Bring business to Vermont?

For a moment, imagine you are an out-of-state business relocation consultant, hired to investigate bringing your client's 200-employee company to Vermont. One of the first sources for business news you want to read is the Vermont Business Magazine.

You obtain the June 2013 issue, read the following, and note that the editorial is commenting on the recently released "Rich States, Poor States Report," prepared by economist Dr. Arthur B. Laffer.

The report summarizes where a state ranks with regard to regulation, taxation, and indebtedness.

Not too far down you read, "Vermont is dead last." In your role as the relocation consultant you might be surprised, but many of us are not surprised at all. But this was the Laffer report, and Laffer has been linked more with "Reagan era supply side economics," as noted in the editorial. Okay, but let's move on.

The consultant now looks for more information on doing business in Vermont - and it is possible she may have overlooked a small piece in the same issue of the Vermont Business Magazine.

"According to a recently released report (the 2012 Marquet Report), Vermont continues to hold its place as one of the likeliest places for embezzlement in the U.S."

As a state, we had been number one, now we are in second place - but let's not become sidetracked; this is not important.

The relocation consultant does pick up a statewide paper, the June 4, 2013 Rutland Herald. And right there, on page one, above the fold, she reads, "Setback for SP Land Co. The proposed $140 million resort project near Killington Mountain was stopped dead in its tracks - just before the multi-year development review finish line, from a shot out of 'left field.'"

The unseen shot was fired by three regional planning commissions that decided to come to the "game" near the end of the ninth inning, and demand that the developer redo its plans and provide 495 units of permanent workforce housing, as well as a traffic study covering 113 miles of roads - not just nearby roads, but for roads all the way to Waterbury, Vermont.

The SP Land Co. project's consultant characterized the demands as disappointing, shocking and disrespectful - after having spent millions on design and years to get to this point.

The imaginary relocation consultant records it in her notes, as outright extortion, confiscatory and intellectual dishonesty. She does recall a comment made to her when she was in Bennington looking at possible manufacturing sites.

She recalled that the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center had also incurred a last minute requirement when it was in the approval process for its 150-bed independent living facility - after $1 million was spent for design and legal fees, the hospital got turned down - a nonprofit hospital and the county's largest employer. This news did cause her to pause.

Staying overnight in Burlington in order to fly back early in the morning to her next destination, our consultant scanned the Burlington Free Press and four articles caught her ever-inquisitive eyes:

"Vermont Governor takes advantage of disabled neighbor in land purchase deal"

"Vermont's largest employer, IBM, to lay off hundreds"

"The Vermont Air National Guard base, an employer of over 1,000, has major opposition for the relocation of the advanced fighter jet, the F-35, scheduled to replace the aging F-16."

The fourth news item, while not directly related, piqued the consultant's interest:

"Vermont's food stamp recipients (3 SquaresVT) went from 55,000 in 2008 to 105,000, in 2012 - close to 15% of the state's population was now receiving the Federal entitlement."

For some unknown reason, our imaginary consultant missed the headlined article in the June 4, 2013 Rutland Herald:

"An (economic) Summit takes aim at the long-term (state) economic plan - a comprehensive strategy will more importantly position the state of Vermont very attractively and competitively for future economic development."

On the other hand, maybe she did read it and based on her research, didn't believe it - her focus was now on her visit to Utah and North Dakota. These states were ranked numbers one and two in the Laffer report.

Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington


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