by Rob Roper
When someone says, “It’s not you; it’s me,” during a break up, odds are it’s probably you. Particularly when you’ve heard that same line several times in a string of breakups.
Yesterday Vermonters learned that Plasan Carbon Composites of Bennington is closing up shop and moving to Michigan. Vermont will lose 143 jobs as a result. This news follows IBM’s decision to implement another round of layoffs following the cut of 419 jobs just this past summer.
In the past, Plasan Carbon Composites has been held up as an example by Governor Shumlin to illustrate Vermont’s ability to attract good-paying high-tech, “green” manufacturing jobs. The governor mentioned Plasan specifically in his 2013 innagural speech, and in April 2012 posted a press release titled, “Shumlin Tells Bennington to Expect Jobs, Healthcare,” quoting the governor as saying, “The potential for composites is just warming up and we must work together to keep Bennington the hub for composite growth in America. If we stay focused on that, we gain a huge economic edge, a huge jobs opportunity and I can tell you, we will do whatever we can do to partner with you to deliver on the promise of those economic opportunities.”
Obviously, Vermont didn’t do enough and those opportunities are going to Michigan.
This should not come as a big surprise. After exciting growth in Bennington during the 2000’s, in 2011 Plasan decided to expand its Michigan facility rather than grow in Vermont, the result of a $4 million tax credit. Michigan also enticed Plasan to relocate the company’s research and development division to that state, and open a technical center via a $700,000 tax credit.
Since his election in 2010, governor Shumlin has based the economic development plan for Vermont on attracting businesses with the promise of a single payer health care system, a commitment to growing “green” jobs through government subsidies, and developing a stronger work force through the expansion of pre-kindergarten.
It’s not working.
In 2013, Essex based Huber Huber + Suhner left Vermont with 63 jobs for North Carolina, stating, “Obviously, the cost of doing business here and the tax perspective is a significant reason why we’re moving.”
The real world lesson to learn here is that if Vermont wants to attract jobs and support a healthy and sustainable middle class, we have to start first and foremost with efforts to create a more favorable tax environment. As for what we’re doing… just take a look what’s happened to Vermont’s labor force since Shumlin’s plan was put into place in January 2011….
James Staargaard, president of Plasan Carbon Composites, said of the move to Michigan, “It’s not about Bennington, it’s not about Vermont.” It’s not you; it’s me. And the fact that that I’ve met someone else who’s a helluva lot more attractive than you are.
Rob Roper is the President of the Ethan Allen Institute, where this article originally appeared.