~By Paul Harris, Sales & Marketing Assistant
Recently, we had an opportunity to interview Jeff Couture, Executive Director of the Vermont Technology Alliance (vtTA). The vtTA is a business association focused on supporting, promoting and expanding technology companies and jobs in Vermont. Through that role, Jeff has experience in association leadership, organization and membership development, event planning and advocacy. Previously he was a communications manager for IBM, serving at the primary spokesperson for IBM in Vermont.
Global-Z- Why did you start the Vermont Technology Alliance?
Jeff- The Vermont Technology Alliance started as the Vermont Software Developers Alliance in 2004. It grew out of a gathering of software companies in the greater Burlington area who realized there was a large number of software and tech-related businesses in Vermont, but that this business sector was not always recognized or visible. The organization was formed to encourage collaboration, share expertise, and provide a unified voice for Vermont’s software industry.
As the organization grew, Vermont companies in other tech business segments identified common needs and joined the Alliance. In 2012, the Vermont Technology Alliance name was adopted to better reflect the organization’s expanding membership and its mission to represent and support the state’s growing number of technology companies.
Global-Z- In our digital age, most all businesses use some form of technology to function. This can make the definition of a “tech company” become a bit ambiguous. How do you define a technology company?
Jeff- Our definition of a technology company is fairly broad, in recognition of the many types of businesses that create, use and manage technology. It often focuses on companies involved in information technology, and encompasses the use of digital tools, networks, applications, data and analytics to create or deliver a product or service. For our organization, this includes software development and consulting, web design and development, information systems management and data processing, telecommunications and networking, game and app development, technology manufacturing, biotechnology, energy, technology-related sales and marketing, and others who support or do business with Vermont’s technology sector.
Global-Z- Why should anyone consider a career in Vermont if they want to work in the tech industry?
Jeff- Vermont has a strong reputation as a great place to visit and to live. Tourists flock here for the state’s recreation, beauty, small communities and downtowns. Vermont regularly makes national lists for its quality of life. What if you could live here and have a great tech career? Well, you can. Vermont is home to a number of dynamic, fast-growing, innovative technology companies who are leaders in their fields and doing business worldwide. Many of these companies tend to fly under the radar – they’re not as well-known in the state as Ben and Jerry’s or are not located in a typical corporate high-rise – but they’re here, they’re successful and they’re hiring.
Global-Z- Recruiting good “techies” who want to live and work in Vermont can be a challenge for business in the state. What can businesses do to help build Vermont’s reputation as a technology state?
Jeff- One of vtTA’s goals is to draw attention to the number of tech companies that are based in Vermont – it’s one of the state’s best kept secrets. That’s why vtTA sponsors the annual Tech Jam trade show and works with state government to encourage marketing Vermont as a home for tech. There are a few large tech firms in the state, but many are smaller firms that have great opportunity and growth potential. As a business association we try to spotlight the collective strength of the industry as a whole, and communicate to job seekers that if you come to Vermont to work in tech, you can find opportunities.
Global-Z- What are your goals for the future of vtTA?
Jeff- We will continue to expand our membership, which today includes more than 150 companies and entrepreneurs, and to connect with tech businesses throughout the state. We will continue to work with the Legislature and state Commerce Agency to support and promote the value of Vermont’s tech business sector. We’ll continue to provide and promote opportunities for the tech sector to network and collaborate. Among our planned projects this year is production of a third edition of our Tapping Tech publication, which highlights the positive impact of Vermont technology companies on the state’s economy, and a “Tech Summit,” to share ideas, address issues and plan for the future of Vermont’s digital economy.