Listen in on our casual conversation with Phil Scott, a small business owner, family man, racecar driver, and public servant. A born and raised Vermonter, he understands the opportunities and challenges faced by small businesses in the state and offers his take on these issues.
Jeff Lawson: Welcome to the Fifth Perspectives, Dairy Farming in the North East Podcast. I’m your host, Jeff Lawson. Perspectives Magazine, and previous Perspectives podcasts can be downloaded at www.phoenixfeeds.net. Perspectives Magazine and podcasts are brought to you by Phoenix Feeds and Nutrition. Farmers feed the world, and we help them do it. In this episode we will be talking with Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott, about doing business in Vermont, and more particularly, doing business as a dairy farmer in Vermont. Phil is a father, son, husband, brother, small business owner, and race car driver, public servant, and a leader who genuinely listens. A self described “hands on learner,” he took college prep and vocational tech classes at Spaulding High in Barre, majored in Technical Education at UVM. He soon concluded business was in his blood, and went to work for his Uncle’s excavation company, “Dubois Construction” working his way up from day laborer, to foreman, to co-owner. He ran for the Vermont senate in 2000, to bring the voice of small business to Montpelier, and was elected to 5 consecutive terms. In 2010, with bipartisan encouragement, Phil was elected lieutenant Governor, where he launched the “every day jobs initiative”, and “Vermont economy pitch sessions” to ensure he is learning from the employer’s Vermont’s economy relies on. Today, Phil is running for governor, to build a stronger economy, and make Vermont more affordable. He wants state government to work more efficiently and predictably, and he’ll balance the budget to get Vermont’s middle class growing again. Phil, just want to say thanks a lot for coming.
Phil Scott: Oh, thanks very much for having me on.
Jeff Lawson: Yeah. The weather’s a little bit sketchy out there, and we appreciate you taking the drive up here.
Phil Scott: Not a problem.
Jeff Lawson: Great, great. Let’s see…so you’re a lifelong Vermonter. You’re a local businessman, you’ve been a state senator for over a decade, and a lieutenant governor since 2010. Tell me a little bit about your personal and professional connections to the agricultural community here in the state.
Phil Scott: Well, sure. I mean, it can start from almost the beginning, when I was growing up in Barre. A lot of people think that Barre in the city, is just that- a city. We were the third largest city in the state at that time, as I recall, about 10,000 people. So when I go to visit some of my relatives, up in the Northeast Kingdom, in Lamoille County, they would refer to us as “city kids”. But I grew up right next to a farm, it was the Perron Farm, one of two in the city. And so we would help them hang and certainly go through the barn an awful lot; help them pick corn and do whatever; and so we were connected in that way. And there was another farm up the road from us, up off of Cassie Street-Ted Mortimer Farm. And we used to help them sugar in the winter, so we would take our snowmobiles over there, and gather sap, and help them boil, and do all that as well. And then help him hay. So it was something that I certainly appreciated-certainly the hard work that goes into that. And again, my relatives up in Lamoille County had a farm, so when we used to go, my dad passed away when I was 11. So we went from family to family just on the weekends, maybe just to give my mom a break; she was a single mom at 32-with three boys. So we got pawned off a bit, but it was fine; it was educational from all different aspects. Learning how to hunt, and fish, and some of that farming, and snowmobiling, things that I like to do. More about tinkering and fixing things, and just all things about the farm that I certainly did appreciate.
Jeff Lawson: Right, right. Well, we were talking before we got started here, before we got started here. And I mentioned my folks are from, well my dad is from Barre and my mom is from East Brookfield, and I grew up in Williston; which at that time felt like world’s apart from central Vermont, but that’s a town that has seen lots of changes in the agricultural community, and I’m sure you’ve seen a lot down in central Vermont, as well. What kind of changes would you hope to see moving forward-in the agricultural community?
Phil Scott: Well, we’ve seen some tremendous changes over the past couple of decades, with farms. Less farms, less cows; but still is the backbone of Vermont. It’s a major part of our economy, its part of our tradition, it’s part of what when our tourists come to visit Vermont, they like to see the open fields, they like to see the farming, and the barns, and so forth, and the cows; so it’s integral in what we do, and who we are. And certainly seeing a renaissance of sorts with trying to get back to nature, trying to feed ourselves, trying to become more independent-the farm to plate initiative has been very, very successful. But understanding that the farming is a business, too. And while we are suffering I think in this state, we have a stagnant population, we have a shifting demographic; we are getting older in the state. At the same time, we have to survive, and we want to create an atmosphere that’s conducive to some growth-where we have some industry in businesses so that we can afford to have the lifestyle that we want. And so trying to focus on businesses, and small businesses in particular, is something that is near and dear to my heart, and something that I think is essential for us in the future.
