IBM In Vermont: A History In Pictures

Oct 20, 2014

With the announcement Monday morning that IBM is offloading its chip division, including its plant in Essex Junction, to the California-based semiconductor manufacturer GlobalFoundries, we sifted through the archives to find photographs of the plant's early days, IBM products at use in Vermont and beyond, and the shifting fortunes of the company and its local employees through the years.

Here's what the approach to the Essex plant looked like in 1958:

Credit Landscape Change Program / University of Vermont

IBM led the nation's computing industry throughout the 20th century. In this photo from 1972, a man sits at the Springfield, Vermont tax department's central data processing center, surrounded by large IBM computers:

Credit Landscape Change Program / University of Vermont

A woman test-drives the "new IBM Personal Computer system for home and school use" in August of 1981: 

Credit IBM / AP

In this 1983 photo, a worker checks a wafer of computer chips at the IBM manufacturing facility in Essex Junction:

Credit Toby Talbot / AP

Twelve years later, in 1995, a worker at the same plant works on the microchip line. At the time, IBM said it was poised to hire 200 more workers in 1996, to bring its total workforce to 7,000:

Credit Toby Talbot / AP

In 1999, IBM employees considered unionizing. Ralph Turner, center, of Cleveland, Ohio and other union members of the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America marched on Church Street in Burlington on August 30. IBM workers never went through with unionization:

Credit Alden Pellett / AP

Early Google Glass? In this photo from May, 2000, Gov. Howard Dean tries the IBM prototype "wearable" PC during a visit to the Vermont Business Expo in South Burlington. The prototype had full Internet and email access, a headpiece with a small video display, a main unit the size of a portable stereo and a miniature one-handed controller: 

Credit Toby Talbot / AP

The company's success was marked by global expansion. At an IBM employee event in Bangalore, India on June 6, 2006, IBM Chairman Sam Palmisano announced that IBM expected to triple its investment in India to $6 billion over three years as the South Asian country became a cornerstone in the global network of the world's largest computer services company:

Credit Gautam Singh / AP

Over the last decade and a half, there have been successive waves of downsizing – and subsequent layoffs – at the Essex Junction plant. After a round of layoffs in early 2009, Tony Phillip, 43, left, of Colchester and Chris Cram, 34, right, of Georgia talked at Martone's Market in Essex Junction about how they both left to work at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (now Keurig Green Mountain) before they lost their IBM jobs:

Credit Alden Pellett / AP

In June of 2013, another round of layoffs of an estimated 300 IBM workers prompted the Vermont Department of Labor to convene a job fair for former IBM employees. On July 15, more than 80 companies gathered in South Burlington for the fair:

Credit Toby Talbot / AP

At a press conference following the announcement of IBM's transfer of its chip division and Essex plant to GlobalFoundries on Oct. 20, Vermont officials praised the workforce that distinguished IBM and called for GlobalFoundries to ensure that the Essex plant remains a vital part of Vermont's workforce and IBM's business model. Gov. Peter Shumlin held up his iPhone to illustrate the role that IBM's chips continue to play in the industry:

Credit Taylor Dobbs / VPR