Tag Archives: Vermont Enterprise Fund

The sun sets on the Vermont Enterprise Fund

Hey, remember in January, when the state Emergency Board approved two grants from the Vermont Enterprise Fund? GlobalFoundries was given $1 million, and $200,000 went to BHS Composites. Well, turns out those will be the last VEF grants ever awarded. During its recently concluded session, the Legislature rejected Governor Shumlin’s bid to add new money to the Fund — and decided not to extend the program.

The Fund is empty, and in the absence of legislative action, the program will sunset at the end of the fiscal year.

“It’s disappointing,” says Shumlin spox Scott Coriell*. “The Enterprise Fund has been a useful tool, but we do have other tools at our disposal.”

*Say that five times fast.

There was some funny business around those January grants that may have sealed the fate of the two-year-old program.

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Here’s a man who thinks he can govern

Howard Coffin is an eminent historian, a learned scholar, and a real Vermont treasure.

And he said something really stupid.

The subject was Peter Galbraith’s bid for governor. Coffin was commenting on Galbraith’s, shall we say, checkered record as a state senator.  (Everybody hated him, to put it briefly.)

“I’m not sure that he was put on earth to be a legislator,” Coffin says. “I think he was put on earth to be a leader.”

Yyyyyyyeah. Just like Marco Rubio can’t stand being a U.S. Senator, so let’s make him President.

Here’s the thing. Being a “leader” involves a hell of a lot of negotiating, compromising, dealing with other folks — and particularly trying to make friends and influence people in the frickin’ Legislature.

Peter Galbraith was a heavy-handed, arrogant lawmaker who offended a lot of people and frequently roadblocked the Senate for the sake of some principle detectable only to himself. Those traits are going to be just as unfortunate in a governor — but they’ll be even more impactful. And not in a good way.

Now, if you’re talking about “being a leader” in the Donald Trump sense, then Coffin is dead on.  Otherwise, no.

Enough about that. Let’s move on to Galbraith’s candidacy itself.

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GlobalFoundries: Too big to fail?

Chittenden County is blessed — and a little bit cursed — by the presence of a large high-tech employer: GlobalFoundries, formerly d.b.a. IBM. The Essex facility is a major driver of the area’s economy, and the entire state’s economy for that matter.

And GlobalFoundries knows this, and they seem to know they have us over a barrel.

This is my inference based on a new report by the Associated Press’ master gardener Dave Gram, who has used public-records requests to discover the extent of GF’s demands on the state.

We already knew about the questionable $1 million from the Enterprise Fund. Gram now brings us tidings of a $17 million highway project that GF wants fast-tracked. It would involve improvements on Route 22A, which happens to be the most direct route from the Burlington area to New York State. (22A goes straight through downtown Vergennes. Hope you like your new highway, Vergennians!)

But otherwise it’s of little utility to intra-state traffic. For general transportation, trade and tourism puposes, improvements to US-7 would be more efficacious. But I have a feeling that what GlobalFoundries wants, GlobalFoundries will get.

(Now, if GF can convince New York State to build a decent highway from the Vermont border west of Rutland to I-87, then that would be a great benefit to the western Vermont economy as a whole. If they can do that, then our investment in 22A would be a worthwhile tradeoff.)

GlobalFoundries also wants state backing for “payments to GlobalFoundries from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multi-state pact that spins off money to states with a low carbon footprint.” Gram’s report doesn’t go into the reasoning behind GF’s request; in the absence of more information, I have a feeling that there are more pertinent uses for the money.

But hey, GlobalFoundries is a yoooge employer, and its loss would cripple Vermont’s economy. We may not have much choice.

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Is there a fight brewing over the Enterprise Fund?

Earlier today, VTDigger broke the news that the state Emergency Board (four top lawmakers plus the Governor) had met on very (VERY) short notice to approve two state grants from the Enterprise Fund: $1 million to GlobalFoundries and $200,000 to BHS Composites. And I commented that this is the kind of thing that makes some see the Governor as a slippery dealmaker.

Well, here’s something you didn’t know. TheVPO has learned, as they say, that 50 state lawmakers wrote a letter to the Emergency Board asking it to postpone action on the grants.

The plea fell mostly on deaf ears, as the Board approved the grant on a 3-1 vote.

One of the letter’s signatories was Rep. Chris Pearson (P-Burlington). Via email, he explained the reasoning:

It was my hope that we could consider using the money to help fill the [FY 2017] budget gap or, more urgently, the [FY 2016] budget adjustment challenge.

The letter was written before the EB’s agenda had been publicly warned — which happened only yesterday afternoon. Pearson adds:

Now that it’s clear the money was for Global Foundries it’s puzzling how a company that was given $1.4 billion to take over the plant could find $1 million much of a game changer.

You and me both, but more on that in a moment. First, the political ramifications of this letter.

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