Daily Archives: February 9, 2015

Talk about a waste of money…

Governor Shumlin appears to have his knickers in a knot over Vermont Information Technology Leaders’ decision to buy ad time during the Super Bowl.

Bear in mind we’re not talking about a Budweiser-level national buy; VITL bought one spot on channel 5 at a cost of $13,000. A waste of money? Arguably, perhaps; but VITL is trying to raise its public profile, and that 13K was part of a $195,000 marketing campaign.

Shumlin told the Vermont Press Bureau’s Neal Goswami that he was “disappointed” by VITL’s move. Well, he put it more grandly: “Many Vermonters joined me in being disappointed that state and federal funds were being used for an advertising buy during the Super Bowl.”

Yeah, “many Vermonters.” Why, just the other day I heard the folks at Coffee Corner’s front table griping about that waste of $13,000.


And then Shumlin got to the real meat of his objection.

“This should highlight the need for the Green Mountain Care Board to regulate VITL’s expenditures,” Shumlin said Sunday.

Aha, the penny drops. VITL is currently an independent nonprofit organization that “helps health care providers adopt and use IT systems.” Shumlin wants GMCB to have authority over VITL spending. And now he’s publicly scolding VITL for its horrifically wasteful use of… ahem… $13,000.

Smells like a power play to me.

Now, I’d love to have an extra 13 large. It’s nothing to sniff at. But as part of a sizable organization’s marketing campaign? Certainly not worth the Governor’s attention. Let’s say, hypothetically, that GMCB already had the authority. Would it be micromanaging VITL’s budget to that extent? I don’t think so.

Besides, if you want to talk about wasting money, let’s look at the taxpayers’ $2.5 million donation to GlobalFoundries, as ordered by our provident Governor.

GlobalFoundries, you may recall, “bought” IBM’s computer chip operations, including the facility in Essex Junction, for a whopping negative $1.5 billion. Last month, Shumlin announced he intends to hand over $2.5 million in state incentives to GlobalFoundries. That’ll clean out the Vermont Enterprise Fund, which was created last year at Shumlin’s behest. It’s supposed to help encourage large employers to remain or relocate in Vermont, and spending it is a gubernatorial prerogative.

As VTDigger’s Carolyn Shapiro reported, it’s unclear “how the money will be used and what conditions, if any, GlobalFoundries will have to meet.”

If any. Snort.

The Governor said the money “will help the state build a relationship” with its new corporate occupant.

Think of it as a $2.5 million corsage for a prom date.

Because when you’re talking about a giant corporation that does business in billions, $2.5 million is nothing but a gesture. Will it do anything to keep GlobalFoundries in Vermont or get them to expand? No. Corporate decisions will be made with global concerns in mind. On that scale, $2.5 million is a rounding error.

The Governor might as well have taken that money, in bags of small bills, to GlobalFoundries’ front gate and set fire to it, in hopes that the sweet, sweet smoke would appease the corporate gods.

The fundamental problem is, Vermont can’t move the numbers significantly enough to affect decisions at that level. We will always be at the mercy of large employers, and we’ll be playing with a short stack against bigger states (and countries) that can offer much bigger incentives. We’d be better off taking that $2.5 million and investing it in something that might actually make a difference — say, in a revolving loan fund for startup businesses.

Or here’s an idea: A revolving loan fund for students pursuing two-year degrees in technology fields. Why, just the other day one of IBM’s top executives said that GlobalFoundries “is struggling to fill positions because they can’t find enough workers with a two-year technical degree.”

You want to keep them in Vermont and simultaneously grow opportunities for Vermonters? Access to education is much more relevant to GlobalFoundries than a burnt offering at their front gate.

Just spitballing. My point is that there have got to be better, more effective, business-friendly ways to spend that $2.5 million. And that’s a lot bigger waste than VITL’s $13,000 Super Bowl ad.