A Google Governor for Vermont?

Tapping Vermont's Creative Potential

ABC News first caught up with Dunne in White River Junction, Vt., on the day after Christmas 2004.

Dunne, who was serving in the state senate at the time, had caught the attention of the network's political unit through his efforts to promote the "creative economy" in Vermont.

A devotee of Richard Florida's "The Rise of the Creative Class," Dunne believes that the engine that drives economic growth is creativity and that what creative people want most of all is the company of other creative people.

Back in 2004, Dunne persuaded his colleagues in the Vermont legislature to set aside $30,000 to help cartoonist James Sturn turn an old department store in downtown White River Junction, Vt., into the Center for Cartoon Studies, "America's only two-year cartooning program."

"In the beginning," said Sturn, "it really helped to be able to say that the state was behind us."

After Dunne secured the state funding for the cartooning school, Sturm was able to tap some of the biggest names in the cartooning business: "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening donated animation cells for auction. Peter Laird, co-creator of the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," contributed $150,000 for studio and classroom space.

Dunne sees the Center for Cartoon Studies, which features an "all types welcome" sign, as contributing to what Florida, an urban studies theorist, calls "a cycle of self-reinforcing growth."

"The old model," said Dunne, "was to offer tax incentives to a big company in the hopes that they will choose to locate one of their campuses in your state. The new model is to recruit and retain creative people while preserving your sense of place.

"If it looks like everywhere else," said Dunne, "you don't get that creative juice."

ABC News' Josh Miller contributed to this report.

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