out-of-state disaster marketing plan a couple weeks back. In remarks to reporters Scott spoke about his hope that climate change could prove an “economic boon” for Vermont. Said the Governor: “When we look across the U.S. and see that climate patterns have changed dramatically — we’re seeing wildfires in California — it makes Vermont look pretty good.” He expressed his belief that the in Northeast “we’re in a pretty good position” and compared to other states “we could be the Mecca,”
And the notoriously penny-pinching Scott administration has asked for $3 million to be budgeted for the overall effort. But do state-run “move here” ad blitzes such as Think ! Vermont even work? Could Gov. Scott or Sec. Schirling or any of the Mad Men (or women) at Vermont’s Agency of Commerce and Community Development cite any studies that show what kind of results to expect ? Commenting on an efforts by northern cities to entice millennials to move there, Joe Cortright, an economist and director of City Observatory (a think tank funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation) noted: There’s little research tracking such marketing efforts, and it’s difficult to gauge the subtle influences of media on personal decisions like where to move. And it is a crowded field: mid-west states like Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and back to Maine and New Hampshire are all working on variations of “move here” campaigns.
One sidebar to Gov. Scott’s marketing Vermont as “Mecca”: we’re not immune to climate damage. Remember hurricane (post-tropical storm, officially) Irene? For the last three years all the lower 48 states and Alaska had above-average annual temperatures. And sure, it is cold now according to NOAA: Despite cold seasons in various regions throughout the year, above-average temperatures, often record-breaking, during other parts of the year more than offset any seasonal cool conditions.
Couldn’t $3 million of our tax dollars be spent more wisely on the people that already live here and not on this “move here” advertising scheme? So we ask again, Governor Scott: affordable for whom, the regular folks who live here, or the digital-native millennials with high-end incomes you hope to entice here?