When I first moved to Middlebury, Vermont, many people asked me for my impression of the town – (1) as a place and (2) generally about the people who live and work here. Their question often indicated a preconceived idea that Middlebury is rural and consequently, they were expecting my reply to incorporate an understanding of what it is to be rural and an ability to articulate a value around being so. According to my dictionary, rural means “of or relating to the country, country people or life or agriculture.” My experience is that the term “rural” also suggests less sophistication, less education, and an insular or parochial world-view. Having been here for only a short time, however, I realized that nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, Middlebury is what I refer to as Modern Rural – a combination of small town quality strongly connected to an international or global network. I think the community has something unparalleled anywhere else in Vermont and for me, the value of being Modern Rural is directly applicable to economic development.
This dynamic might be best represented by Middlebury’s telecommuter population. We have professionals living and working in Middlebury for organizations like National Geographic, Intel, Sports Illustrated, and Dell. These are folks that obviously could be anywhere they want and have chosen to be in Middlebury in part because this place is squarely connected globally. It is also safe, and family friendly but from a business perspective, and through technology, people who are interested in a work/life balance can find it here. Telecommuting is Modern Rural.
Additionally, Middlebury College is an incredible conduit to the rest of the world. There are currently Middlebury language schools in sixteen different countries adding to the diversity and interconnectedness of this place. There are a higher percentage of international students enrolled at the College than anywhere else in Vermont. Furthermore, the opportunity for students to study abroad provides Middlebury with a constant supply of “ambassadors” and the academic quality of the institution also pulls in professionals from all parts of the globe. Middlebury College is Modern Rural.
During the summer, the College hosts summer language programs in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Their programs are immersive and their trademark is “No English Spoken Here”. As people from all over the world are drawn to Middlebury as students and instructors our community experiences the opportunity to really be both modern and rural. My favorite example that illustrates this dynamic was watching the Director of Parks and Recreation for the Town trying to explain to a Chinese national what happens at a Vermont county fair and why it would be fun for her and her family to purchase tickets and participate. Crossing cultural boundaries in an ad-hoc fashion is Modern Rural.
Please contact us here in Middlebury, Vermont if you are interested in experiencing the value of a modern rural community. We are always interested in helping you bring definition to your future, the future of your business and the future of your family. Middlebury is a great place and we welcome your efforts to make it even better.