Future of IBM in Vt. gets political - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Future of IBM in Vt. gets political

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BURLINGTON, Vt. - The potential sale of IBM's Essex Plant prompts the Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont, to reach out to Big Blue and the company reportedly in negotiations with IBM.

The company's future in Vermont is getting political.

"IBM is incredibly important to Vermont," said Shumlin.

A recent study shows IBM pumps about a billion dollars into the state's economy, employs 4,000 people and fuels the financial well-being of 10,000 families.

"Obviously, I'm very concerned about its future," said Shumlin.

That's why the Governor says he's doing everything he can to ensure those jobs stay in Essex as IBM is reportedly close to inking a deal with GlobalFoundries to sell its chip-making operations.

GlobalFoundries has plants all over the world, the closest an expanding operation in Malta, New York just outside Albany. Shumlin says neither company will confirm a deal is in the works because they can't, they're publicly traded, but both promised him he'd be alerted immediately if there's a sale.

"Neither IBM nor GlobalFoundries can talk about this publicly; it would be against the law. What they do know is that this is a top priority of mine, I'm concerned, engaged, and they've promised me an open and immediate level of communication if there's anything to report going forward," said Shumlin.

The Governor says those conversations took place over the phone. He wouldn't say when, only reiterating that he's in close contact.

"All I can do as governor is, if there is any change in ownership, and I can't speculate on that, is to have a place at the table to ensure we are fighting for Vermont," said Shumlin.

The Governor says he urged company leaders to consider the advantages of doing business in Vermont.

"We have an extraordinary workforce. This plant is state of the art. They are improving their chips, as announced last week," said Shumlin.

But stopped short on specifics is what the state can do to entice either company to stay.

Reporter Darren Perron: What is Vermont doing to make sure that IBM stays here or if it is in fact purchased by GlobalFoundries that this plant continues to operate?

Shumlin: What we need to do is if there is a change of ownership or partnership is to find out what it really means. You know I am willing to be as flexible as we can be.

"We get an IBM and we treat it like it is a cash cow, we get a Vermont Yankee, treat it like it's a cash cow, we gotta milk and they should be grateful just to be here," said Scott Milne, Republican for Vt. Governor.

Milne wants Governor Shumlin's job. The republican says a big reason Big Blue wants out is the state's growing anti-business climate.

"I think more importantly going forward is what's the reputation of Vermont going to be as being a business friendly place. But there is no arguing to me that the perception is that Vermont is not a great place to do business," said Milne.

Perron: What do you say to him?

Shumlin: We'll have plenty of time to do politics after Labor Day.

Governor Shumlin says he's not campaigning until then, though he has been fundraising for his run.

Governor Shumlin touted the $4.5 million in state surplus money earmarked at the end of the legislative session to retain jobs in Vermont.

He downplayed New York State's billions in tax breaks, grants and other incentives being offered to businesses, including GlobalFoundries.

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