Jeff Couture: spreading the word about technology in Vermont

Jan-4-T-CP-Jeff-Couture-C-copyBy Phyl Newbeck

In 2012, after 30 years of work at IBM, Jeff Couture wanted to try something new. The Hinesburg resident had a strong background in communications and an interest in technology so the position of Executive Director for the Vermont Technology Alliance (vtTA) seemed like a good fit. Founded a decade ago as an alliance of software entrepreneurs, the vtTA is a business association with a mission to promote, support and grow technology businesses and jobs in Vermont.

According to Couture, the vtTA has almost 200 members ranging from individual entrepreneurs to large businesses like MyWebGrocer and Dealer.com. The alliance engages in a variety of activities including assisting with branding and marketing, lobbying the legislature, and creating opportunities for collaboration. They hold an annual summer cruise, a year-end networking party, a get-together at the ECHO center around the State of the State speech and monthly lunch and learn sessions with industry speakers. The alliance also works with area colleges for internships and other opportunities to promote the technology field.

VtTA collaborates with Seven Days on the annual Tech Jam, which attracts close to 2,000 people visiting over 60 technology booths. Couture said the Tech Jam is an opportunity to recognize local businesses which may not be familiar to Vermonters. An example is Greensea Systems of Richmond which makes software and guidance systems for underwater equipment and won the 2014 vtTA Innovation Award. Every few years, the alliance produces Tapping Tech, a print and digital publication which showcases the technology scene in Vermont.

“We really believe the tech sector represents a growth opportunity in Vermont and should be supported and expanded,” said Couture. “Vermont technology businesses are dynamic and fast growing and create innovative products and services. Most do business outside the state so they may not be well known but they still have a positive impact on the Vermont economy.” Couture said vtTA members hired over 500 new employees in 2014, adding that each tech job creates a ripple of six new jobs in other fields. “High tech jobs are also good paying jobs,” he said “and out of state customers bring money into Vermont.” Couture noted that tech businesses are generally located in urban areas which promotes the Vermont ideal of compact downtowns. Additionally, they hire young people who might otherwise leave the state.

Couture has lived in Hinesburg for over 30 years. “It has a good community feel,” he said. “There’s a great mix of people and a good focus on developing the downtown.” Although his work is high-tech, Couture’s free time is decidedly low-tech with a focus on golf, walking his dog and refinishing furniture.” Couture said he has always been interested in public policy and advocacy so the move from private industry to the vtTA was a natural one. While still at IBM, he served on the vtTA board of directors. As his job at IBM involved more and more work outside Vermont, Couture saw the Executive Director position as a way to stay closer to home. “I wanted more direct contact with things involving the state,” he said “so this was a good transition.”