Jeff Lawson: Yep, yep. Now one of the planks in your campaign platform is to invest in pro-growth initiatives, like job training, transportation and telecommunications infrastructure, and higher education. These are certainly great initiatives across the economic system; there’s really not a business that wouldn’t benefit from those. How do you see these benefiting Vermont’s dairy farmers in particular?
Phil Scott: Well again, i think they would help out a number of different ways. I think that government itself is the structure first and foremost is public safety. But the secondary to that is creating an infrastructure; in terms of water, sewer, storm; but also in telecommunications and so forth. Because we are becoming more diversified in Vermont, and I think that I would like to see our population to grow, to tell you the truth. We have, as I said, our population has been rather stagnant over the past couple of decades, about 625,000 people at this point in time, and it hasn’t changed a whole lot. So I would like to set a goal, let’s say 700,000; so that we have more of our working class Vermonters, that age group from 25-45. We’ve lost 30,000 people out of that category alone in the past 10 years. So when that happens, when we have less people in that category, that is the work force. Those are the folks who buy homes, who buy products and put food on the table, and pay taxes as well. So when we have less of them, it puts more of the burden on the rest of us. So as I see it, we need more of the workforce, more in the working class, in order for the Vermont economy to churn like it should, and run basically on all cylinders. I think its down to about a 6 right now, and we started at 8, by the way. That’s the falsity of going back to what we all assumed was 8 cylinders and so forth, now it’s all about smaller 4 zoners, I’ll have to change my analogy.
Jeff Lawson: Yeah, we’ve got to upgrade, for sure. So how do you see higher education facilities tying into some of those initiatives?
Phil Scott: Well, when we think of higher education at times, I think we look at UVM or Norwich and we look at the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math); but there’s another sector as well, and that’s vocational.That’s vo-tech, the service industry, the trades; that can’t be overlooked. We need more of that, more in the future than we really understand, I think. I’m in the construction business, when you look at the average age of the construction employee at this point, it’s about 52 in Vermont at this point.
Jeff Lawson: Is that right?
Phil Scott: Yeah, because of that demographic I was talking about. Take a look at some of your electricians, some of your mechanics, those in the trades; they’re getting older. So that is going to be a viable industry, and viable employment path for many; and we can’t overlook that because we need that, as well. It can be quite viable for our youth. I’m looking for any way we can keep our youth to consider Vermont; not just Vermonters, but others to come to the state. And also, if we invest more in higher ed, we have an industry of itself in Vermont.
Jeff Lawson: I think the University is probably our second largest employer in this state?
Phil Scott: Yes, I would say it’s right up there. But when you take the cumulative effect of all the higher ed programs throughout the state, we produce a lot of education that goes probably to other states when they graduate. So what we need to do is try and figure out ways to keep them here, because once again-our workforce is shrinking in Vermont. That’s why our unemployment is so low-because our workforce is shrinking. So what we need to do is expand the workforce, create more opportunity, and have more people paying into the system and take the burden off the rest of us. This affordability crisis I think we are facing in Vermont-it is real. Certainly when you couple the property taxes, as well as the high cost of living here; it has detractors of those thinking about staying here, or choosing Vermont to be their home.
Jeff Lawson: Oh, I couldn’t agree with you more. I think if you look at the average home price, compared to the average salary, it’s pretty evident pretty darn quick that something is very much out of whack.
Phil Scott: When you think about some would consider $200,000 being an affordable home, and that’s anything but in the grand scheme of things. And that’s another sector that we really need to invest in, because when we’re looking at ways to keep our youth here, they need housing, and they need something that they can afford. So we can’t take our eye off of that, because that’s one more incentive, one more reason for them to stay if we can create them, and it’s also a detractor if they can’t find anything.
Jeff Lawson: Absolutely.
