« Previous  
 Next »

Vermont manufacturing

01/22/03 12:00AM By Timothy McQuiston
 MP3   Download MP3 

(Host) Commentator Tim McQuiston recently heard about a small manufacturer in Windham County who has realized that his company doesn't have to be in Vermont; that it could, in fact, make more money by re-locating someplace where it's cheaper to do business. And that's the case for a lot of small manufacturers.

(McQuiston) Manufacturers are located in Vermont for various reasons. If the raw material is produced here, it therefore makes sense to produce the final product here, such as ice cream, wood furniture, marble table tops, and so on. And there's a value-added benefit to having the product produced in Vermont, even if the raw material is imported. Coffee, salsa, bread, fine glassware and other high quality items benefit from Vermont's high quality reputation.

Some foreign companies want or need a U.S.-base of operations. They make everything from chocolate candy to, literally, nuts and bolts here. Other manufacturers choose Vermont because it's close to markets. And, of course, there are those manufacturers who simply started the business here. This group includes software developers and automotive parts fabricators a long way from Detroit. And, yes, there are owners who just want to live in Vermont.

But manufacturing has been much in the news lately, especially for the number of plant closings and jobs lost. Bouyea Fassets Bakery in South Burlington became the latest casualty. It's closing the last of its original plants and leaving the state. Bouyea Fassets was a family owned and operated bakery until about 10 years ago. It followed the natural progression of being sold to a national company, which in turn was bought by another national company which then decided to consolidate operations at another location in another state. Such firms rarely consolidate in Vermont. It happens, but not often.

In the 1960s, a lot of low-cost manufactured goods started coming out of Japan and Hong Kong. We called it cheap stuff then. But that cheap stuff eventually became quality goods. Ironically, it also became too expensive to produce in Japan and now all those toys and electronics and clothes come from the Philippines and Pakistan and, especially, China.

There's always going to be a cheaper place to make stuff. And whether its flashlights or aircraft parts, the fact is that very few manufacturers are in Vermont for strictly bottom-line reasons. And it's a given that sooner or later any business goes the way of the dinosaurs, whether by cultural evolution or technological competition. They close or move. Or the whole industry may become extinct.

Here in Vermont, Mad River Canoe, After The Fall, CB Sports and Digital Equipment are all gone. What's important to remember is that new industries are always hatching or evolving. We must do what we can to support existing businesses and even lure others from out of state. But more importantly, we must identify those industries in transition, and maybe even let them go, while nurturing the next generation.

This is Timothy McQuiston

Timothy McQuiston is editor of Vermont Business Magazine.
comments powered by Disqus
Supported By
Become an Underwriter | Find an Underwiter