Douglas says time needed for manufacturing to rebound

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(Host) Vermont lost about 500 manufacturing jobs from January to June. But Governor Jim Douglas says the job loss is due in part to the policies of his predecessors. The governor says it will take time for the manufacturing sector to recover.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) In his campaign last year, candidate Douglas focused on jobs. He promised his administration would make it easier for companies to do business here.

But the state Department of Employment and Training reports Vermont has lost 500 manufacturing jobs from January to June. The number will get climb, because of the recent shutdown of manufacturing plants in Brandon and Randolph.

Douglas was asked about the job losses at his weekly news conference. He says his administration should not be blamed.

(Douglas) “I’m trying to fix this problem so we can reverse this trend. But obviously a job that is lost early in my administration is not reflective of the policies of my administration. It’s reflective of the 18 years that have preceded it. We’ve got a situation in Vermont where it’s not been competitive for companies to create jobs and provide opportunities for Vermonters.”

(Dillon) Douglas says the environmental regulatory process makes Vermont less competitive. And he repeated his call for the Legislature to change the permit laws. But the governor also acknowledged that global forces affect the manufacturing sector.

(Douglas) “There are a number of forces, some of them the global economy. But we also have to be sure that regardless of the overall size of the economic pie that Vermont is positioned to compete for the jobs that still exist. And that’s what I’m focusing on – looking at the competitive disadvantages: permitting being one, tax burden being another, the cost of electricity being a third, infrastructure being a fourth.”

(Dillon) Vermont’s unemployment rate in June was 4.%1, below the national rate of 6.4%. Douglas says that’s good news.

(Douglas) “The total number of jobs in Vermont has increased over the last year. So we’re in relatively good shape, compared to other places. But the manufacturing job loss is something that is not unique to Vermont and I’m sure it will continue to some extent in some sectors for the foreseeable future.”

(Dillon) IBM, the state’s largest private employer, has recently cut back overtime hours in Vermont because of a slump in computer sales. IBM laid off about 1,000 people a year ago, and workers are now concerned about more job cuts. Douglas says his staff keeps in touch with IBM officials and he hasn’t been told about future layoffs.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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