With only 626,230 people as of 2015 (the second smallest state population after Wyoming), Vermont is a study in contrasts. It is the most rural state in the U.S., with 82% of the population living in rural areas or small cities. And it’s one of the least diverse (95% white). Yet it’s a strikingly liberal state that boasts the second-highest percentage of women serving in the state legislature (40%), and it was the first state to enact legislation granting the legal benefits of marriage to gay couples.
Politically, Vermont is also famous for electing a Democratic Socialist, Bernie Sanders, as Mayor of Burlington, then as U.S. Congressman and later U.S. Senator. A longtime independent, Sanders declared his bid for President on the Democratic ticket in 2015.
The state’s leading manufacturer until recently was “Big Blue” IBM, which from 1958 to 2015 operated a semiconductor plant in Essex Junction. In mid-2015, the plant was acquired by GlobalFoundries, but instead of layoffs, all 3,000 employees were transitioned to new positions. This is good news for Vermont, given that the Essex Junction facility is estimated to pump roughly $1 billion into the state economy annually and support more than 10,000 families directly or indirectly.
Famous worldwide for its maple syrup, Vermont is the country’s leading producer, accounting for 40% of U.S. production of the all-natural sweetener. Vermont also boasts many high-end niche brands, particularly dairy products given the state’s nearly 1,000 dairy farms. Ben & Jerry's, Cabot Cheese, Lake Champlain Chocolates, Burton Snowboards, Keurig Green Mountain Coffee, Vermont Teddy Bear Company, Orvis and King Arthur Flour are just a few of the Vermont-based companies that have skillfully marketed the state's alluring reputation for natural beauty, active living and wholesomeness.
Retirees and second-home buyers help drive the real estate market in Vermont, not to mention factors such as safety and education. Vermont is consistently ranked in the top five safest states in the country, and it’s also in the top five for the percentage of residents with high school diplomas (91%). As for undergraduate and graduate degrees, Vermont places in the top 10 nationally for both. As of 2015, the median home value in the state was $216,088, and the median rental price was $1,081.
The Green Mountain State was home to the nation's first ski area in Woodstock and continues to be a major ski destination. Vermont’s 19 downhill ski areas, including Killington, Stowe, Sugarbush, Smugglers’ Notch and Stratton, drew a record 4.6 million skier and rider visits in 2014-2015, which in turn brought in approximately $220 million in tax revenue for Vermont.
Given that the state is 76% forested, autumn is also a popular season for tourists drawn by the beauty of fall foliage, especially the brilliant red and orange-leafed sugar maples that produce that famous syrup in the spring. Claiming the country’s first through-hiking trail, the Long Trail, Vermont today offers more than 1,000 hiking trails, 50 state parks, 100 campgrounds and 8,000 campsites.
Lake Champlain, the sixth largest body of fresh water in the U.S., attracts vacationers and summer campers by the busload. Also popular with visitors is the unspoiled Northeast Kingdom, bordering Quebec to the north and New York to the west, which is known for its quaint inns, historic villages and over 200 lakes and ponds. The area’s “Kingdom Trails” have been recognized as one of the top five biking networks on the planet.