State business grant gets flushed down the crapper

Bad news from down Bennington way, courtesy of The Banner:

With a two-paragraph note Thursday afternoon, a major Bennington employer for decades — Energizer — confirmed that the local factory will close.

Well, there go some nice manufacturing jobs in a community that’s taken more than its share of body blows. How many jobs is apparently a mystery; Energizer didn’t say, and The Banner couldn’t immediately find out. In 2015, the factory was downsized to an undisclosed extent (companies have learned to conceal the grim details of cutbacks and closings); at the time, per VTDigger, it employed “between 100 and 250 people.”

Sen. Dick Sears of Bennington learned of the plant’s closure — after the fact — in an email from a corporate stooge who offered hollow words of praise for “the years of productive engagement we have had with you and your office.”

That “productive engagement,” by the way, included a Vermont Training Program grant issued in April 2018 — only a year and a half ago. VTP provides taxpayer funds to cover up to 50 percent of training new workers or teaching new skills to existing workers.

I’m not sure, but I’m gonna guess here that Vermont had something a little more… uh, permanent in mind when it gave Energizer those dollars. Instead, the company didn’t even bother to inform state government until after it had publicly announced the plant closure.

Nice.

Sears expressed the forlorn hope that Energizer might put the toothpaste back in the tube. Good luck with that.

Select Board chair Donald Campbell revealed — probably unintentionally — the fundamental flaw in business giveaways like VTP. “Bennington and Energizer have had a great relationship for decades, so being caught in the pincers of global economics is extremely sad news for our community,” Campbell told The Banner.

Exactly. A job training grant is a drop in the bucket for a large corporation. Its decision-making process is subject to forces much, much larger than anything the state of Vermont can do.

Which doesn’t stop state officials from claiming that these grants will preserve and enhance jobs for Vermonters, even though that assurance is based entirely on wishful thinking and worthless corporate promises.

Hey, I’ve got an idea. Let’s kill the incentive programs and roll the money into — just spitballin’ here — community college-based training programs. That way, we help prepare our workers for any and all available jobs instead of handing over our money to a corporation that might just turn around and leave without notice.

Oh, and here’s one more tidbit from the archives. Back in 2007, Energizer discovered “solvent contamination” underneath the plant, which had been in operation for 65 years. So when the Big Pink Bunny packs up and ships out, he might just be leaving the city a lovely parting gift: a brownfield of unknown magnitude.

5 thoughts on “State business grant gets flushed down the crapper

  1. Ray Mullineaux

    I agree that there is going to be no pulling this company back: take the money and run on the
    training grant.
    I think the state and town ought to put their energy into trying, ala the St. Gobain and PFOA ongoing affair, to investigate and hold responsible Energizer for the brownfield. This brownfield
    sits a couple hundred yards from Bennington Elementary School and on a stream and a valley
    full of underground streams. Energizer should be held accountable for their damages as was
    St. Gobain.

    Reply
  2. Kathryn Trudell

    Looks to me like more jobs joining their associates in fleeing a failing mini socialist state. Demanding ethics from a business in Vermont is really hypocritical when you look at the scams our own state government has foisted upon we the people in the past few years. That same government really can’t expect Vermont businesses to maintain lofty standards when theirs are so low. It’s a sad commentary on what is going on throughout Vermont in many areas, both public and private. A sad mentality all the way around.

    Reply
  3. walter carpenter

    “A sad mentality all the way around.”

    The sad mentality is the corporate one that forces us taxpayers to subsidize it in return for what.. the promise of a few jobs…and demands that state government does its will or is leaving the state and then they leave it anyway. This is extortion.

    Reply
    1. Kathryn Trudell

      Walter, what you appear to be saying is that the sad corporate mentality is shared in Vermont by both the public (state) and private sectors. In that I can agree. Examples: Jay Peak, Act 250, and the so-called “Lakeshore Protection” Act which makes criminals out of private home-owners who are trying to comply with many onerous and convoluted regulations which bring money into the state’s coffers, while at the same time tyrannizing ordinary citizens and putting a lock on their private property. (Socialism)

      Reply

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