Phil Scott: So I’ve been talking about trying to find ways to promote and grow the economy, and then bring in revenue more organically, rather than by raising taxes. I’ve said it for years now; if we can take a look at every single bill that comes through the legislature, and determine when they come across a legislature’s desk; whether they’d have a positive effect on the economy, or not. And if they do, let’s take them up, and let’s work on them. Because I look back at the last biennium at the legislative process, there was 1,211 bills that were introduced, out of that 1,211 we took a look; and there was 30 bills that would have had a positive effect on the economy, and out of those 30, there was only 3 that passed. So that doesn’t tell me that we’re focusing on the right thing, again, it’s all about prioritization and investing in the area that bring you some return. As every farmer will know, you have to make those choices, and sometimes you can’t do everything you want to do, but you have to survive and make those choices that bring you the best return.
Jeff Lawson: Mhm, mhm. Coming back to the farmers, certainly they face a host of challenges today. Everything from the weather, to fluctuating milk prices, to changing regulatory landscape; and I’m sure as you’re probably aware, a big one on the horizon – food safety modernization act. FSMA is how we refer the acronym. How can we expect this to change the way dairy farmers here in Vermont are producing milk, and more importantly-how do you see the state working with Vermont’s dairy farmers to navigate those changes in the regulatory structure?
Phil Scott: Well again, if I could just back up for a minute; I’ve always talked about how we can become changed in the structure of state government, how can we change the dynamic a bit? I feel as a small business owner myself-that’s how I got into politics to begin with, to tell you the truth, 25 years ago I didn’t have a political bone in my body. I had no interest in politics what so ever; I didn’t think it affected me, didn’t want anything to do with it. I did my vote, I went and voted, but that was about it. Then I started complaining about what “them” and “they” were doing to me about a mile and a half down the road in Montpelier, under the gold dome. That “they” just didn’t understand. They didn’t understand the obstacles they were putting in the way, all the regulations, all the things they were doing. Every single time I turned around I got another letter in the mail, telling me something else I needed to do. It was difficult enough being in business, without them getting involved in that way, to try and hamper, and not having any benefit from my side of things. So I started complaining more and more, until it got to the point where I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “Instead of complaining, maybe I should be part of the process and part of the solution”. So that’s been driving me and my way of thinking, throughout my political life so far, and I still have my business. So I try to stay connected that way. Those regulations and those same issues are still here today. We haven’t solved a lot of them, maybe we’ve stopped a few of them along the way, but we certainly haven’t changed the dynamic. My feeling is-instead of government being the adversary, why can’t we find ways to be better partners? It is a benefit to government to having strong businesses, benefit to government to having prosperous businesses, from a revenue standpoint. So we should be better partners, and I feel the same way with some of the regulations with the farming community in particular. If we really want to be known as this agricultural state, and we benefit from the other industry- the tourist industry-we need to find ways to make sure that we’re safe, and that we’re having safe products. And we all want that, it’s important; but how can we balance that out so that we don’t over regulate in a way that just puts people out of business. So I feel that we are going to have to develop these rules, and implement them in a way that the farming community can accept.
Jeff Lawson: Do you see that there’s any way that the state government would be able to assist in that?
Phil Scott: Well I think that there’s got to be a lot of input. It’s not something you can just stand by the sidelines, and watch happen. You have to get involved, and that’s why I jumped in to begin with. You have to get involved. You have to be there at the table, and if you’re not at the table-you probably are on the plate, so just be careful with that.
Jeff Lawson: **Laughs**
Phil Scott: It’s the same way with any legislature that goes through the state house. I’ve been amazed with how open the process is, really; but how few people really understand that, and how few people actually get involved and come in to testify. And it may be because “testifying” sounds like such a daunting thing you do.
Jeff Lawson: Right, right; not a great verb, perhaps.
Phil Scott: It sounds so formal, but as I’ve tried to describe to people, there’s a lot of lobbyist in the building that are a resource and they testify and so forth. There may be more practice than ? 17:37 but I advocate for people to come in and just tell their story. Just come in and be yourself, tell your story, be yourself. That’s more powerful actually, than having lobbyists tell the story for them, because it gets personal.
Jeff Lawson: Yeah. Right, right. Speaking of that, and telling your story-you developed something called the Vermont Economy Pitch sessions.
Phil Scott: I did.
