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Stove Manufacturer Adds Jobs In Vermont

The owners of Vermont Castings say they’ve added 50 jobs in Vermont since purchasing the stove manufacturer last year.

The bulk of the jobs are the result of cutbacks in operations in other countries.

The company started making woodstoves in the 1970s at its foundry in Randolph. It also manufactures barbeque grills and kitchen products.

The company has been bought and sold several times over the years, most recently last August when the The Vermont Castings Group’s Kentucky-based management team purchased it from a private equity firm.

After the purchase the new owners decided to close a plant in Mexico and return to the U.S. work that had been outsourced there and to China.

On a visit to Vermont, CEO Ricardo Leon said the decision to repatriate the jobs resulted in 40 additional positions at the Vermont Castings Bethel assembly plant.

Leon says the decision makes sense in spite of lower labor costs in Mexico and China.

“You have to take into account supply chain and, freight costs and you have to take into account costs of quality,” Leon said. “ When you’re not there every day, you don’t have the same control over it, so we took a very holistic approach to what we manufacture.”

Leon said from a marketing standpoint the company is betting that consumers will also respond to the decision.

“If they’re facing the decision of buying a product and one of the items on the list is made in America versus overseas, it will swing the scale. That’s the bet that I made,” he said.

Leon says Vermont Castings also added 10 jobs at its Randolph foundry as a result of increased demand for its products. With the noise of the machinery and the glow of molten metal, the foundry looks like a scene from the heyday of the industrial age.

Foundry General Manger Bob Wright says 80 people currently work in the foundry. He says the average annual salary is in the $30,000 to $35,000 range.

Vermont Castings currently has 200 employees in Vermont and 400 in Kentucky.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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