As we work to make sure Vermont’s economy works for every Vermonter, our focus has to be on growing jobs and opportunity statewide, especially in more rural parts of the state that were hit hardest by the Great Recession. That’s why I was so proud this week to stand with the leadership of Vermed, a medical device manufacturer in Bellows Falls, to announce a state economic growth award that will help the company add additional jobs and ensure they remain committed to growing their manufacturing business in rural Vermont.
In order for Vermont individuals and families to succeed, companies that provide good, middle class jobs, like Vermed, are integral to our state’s economic future. That’s why when Vermed was sold earlier this year to a New York based company, my team and I worked so hard to ensure they remained right at home in Windham County. We immediately reached out to the new owners to see what we could do to help the company not only stay but expand in Vermont. Working with local and regional partners, we put together a package to keep Vermed thriving in Bellows Falls, which included apprenticeship, internship, and employee training opportunities to help get more hard working Vermonters into the manufacturing jobs offered by Vermed; incentives to spur job creation under Vermont’s award-winning VEGI program, which has created 3,038 new, full-time jobs since its creation; Windham County economic development funds available through the settlement to retire Vermont Yankee; and local property tax stabilization.
In a world where states compete aggressively to lure jobs from one another, it was not just the package we were able to put together to keep Vermed in Bellows Falls. It was also state government’s ability to be quick and nimble. We’re a small state that doesn’t have the economic development resources of larger states like New York. But we do have a responsive state government, and that makes a difference. The CEO of the company that acquired Vermed noted as much, saying Vermont government moved “at the speed of business” to help secure Vermed’s future in Windham County.
Manufacturing is on the rebound in Vermont, and the story of Vermed is one playing out in other rural parts of the state as well. In June, I signed an economic development bill at Cabot Hosiery Darn Tough Socks in Northfield. This Vermont-grown company makes the best socks in the world and will soon break ground on a 100,000 square foot mill expansion that will add 150 employees over the next three years, creating an additional 300 full-time positions by 2020. Those are good manufacturing jobs that will allow Vermonters to live, work, and raise a family.
To build on success stories like Vermed in Bellows Falls and Darn Tough in Northfield, we’re also investing in Vermont’s downtowns to expand economic development statewide. From Brattleboro to Bennington to Rutland to St. Albans to Newport, we’re working to strengthen downtowns and help local leaders grow jobs and opportunity for Vermont families. St. Albans is a perfect example. When City leadership came to my administration four years ago with an ambitious vision to revitalize downtown St. Albans there were many obstacles in the way. Working together, we met those challenges and figured out how to turn vision to reality. Earlier this year, we opened a brand new state office building that brought 140 state employees to the heart of downtown St. Albans and broke ground an 88-room hotel that will drive economic opportunity in the City.
We have a lot to be proud of in Vermont. Our state is home to the fourth lowest unemployment rate in America and we are seeing continued job growth in many sectors, including manufacturing. Our challenge is to do all we can to ensure that economic growth is spread throughout the state. And on that front we are making progress.