Jeff Lawson: This is an opportunity, sounds like an informal opportunity, for business people to give their ideas to legislatures about how to improve the business climate here in the state.
Phil Scott: I did that last year, yes.
Jeff Lawson: Have you had much input from the dairy farming community?
Phil Scott: Not as much from the dairy farming community, no. But, it’s something that I should continue with, because they were very successful. The way I would described it was-the first one very successful, we had that in Montpelier – and I asked 15 entities, businesses and others to come in and tell us what exactly we could do to help you. And they were called the Vermont Economy Pitch sessions, and I had to make sure everyone heard that it was pitch with a “P”, not with a “B”. Because we hear all that, we hear that a lot; and what I wanted was proactive solutions. So in 5 minutes, I would say, “give us your best shot in 5 minutes, tell us what we can do”. So we had these 15 entities doing that, and we came up with some pretty interesting stuff that would help; in-fact, we utilized that in one bill last year, and put a lot of these ideas together and put them in one bill. But we need more of that, we need more people weighing in. And I get the problem is that from a business perspective, they’re so busy working! They don’t have time for all this, they just want you to do the right thing. Unfortunately there’s not enough balance in Montpelier sometimes to do that, there’s not enough people there with a business background. Very few of us that have actually signed the front of a check, a lot of people there sign the back of the check-but not as many the front. And that makes a huge difference. The sleepless nights I’ve had over the last 30 years in business- wondering “How am I going to make my payroll?” “Where is my next job coming from?” “How am I going to pay my bills this week?” I’ve had a lot of those sleepless nights. “Where am I going to find employees?” “What’s happening with them?” And I thought it was going to get easier, but I still have those sleepless nights; and now I have got other things I’m worried about as well.
Jeff Lawson: It’s like parenting; it doesn’t get easier, it just gets different.
Phil Scott: Yeah. I have two daughters, and they’re 28 and 30. I always thought when they got to be 21, that would be it. But no, it just changes.
Jeff Lawson: Yeah, absolutely.
Phil Scott: You never get to stop being a parent.
Jeff Lawson: Just out of curiosity, did they end up leaving the state?
Phil Scott: One did, my youngest is in Providence. She went to school in Rhode Island, and she stayed. I never thought she’d leave the state, but opportunity- once again. No opportunity back here. My other daughter went to school for a year, decided that wasn’t for her, and she’s with my business now, working with me. And she’s taking some night courses at a community college, so it’s another approach, and I’m very proud of her for doing that. So we’ll see where it goes from here.
Jeff Lawson: Excellent, excellent. Now, since 2010 when you were elected lieutenant governor, you have worked in the shoes of 35 different professions around the state? Tell me a little about that; and was dairy farming one of those professions?
Phil Scott: Not exactly dairy farming, but I have a few stories I can tell with that, and you can shut me off when you want.
Jeff Lawson: I bet you do. **Laughs.**
Phil Scott: But I decided to do this Vermont every day jobs tour when I became lieutenant governor, because I’m a hands on learner and it’s just easier for me to actually do something, rather than be told about it. I thought what better way than to actually work side by side in the shoes of somebody else. So I’ve learned an incredible amount from both employers and employees along the way. So my first job was making violins down in the Brattleboro area, then I worked at a Porter hospital in the emergency department, Green Mountain Power, taught second grade, worked for a commercial beekeeper company up in the Franklin County- I remember I got stung like three times that day.
Jeff Lawson: We have the makings of a very good reality television series here I think.
Phil Scott: Yeah, yeah-it was great though. I remember asking the beekeeper, “Do you ever get stung anymore?” And he said, “Every single day.” I said, “You still come to work when you get stung every single day?”, and he said, “You just get used to it”.
Jeff Lawson: Probably, right.
Phil Scott: I thought about that as I was walking into the state house; you know, you get used to it after a while, but you get stung.
Jeff Lawson: Well that must have given you a tremendous number of insights.
Phil Scott: It did, and I worked for a large animal vet, she was one of the few in Vermont. We went around and we did all kinds of vaccinations that day of horses and so forth, we de-horned some goats on a farm up in Marshfield, and then at the end of the day we got to castrate an alpaca.
Jeff Lawson: Phew.
Phil Scott: So that was a full range that day.
Jeff Lawson: I’ll say. I’d rather get stung by a bee, I think.
