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‘Excuse Me’: Etiquette and advice for a changing workplace

“Excuse Me: The Survival Guide to Modern Business Etiquette,” by Rosanne J. Thomas, 2017, Amacom, $21.95, 269 pages
Please. Thank you. Mom always called them the magic words. One opens doors at the front of a request; the other leaves them open at the end. Please.

Treasurer’s Office searching for owners of unclaimed assets

Call it Vermont’s version of lost and found. The state treasurer is trying to find the owners of $80 million in unclaimed assets. Over the years, the amount of unclaimed assets turned over to the state on an annual basis has grown from $3.5 million in 2002 to $10.4 million last year, raising the total to $80 million. Treasurer Beth Pearce said the state has done a good job of making companies that hold those assets aware of the unclaimed property law. In turn, that’s allowed the state “to get more money out the door” to the rightful owners, she said.

Blossoms of saffron, which is being studied at the University of Vermont and may one day be a lucrative cash crop for Vermont.
PHOTOS BY IAN THOMAS JANSEN -LONNQUIST

Mellow yellow: Can saffron make it as a Vermont cash crop?

After years of climbing the corporate ladder, Steve Leach finally decided to give up the shirt and tie and find his bliss growing saffron. It started in February, when Leach tuned into a broadcast on saffron cultivation through the University of Vermont in Burlington. “I’ve been working in the corporate world all of my professional career, but have always had an interest in starting my own business,” said Leach, a new farm owner at Red Thread Farmstead in Swanton. “When you get to start a business from scratch at the age of 40, you have a different perspective on what that business should entail,” he said. Leach said he wanted the ability to work from home with flexible hours, and to include his family in aspects of the business.

US Ski Team member Resi Stiegler thrills youngsters with autographs and selfie opportunities at the 2017 World Cup race in Killington on Nov. 24-25.
PHOTO BY KAREN LORENTZ

Challenges drive ski resort trends and changes

Challenges facing the ski industry are driving trends and changes at Vermont resorts. According to research for the National Ski Areas Association, a lack of leisure time, expense and the aging of baby boomers have been driving down resort visits. “Recent NSAA research over the past two seasons identifies similar challenges faced by beginners, including travel distance/time, cost, time commitment, work responsibilities and cost of equipment,” said Earl Saline, NSAA director of education programming. The Vermont Ski Areas Association estimates skier visits to Vermont resorts have fallen from about 4.35 million 10 years ago to 3.92 million last year. More optimistically, the NSAA announced in May that U.S. ski areas tallied an estimated 54.7 million skier and snowboarder visits during the 2016-17 season, up 3.7 percent from the previous season’s 52.8 million total.

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‘Power of Moments’ isolates impressions that drive us

“The Power of Moments” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, 2017, Simon & Schuster, $29, 307 pages. It was quite the event. Your staff members really outdid themselves, and you were proud of them. Everybody pitched in, clients were overjoyed, and there wasn’t one attendee who didn’t leave without a smile and a promise to come back next year. In “The Power of Moments” by Chip and Dan Heath, you’ll see how to make your event even better.

Vermont Smoke & Cure, of South Barre.
PHOTO BY BRIAN NEVINS

Need a job? Look to Vermont’s food systems

Vermont’s struggle to grow its workforce weakens our economy, inhibits the ability for Vermont businesses to expand their operations, and threatens the ability for Vermonters and future generations to grow and thrive here in the Green Mountains. An aging workforce, stagnant wages in jobs without career ladders, the cost of housing and child care, the opioid epidemic, and a need for more young adults entering the workforce are all contributors to our workforce dilemma. According to a 2013 Vermont Food System Workforce Needs Assessment report, 40 percent of large employers and 50 percent of small employers surveyed said that hiring challenges are holding their businesses back, meaning they are faced with reduced revenue, less efficient production and delayed plans to expand into new markets or larger production spaces. Four years later, the challenges have only increased. The simple demographic fact is that more people are retiring and fewer people are entering the workforce each year.

Not feeling the recovery? You’re not alone

NerdWallet
Incomes are up, the stock market is soaring, and home prices have largely recovered from the mortgage meltdown. But Americans still haven’t regained all the wealth they lost and, on the whole, are worse off than in 1998. The Federal Reserve’s just-released Survey of Consumer Finances, done every three years, tells a stubbornly grim tale. Median net worth for all families, measured in 2016 dollars, dropped 8 percent since 1998. (The survey’s definition of families includes single people and childless couples and is equivalent to how other government surveys define households.) In addition:
— The lowest income families — the bottom fifth — saw their net worth fall 22 percent.

Local currencies: Finding value beyond the dollar

“People will try (local currencies) but really, they never have the same value as the national currency. These things come and go in many places.”
Ken Jones, chief economic analyst for the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development
Like worthless old Confederate dollars or colonial scrip, Green Mountain Hours started out as a promising idea on paper in Montpelier. As a new local currency, businesses bought and spent their Hours locally. Since the “money” was home-grown, and stayed within the community, it helped to stimulate the retail economy and encouraged buying locally. At least, that was how Hours were intended to function in the early 2000s.

Stampeding bull market may slow down — be prepared

We’ve been enjoying a long period of steadily rising stock prices. Of course, this bull market won’t last forever. And when it does start losing steam, you, as an investor, need to be prepared. Before we look at how you can ready yourself for a new phase in the investment environment, let’s consider some facts about the current situation:
— Length: This bull market, which began in 2009, is the second-oldest in the past 100 years, and it’s about twice as long as the average bull market. — Strength: Since the start of this long rally, the stock market has produced an average annualized gain of 15.5 percent per year.

A Grow Compost truck makes a delivery. The Moretown compost company is planning to open a second location in West Hartland in response to legislation mandating that Vermont residents divert food waste from landfills.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF GROW COMPOST

Food waste law driving Grow Compost expansion

The holiday season produces lots of joy and good cheer. It also produces mountains of waste, including tons of food scraps. According to Worldwatch Institute, Americans generate an extra 5 million tons of household waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s; three times as much food waste as at other times of the year. “As Vermonters enter the holiday season, a time of giving and celebration, the amount of waste generated, especially food waste, is staggering,” said Lisa Ransom, co-owner, with her husband Scott Baughman, of Grow Compost of Vermont, a Moretown-based company that picks up food scraps and other organic matter and makes compost. Joe Fusco, vice president of communications for Casella Waste Systems, of Rutland, the largest waste management company in the state, said Casella sees a “substantial” increase in waste collected during the holiday season.