By Bruce Parker August 14, 2015, Vermont Watchdog
|Brattleboro, from a walking trail, Wikipedia|
“Vermont Yankee had a significant amount of our catering business — probably 10 percent of our business was to Vermont Yankee. And that’s going to go away,” Bill Daley, owner of Vermont Country Deli, told Vermont Watchdog.
Daley, whose deli has served sandwiches, fresh-baked desserts and pastries to the Brattleboro community since it opened more than 25 years ago, said the loss of the region’s sole economic powerhouse is hurting a range of businesses.
“I know a number of businesses that have grumbled about losing Vermont Yankee. My discussions have been, if they go away, you’re losing a piece of the economy, and it’s a large piece of the economy, and definitely our customer base. We’re now having to live with that decision,” Daley said.
Lost business is only part of the trouble facing residents of Windham County after the nuclear plant closed in December. Sales of single-family homes in Brattleboro are down 16.2 percent year over year, and the median sales price for homes has dipped 8.5 percent, from $194,000 in 2014 to $177,500 so far in 2015. The slump comes at a time when housing nationwide is experiencing a robust recovery.
According to Adam Grinold, executive director of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp., planners knew ahead of time that closing Vermont Yankee would hurt the housing market and cause job losses far beyond those at the plant.
“We in the region started ringing the alarm the minute that happened, saying housing was going to suffer. There would be too much inventory, which would require prices to drop, and the people who were stuck in the Entergy nuclear world were going to have to move and unload their homes. That’s going to lower the prices,” he said.
RELATED: Brattleboro housing market dives as Vermont Yankee exits region
Since 2012, Grinold’s group has been reviewing Vermont Yankee impact studies that detail economic challenges facing residents and businesses in the tri-county area.
The most recent study, published by the UMass Donahue Institute in December, claims the loss of Vermont Yankee’s nearly 600 employees — who averaged $105,000 in annual pay — will result in an additional 669 job losses at nearby restaurants, retail outlets, real estate services and other local businesses.
The report projects the loss of 141 jobs in leisure and hospitality, 116 jobs in education and health services, 111 jobs in professional services, 81 jobs in retail trade, 54 jobs in financial activities and 44 in construction. The estimated 1,220 total job losses represent a combined annual pay of $106,901,672 and an economic output of $493,406,806.
Grinold is not hopeless, however. He said a 2014 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy document, or CEDS, holds the key to transforming the regional economy. He also said the Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies, an affiliate of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp., has identified scores of job openings that could lure talent to the area.
“Following the CEDS, SeVEDS initiated a workforce development study. We went out to our region’s largest employers, and we know we have over 3,000 jobs needed in the coming years,” Grinold said. “So we know what sector those are in and what education is needed. We know we have the housing available, and we have the jobs available. Now we just have to figure out how to get the people here to do those jobs.”
Asked if his group was in talks with businesses that could fill the void left by Vermont Yankee, Grinold said nothing was in the works at this early stage. But he expressed optimism about programs such as the Windham County Economic Development Program and the Southern Vermont Economic Development Zone, which held its first committee meeting last week.
“Any region would love to bring in new large manufacturing. BDCC helped attract and develop the Commonwealth Dairy facility two years ago, so we know it can be done,” he said. “Certainly now with the Windham County Economic Development Program Funds, Windham County is uniquely positioned to be able to offer incentives.”
As for Daley, he said operating his deli business is becoming a challenge due to Vermont’s economic and political climate.
“The property taxes have all gone up … and to have the minimum wage go up the way it’s going up, it’s going to be more and more difficult. Plus there’s a limited market here with people,” Daley said.
While Daley said he hasn’t raised prices in the past two years, he couldn’t make any promises going forward.
“Any time you increase the cost of doing business you have to make decisions: Do I increase the number of hours I have and therefore I don’t hire somebody? How do I shift the costs around so it’s affordable?” Daley said. “We’ve tried to hold down costs, but if costs continue to go up I can’t say we’re going to keep prices down in the future.”
Bruce Parker is a reporter for Watchdog.org. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @WatchdogVT
Once again, Bruce Parker of Vermont Watchdog has graciously allowed me to reprint his article. The original article has excellent graphics and comments, and I recommend it. His previous guest post at this blog was Vermont Utilities Buy Nuclear Capacity from New Hampshire.
And meanwhile, my two cents about today's post:
I am always amazed at people who are excited about "getting the people here to do the jobs" when a big employer has left and the town is (in my opinion) sinking into a mini-depression. I find some of the comments within the article a bit ironical.