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IBM Plant Not The Only Prospect For New Jobs Fund

Peter Hirschfeld
Gov. Peter Shumlin signed an economic development bill at MyWebGrocer offices in Winooski Tuesday.

Business officials in Chittenden County are calling on Gov. Peter Shumlin to allocate $4.5 million to IBM to avert a sale of the company’s Essex Junction chip making facility.

But Shumlin says it’s too early to release money from the newly created job-retention fund. And he’s left open the door to using the money for purposes other than retaining the approximately 4,000 jobs at the IBM facility.

“I think the good news is that this fund gives the governor and legislative leadership the authority to be flexible, and that’s exactly what we need,” Shumlin said.

Shumlin comments came during a ceremony in Winooski Tuesday at which he signed into law legislation that creates a $4.5 million fund originally designed to entice IBM, or the eventual buyer of its Essex Junction plant, to continue operations at that facility.

According to numerous media accounts, IBM is nearing a deal to sell its Essex Junction chip manufacturing plant. And at a press conference Monday, the Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation said giving the $4.5 million to IBM now would improve the state’s chances at preserving the plant.

But Shumlin said the state needs more information about the situation at IBM before officials can decide how best to use the money. And he said investments in other out-of-state companies considering relocating to Vermont might yield higher returns on taxpayer investment.

“So I would be very careful not to limit the ability to use that $4.5 million to not only retain existing jobs … but also to bring in new endeavors. And that’s really what we need,” Shumlin said.

The governor said he’s spoken recently with executives at two out-of-state firms that might be candidates for grants from what’s being called the Vermont Enterprise Fund. He said the executives told him that while they like Vermont, other states are offering more lucrative recruiting offers.

With the Enterprise Fund, Shumlin said, “I’m able to say, you know, we might have the capacity to help fill some of that gap, now that we have the flexibility with the $4.5 million.”

Lawmakers will have to sign off on whatever proposal Shumlin eventually comes up with for the Enterprise Fund.

The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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