Contributed Column

Personnel Points

by Dave Mount, Westaff

We’re selling ourselves short

I could write my swan song and reiterate some of my favorite points from my 14 years writing this column, but there is a more important issue that I would like to leave you with.

When we talk about Vermont’s future, we bemoan the outward migration of our young people seeking better jobs elsewhere. We are fulfilling our own prophesies by doing this, and we are selling ourselves short. Many of our college graduates from both in state and out of state, remain here. Vermont does not have the excitement of New York City or Boston, but that may be the allure in itself.

I started to think about this, and as I drive around Vermont, I see world-class businesses everywhere. Instead of bemoaning the loss of our young people, we should be pointing out how great these businesses are.

I don’t want to name companies, because I’m afraid I’ll miss some great ones, but I can name some of the categories where we excel.

Microprocessors. This is the first and most obvious one, and despite a number of increases and reductions in the workforce, it is still a major economic factor.

Medical. Our hospital has become a regional powerhouse, and hospitals in northern Vermont and New York feed into it, spurring research and best practices.

Financial. Three insurance companies — two property and one life — are headquartered in Vermont and hire all sorts of financial and administrative personnel.

Software. We have several important companies in the software industry in the Burlington area.

Plastics. Not only are the plastics companies growing in Vermont, they are also in several areas of the state and are innovators in their field.

Medical Technology. We have some significant companies involved in medical technology and biomedical research.

Aerospace. We have some important aerospace companies making components for today’s advanced aircraft.

Food and beverage manufacturers. Everyone knows about our ice cream, and I won’t travel anywhere without some of our great Vermont cheddar cheese. The breadth of the offerings in our food and beverage manufacturing sector is getting wider and wider. We are more than just craft beer — but our craft beer is great.

Recreation. Between our bike trails, our hiking trails, and our ski trails, we have it all. Our lakes are wonderful, fishing is great, and skiing is the best in the east — or is that the world?

Tourism. From biking tours to great museums, we show the other states how it’s done.

Banking. We’ve lost some of the banking headquarters we once had, but we still have some of the smaller banks with headquarters here, and our banks and credit unions offer every kind of service.

All of these industries, and all of the ones I’ve missed, need people. Vermont cannot thrive with a 2 percent unemployment rate. We need our people to stay so we can all thrive.

I’ll end with a little personal experience.

Fran and I had five kids. All of them have college. All of them have outstanding jobs in diverse fields. They all wanted to live here and raise their families here. They have. None of them live in poverty — far from it. I know a lot of people who have to travel to see their families and they envy us that we don’t. Our kids are all right here helping to grow Vermont.

So, when you hear that there are no jobs in Vermont, think about our 2 percent unemployment rate and about the wonderful things our manufacturers and service sector are doing, and tell your adult children that they are just not looking hard enough. The jobs are out there, and we need to be sure that our young graduates see that and stay to help us grow as a state.

Adieu. •

Dave Mount is the founder of Westaff in Burlington.

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