The Vermont Economy

VPR's Steve Zind

VPR senior reporter Steve Zind focuses on the Vermont economy and its impact on our lives. Follow Steve Zind on Twitter, post comments on the stories, and let Steve know what local economy stories you think VPR should cover.

A Vermont couple shifted their plans for a farm centered on a goat dairy after taking a workshop in growing shiitake mushrooms.

Now, Lucas Jackson and Maeve Mangine are selling the spongy rich mushrooms to several restaurants and a food cooperative, and through a community supported agriculture farm.

Their Tangled Roots Farm in Shrewsbury was one of about 20 farms chosen in Vermont and New York as research sites under a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant.

Vermont’s unemployment rate held steady in August, at 4.6 percent.

State labor officials say there were more construction jobs for the month but add that the building industry remains at near recessionary lows.

The state of Vermont is going to receive $63,000 from UBS Financial Services as part of a nationwide $4.6 million settlement.

Vermont Financial Regulation Commissioner Susan Donegan says the payment comes after a multi-state investigation determined some UBS employees had been accepting orders even though they were not registered to sell securities.

Donegan said she is pleased UBS has acknowledged the need to modify its procedures and take corrective actions.

Herb Swanson

On September 21, Governor Peter Shumlin and other state officials will accompany the owner of Jay Peak on a nine-day Asian trade mission in hopes of secure money for a series of projects in the Northeast Kingdom.

The effort is centered on the federal EB-5 program, which offers Green Card status to foreigners who invest a minimum of $500,000 in approved projects.

VPR/Steve Zind

The Vermont Public Service Board held the second of two hearings Tuesday night to hear public comments on a controversial 41 mile natural gas pipeline proposed for Addison County.

The project would be an expansion of the Vermont Natural Gas System’s Chittenden County pipeline.

Most speakers at the hearing opposed the project.

Before the hearing opponents staged a rally outside the Middlebury Middle School.

Even before the news that Vermont Yankee would close in 2014, the state’s southeast corner was grappling with declining jobs, wages and population.

A Career Expo in Brattleboro this month will address these problems, which experts say would exist with or without the region’s highest-paying employer.

A coalition hoping to improve the local employment picture has been working since last fall on the expo, scheduled for September 26.

VPR/Annie Russell

Once known as a town on the decline, St. Albans is taking major steps to turn around their local economy- and their reputation. The city has invested millions in new projects designed to do both. Mayor Liz Gamache said revitalization has been in the works for years.

“We’ve seen this struggle and decline in our small, local businesses keeping up and staying here in St.Albans. We’ve seen certainly more than a few leave,” Gamache said.

Courtesy Scott Milne

A plan to place a mixed-use development at the exit of Interstate 89 near Quechee has been rejected by a District Environmental Commission, but the developer says he will appeal that decision. The Commission’s ACT 250 ruling is at odds with approval granted by the town of Hartford.

General Dynamics announced to employees Thursday that the company will cut 35 jobs at its Williston location by the end of 2013. Rob Doolittle, General Dynamics' Staff Vice President for Communications, confirmed that the company told employees Thursday morning that 35 jobs at the company's 275-person office on the IBM campus in Williston will be cut.

Doolittle said the cuts just affect the company's Williston location.

"I can't rule out other changes, but we don't have anything else to announce today," he said.

City of St. Albans

St. Albans voters will go to the polls September 10 to cast ballots for or against a proposed $13 million parking garage in the heart of the city. If approved, the project would be paid for using "tax increment financing," also known as TIF. St.

VPR/Nina Keck

Debate continues to swirl in Middlebury over a proposed land swap between the town and the college.  Proponents say the deal will help the town afford a new municipal office and recreational facility.  But opponents are angry at the way it was worked out and say valuable town property will be lost.

Town officials have struggled for years over what to do with the municipal town offices - located in a hundred year old red brick building many in town consider an eyesore.

AP/Toby Talbot

For the past several months, VPR has been working on a project we’re calling Mapping the Money. It takes a look at all the money spent on Tropical Storm Irene recovery and breaks it down into manageable pieces—how much has been spent by the state, and on what projects, where the millions of dollars from FEMA went, and how different NGOs spent their money.

And it’s all done with maps, so you can find out how much money your town received.

AP / Jason R. Henske

The news that Entergy Corporation of Louisiana would close the Vermont Nuclear Power plant at the end of 2014 struck like a bombshell yesterday. But for some long-time observers and reporters tracking the saga of Vermont’s only nuclear facility, the news wasn’t entirely surprising.

Mitch Wertlieb sat down with VPR’s John Dillon, to talk about what’s next for Yankee, and for the future of energy in Vermont.

With today’s announcement about the closure of Vermont Yankee, residents in Windham County say the news is a mixed bag.

Some in the local community welcomed the news, while others are worried.

Besides generating electricity, Vermont Yankee also fuels the local economy. Laura Sibilia of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation said the closing is disheartening after years of a poor economy on top of the injuries from Tropical Storm Irene.

“It’s a little like, oooh! Enough with the body blows please!’”

VPR/Charlotte Albirght

Reporters, including many who’ve been covering Vermont Yankee for decades, showed up at Tuesday’s press conference at company headquarters in Brattleboro with slightly stunned expressions.

The media room at the offices of Vermont Yankee on the outskirts of Brattleboro has seen hundreds of press conferences, but none—in 41 years—quite like this one.

Police cruisers were parked outside. The media door was locked until shortly before three serious top officials from the Entergy Corporation sat down at a nondescript table.

AP File Photo

Entergy Corporation said today it plans to close and decommission its Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station in Vernon and that the plant will close at the end of 2014.

"Citing Economics, Entergy To Close Vermont Yankee By End of 2014"
 John Dillon's report recapping all the developments of the day: 

Entergy Corporation held a press conference following their announcement that the Vermont Yankee plant in Vernon, Vt. will close at the end of 2014.

The press conference was held August 27, 2013 at Entergy's office in Brattleboro, Vt.

Governor Peter Shumlin held a press conference reacting to Entergy's decision to close the Vermont Yankee plant in Vernon, Vt. The press conference was held August 27, 2013 in Montpelier, Vt.

  

Even with the recent spike in the unemployment rate this summer, Vermont remains one of only eight states in the nation with a jobless rate below 5 percent, a figure touted often by Gov. Peter Shumlin as evidence of this state’s relative economic health.

Paradoxically, however, the number of Vermonters who report being employed has actually been on the decline for well more than a year. And one analyst says the rosy unemployment rate obscures a more alarming trend in the local labor market.

AP/ Toby Talbot

A legislative committee has approved a plan to roll back restrictions on how the state cares for homeless people.

The change reverses elements of an earlier proposal that had advocates worried that more people would end up on the street.

But a legislative hearing on the issue revealed concerns that the state has failed to address underlying issues of homelessness.

The hearing before the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules addressed what some on the panel said were the unintended consequence of budget cuts imposed by the Legislature.

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