The Northeast Kingdom Collaborative Economic Forum will be held at Lyndon State College on Sept. 8 at 4 p.m. Gov. Peter Shumlin will be in attendance as the keynote speaker. He will discuss the 2011 Vermont Jobs Bill and will be available for questions following his address.

The event is being held in order to benefit the abundance of small businesses in the Kingdom. The forum will inform businesses of the services available to them. It will help them know where to turn if they are looking to start, expand, improve, or finance their business.

Other speakers include service providers from around the region, as well as testimonials from small business owners who have previously used the services available to them in the Northeast Kingdom.

For more information, contact Ann Nygard at Lyndon State College by telephone at 802-626-4867or by e-mail at Ann.Nygard@lsc.vsc.edu.

Chamber's Welcomes Center Hits A Visitor High

"North Country visitations increased dramatically in the month of July, " said Donna Higgons, executive director of Vermont's North Country Chamber of Commerce, which staffs and manages the Welcome Center on the Causeway in Newport. At 1,573, said Higgons, "that's almost 500 more than in July of 2010 and that's huge for the local economy."

Visitors stop for gas, buy a coffee, stay in lodgings, dine in restaurants and shop in stores. "Many are on their way someplace else but often say they'll be back because of what we've been able to show them," said Sally Fraize, one of the 15 volunteers, many of whom speak French. "Some even ask about moving here and are given our relocation packet."

Once off the interstate, the first place for information about the area is the Welcome Center on Newport's Causeway. Information available there is about what to do and see, where to stay and eat, services needed as well as bike or driving tours, hiking and swimming, boating, events, theater productions and cultural venues. No matter what the visitor is looking for the volunteers have or can get the information.

"Our volunteers are working overtime and doubling up on shifts," said Higgons. "We now have consistent, longer hours of operation and many of our volunteers speak French. The word gets around about how welcoming and knowledgeable they are."

"Although some of this uptick can be attributed to a better economy, it also tells me that the outreach we and our marketing partners, Newport City Renaissance Corporation and Northeast Kingdom Travel and Tourism, are doing is paying off," said Higgons. "We're getting the word out to a broad market, reaching North into Canada and points East, West and South. It's a slow and expensive process but it pays off."

The Welcome Center is open Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday until 7 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.

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