Tag Archives: Vermont Economic Progress Council

Is this the most useless policy review ever?

Hey, here’s some good news. One of Vermont’s more problematic job-creation programs is getting a policy review.

Unfortunately, that’s where the good news ends.

The program is the Vermont Employment Growth Initiative, or VEGI for short. It provides incentives to employers who grow jobs in Vermont. The most frequent VEGI beneficiary is Keurig Green Mountain, which has raised eyebrows in some quarters, (“Fascinating,” I have found myself saying with left brow cocked, “but highly illogical.”) That’s because KGM’s rapid growth was fueled, not by the state’s generosity, but by its then patent-protected K-Cup brewing system.

Since its patents expired, it has struggled to maintain market share, bungled two key product rollouts, and — VEGI grants or no VEGI grants — laid off hundreds of Vermonters.

So yeah, I’m all for a review of this program. Unfortunately, this is a fox/henhouse situation. The people doing the review are members of the Vermont Economic Progress Council, the panel that awards the VEGI grants in the first place.

Uh-huh, they’re reviewing their own work.

That ought to go well.

But wait, there’s more!

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Keurig Green Mountain and the limits of tax incentives

Photo from killthekcup.org.

Photo from killthekcup.org.

Last week, Keurig Green Mountain announced 330 layoffs, including 200 in Vermont. The move came after sales and profit shortfalls hammered the company’s stock price. (Last November, KGM traded at more than $150/share. Now it’s barely over $50.) One analyst told MarketWatch.com that KGM shows “‘telling’ signs of a company struggling to turn around its business.”

The layoffs were widely reported in the Vermont media. What wasn’t mentioned is that since 2007, KGM has received approval for a whopping $7 million in job creation tax incentives through the state’s Vermont Economic Growth Initiative (VEGI). What does KGM’s contraction (and uncertain prospects) mean for its generous tax incentives?

I sought answers from Fred Kenney, Executive Director of the Vermont Economic Progress Council and head honcho of VEGI. He offered a fair bit of reassurance on the VEGI mechanism and state oversight of KGM grants, but I remain dubious on the fundamental concept of tax incentives as a means to economic growth.

In short, while VEGI is a well-designed program of its kind, the KGM experience rings some very real alarm bells about it.

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