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Vermont micropolitans

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Vermont micropolitans

What's in a name? For three Vermont communities that have been designated "micropolitan statistical areas," the name captures the essence of what local officials have been trying to convey in their economic outreach plans.

Barre, Bennington and Rutland are self-contained hubs for their regions -- micro versions of larger centers with plenty of amenities but fewer people.

The three were granted micropolitan status by the federal Office of Management and Budget largely because of their size, location and potential. They are not located near metropolitan areas and they have sufficient population, land and infrastructure for economic growth.

This kind of official recognition goes a long way in helping communities market themselves -- and these three micros have been doing extensive work redeveloping their downtowns and encouraging economic development in recent years.

The Vermont League of Cities and Towns and the Vermont Forum on Sprawl, which both watch the growth and sustainability of the state's urban centers, expressed optimism for the designated areas.

"These are all good places to live, and they could use the positive publicity for some new business," Karen Horn of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns said.

Evan Goldsmith, associate director of the Vermont Forum on Sprawl, saw the micropolitan status as another way of enhancing development in downtowns to avoid sprawl on the outskirts and protect the vitality of city cores.

Vermont's micros are among 565 micropolitan areas listed across the United States. Under the Office of Management and Budget's definition, a "micropolitan statistical area" must have at least one urban cluster of at least 10,000 but less than 50,000 population. It typically consists of one county.

More than 28 million people -- one in 10 Americans -- live in micropolitans. For companies thinking of expanding, that is an impressive population base.

In Vermont, cities like Barre, Bennington and Rutland are the traditional "shiretowns," serving the smaller communities in the region with retail, entertainment and health services as well as being a cultural and historic base.

They aren't quite metropolitan areas -- Burlington and South Burlington have that distinction as the heart of Vermont's only metropolitan area of 20 communities in three counties.

They're more than just a small town, and when they're trying to encourage national companies to invest in their communities, that's an important distinction.

From The Burlington Free Press

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Why isn't Brattleboro on this list?

That town has always impressed me. It has what, 8000 people? but enough commercial activity for a city 20 times that size.

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Brattleboro actually has 11,000 people. I'm surprised it's not on the list, too. It's very cultural. Springfield could almost make the list, with about 9,000. It keeps losing population, though.

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