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.
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.