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Burton departure wake-up call for Vt. lawmakers?

Montpelier, Vermont - March 17, 2010

Layoffs at Burton snowboards have sparked a war of words between Gov. Jim Douglas and Democratic leaders, who have different views about what caused the problem and how to fix it.

"I didn't expect this announcement," said Douglas, R-Vermont.

It took the governor by surprise when Burton announced it was moving its manufacturing facility to Austria, laying off 43 people. Wednesday, Douglas said he can't change the company's mind.

"It sounds like a firm decision," Douglas said.

The governor then set his sights on Democratic lawmakers, saying they've passed over his ideas for years-- ideas to overhaul school spending and reduce taxes that could have helped businesses.

Burton founder Jake Burton Carpenter said in a statement Tuesday "it costs us significantly more to produce a board in Vermont than we are capable of selling it for, and sadly, this is not sustainable in the current economy."

"That should be a wake-up call to legislators and others that we need to reduce the cost of doing business here and make it easier for companies like Burton to succeed," Douglas said.

"Let's be honest, this challenge is bigger than the Vermont Legislature," said Sen. Peter Shumlin, D-Vt. President Pro Tem.

Burton has made boards in Austria for 25 years, and Shumlin points out that despite the layoffs, the company is keeping all its corporate jobs in Vermont.

"These Burton jobs are systemic of a problem the country is facing, which is we're losing manufacturing jobs to developing countries and other countries," Shumlin said.

Shumlin says the Senate is working to help businesses. Lawmakers passed a $9 million jobs bill and are backing off a plan mandating paid sick leave and instead will study the issue.

"It definitely impacts what we do," Shumlin said. "We have to cut our budget-- like all Vermont households are doing-- and manage our budget without raising taxes."

"We have work to do to improve the climate for succeeding for business in Vermont," Douglas said. "The folks at Burton made it very clear it's expensive to do business here."

While the debate continues over Vermont's business climate, we do know that those 43 Burton employees will lose their jobs in June.

Kristin Carlson - WCAX News

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Burton to move manufacturing out of Vt

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