Phil Scott: That’s what I thought, but I took my new found talent back to the state house the next day, and things were a lot calmer.
Jeff Lawson: **Laughs** Oh boy, oh boy.
Phil Scott: As well as I worked up at Kingdom Creamery, up in East Hardwick, and got to go through their farm. They have an incredible process there, they make some of the best ice cream in Vermont-I believe. They utilize all of the products, they’re milking about a thousand head, they use all of their own maple syrup for their Majestic Maple Ice cream, which is great. It’s just utilizing everything they have, and the whole family is working at this business in the creamery. It’s just incredible making ice cream there.
Jeff Lawson: Well I applaud you making that effort-that sort of “boots on the ground” approach is something you don’t hear of very often from legislators anywhere or elected representatives.
Phil Scott: I think they should get out more.
Jeff Lawson: Yeah, that’s a fantastic idea.
Phil Scott: And I’ve thought about this-if I’m successful in becoming governor, I think I would do the same thing with state employees, to tell you the truth. I think getting my boots on the ground, seeing what they do, and learn from them. You can learn from others far more than your ideas that you have on your own.
Jeff Lawson: Well, it’s a great way to cultivate that sense of connection to our government, too. I think increasingly we tend to look at government as “the other”, rather than an extension of ourselves, which is not the idea in a democracy at all.
Phil Scott: Right, and it’s that culture change that I keep talking about; that we’re all in this together. Regardless of whether you’re the employer or the employee; we’re all in this together. We need our employees, and we need to work together; and I’d rather find common ground. That’s what I’ve done my whole political life-I’ve always served in the minority, never in the majority. But I’ve always been able to get something done because I don’t play the political games; I just try to get something done utilizing common sense, and finding common areas of agreement and then work on that. We share more in common than we think, we just have to find those areas and then figure out ways to accomplish both or all goals together.
Jeff Lawson: Right. Now one of your other goals for this campaign, I understand, is to balance the state’s budget. Now that is something that I would think inevitably takes some tough choices and requires some tough decisions; each of those choices is never going to satisfy everybody. But how do you see a balanced budget being a positive for the state’s farming community?
Phil Scott: Well again, I think that being in any business in Vermont, this will be a benefit to. We are expecting all our businesses and we’re expecting families to live within their means. Having your own family budget is about making choices-tough choices-sometimes. I have to ask myself in business and in my own personal life, one simple question, all the time. And that’s when I’m looking at something, is want and need; “Do I want it, or do I need it?”. I think that’s a basic question that we need to ask ourselves, even in state government. We get caught up in a lot of things that we think we have to have, but do we really need it? What is the priority? So when I look at what we’ve done over the past 6 years-what the legislature has done in terms of the budget – it’s seems as though, and I know it, we are spending at a rate of 5% growth, every single year.
Jeff Lawson: How fast is our economy growing?
Phil Scott: 2%, so we have a 3% gap. So the legislature comes back into session, and they’re surprised that we have a shortfall, every single year, for the past 6 years. I’ve thought about this a lot, it seems simple. If you know what the economy grew in the previous year, and what wages have grew in previous year-you have that data, so take that data! If it’s growing at a rate of 1-2%, then you don’t spend more than 1-2% in the coming year. You have the data, it’s that easy. Now it’s easy to come up with the number, but it will be difficult to make choices. It’s never easy, but we all do it, and we have to show Vermonters and our business community that we get it, and we can’t keep raising fees and taxes, because that just adds to the un-affordability to Vermont. What I’m trying to do is make Vermont more attractive, I’m trying to make Vermont more affordable, a place where people would like to live and stay and could afford to stay, as well.
Jeff Lawson: I think lots of people would like to live in Vermont, but–
Phil Scott: Selling Vermont is easy, it’s a great quality of life, and I don’t want to live anywhere differently. But the trick is, to balance that out so that people can afford to stay here.
Jeff Lawson: Just as a side here quickly, if you are successful in your run for governor, do you think you’ll keep racing Thunder Road?
Phil Scott: **Laughs** I get asked that a lot.
Jeff Lawson: Do you really?
Phil Scott: Yeah, I do. And mostly because people don’t think that I should quit.
Jeff Lawson: I would think not, I don’t think many states can say that their governor is an active stock car racer.
Phil Scott: As an aside, the governor is away a lot. I’m over 350 days in the last 6 years. So it’s fallen on some of those Thursday nights, and I won a race. When I was acting governor, I won a race. And it got some notoriety, so they did a blurb and a short article on it in Sports Illustrated.
Jeff Lawson: Wow.
Phil Scott: So that was kind of somewhat neat, to have that done. So to answer your question though, I’ve been careful not to ask others. I’m not sure who I have to ask whether it’s okay or not, but I’ve been careful not to ask that yet, we’ll find out. But certainly the job comes first, I take that seriously. But I still feel as though I’m competitive at times, and still feel as though I still have that in me. I would like to continue if I could, but we’ll see-time will tell.
Jeff Lawson: Yeah, that sounds great. Again, I don’t think many states, well can any state claim that?
Phil Scott: No state, there’s no other lieutenant governors that race in the United States, I’m the one and only. I’m pretty sure I would be the only governor that has either raced, or been successful racing. I’ve been blessed to have a pretty good career thus far, hoping to add to it.
Jeff Lawson: Now, as I understand it, your first business in the state was boat rental and lawn mowing. And this was on Lake Elmore? Is that right?
Phil Scott: Yeah, yeah.
Jeff Lawson: Tell me a little bit about that, and what kind of experience and insight did that give you moving forward in your business career, and your career as an elected representative as well?
Phil Scott: Well maybe to back up just a little bit, my dad was a World War 2 Vet, D-Day Invasion, and was a double amputee as a result. He grew up in Washington, Vermont; my mom grew up in Plainfield on a farm. So they met in Lake Elmore, my aunt lived there. So after my dad passed away, we would get to go off to different families, either at the farm or at Lake Elmore-another beautiful place to hunt and fish and do all the things I loved to do. So I spent the summers there with my Aunt. So I was enterprising, and I decided that I wanted to mow. Today it would be called lawn maintenance or a maintenance business of some sort, but back then it was lawn mowing. They did a lot of the camps around there, but I rented equipment from my uncle, and he would charge me so much for gas, so much for the mower, so much for the trailer, so much for this- and I had to pay him, he wasn’t letting me go. So it taught me that side of the business- about how you’ve got to do things, and again- you’ve got to budget. And you couldn’t have any repairs, that would eat into your bottom line.
Jeff Lawson: Now is this the same uncle that you went on to work for?
Phil Scott: No, different uncle. So at the same time, I’m mowing lawns and I’m seeing the lake there, and I thought, “I’m going to take some of the profit there, and I’m going to buy a paddle boat.” So, I bought a paddle boat, and rented that out by the hour. Then nights, and whenever I needed to, we would help the local farmers, and work for about a buck an hour, two bucks an hour if we were lucky, cash. Which was kind of nice.
Jeff Lawson: Yep, yep.
Phil Scott: So it was just the variety of doing many, many different things, that has led me to have the foundation for how business works. Because even today, it’s the same principles as I had when I was doing the lawn mowing, as it is today. I have 35 employees, and a lot of different equipment- but it’s the same principles that are still there.
Jeff Lawson: Yeah, the basic fundamental underpinnings are all still in place.
Phil Scott: Right, and that’s what I get back to with their budgeting. It’s back to the fundamentals and basics, it’s the same things that we do in our own lives, we just need to follow that path in state government as well; and prove that we can do it.
Jeff Lawson: So looking forward to the election, what can Vermont’s farmers expect from a Phil Scott administration?
Phil Scott: Well I think from a Phil Scott administration, it’s basically about following through. I’m going to tell you the truth, I’m going to do what I say, and I’m not going to over promise. I am going to deliver, and I think that that’s important-trying to renew the faith and trust that we’ve lost throughout our nation by the way, and Vermont in general, is something that I think we need to rebuild. You’ll find a public servant, rather than a politician; and it’s not something I’m going to do for the rest of my life, I still want to go back to business, so this isn’t a stepping stone, this is about doing my duty.
Jeff Lawson: Great, well Lieutenant Governor, thanks so much for joining us, it was great to talk to you today.
Phil Scott: Thanks very much for having me.
Jeff Lawson: Thanks for listening today. For more information on dairy feed and nutrition, and to hear other Perspectives Podcasts, visit us at www.phoenixfeeds.net.