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House committee considers how to grow manufacturing sector

Apr 16 2020, 2:47 PM

Vermont needs a cabinet-level official who focuses on helping the state’s manufacturing sector grow, says Patricia Giavara, assistant director of the Vermont Manufacturing Extension Center.

Giavara testified Thursday to the House Commerce Committee on the future of the state’s manufacturing sector, which has been hit hard by business shutdowns as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

“It’s time to have someone as a manufacturing cabinet member, or an advisory group of manufacturers to help advise folks on issues,” said Giavara. While manufacturing groups and the state Agency of Commerce and Community Development do advocate for the sector, Giavara said a full-time person would be more effective.

“Someone who is focused all the time, looking at legislative impediments,” she said. “ACCD does a great job, but they have many other things to do as well.”

Rep. Lynn Dickinson, R-St. Albans Town, said the matter has come up before the committee in the past.

“I agree, this is a good time to look at that again,” Dickinson said.

According to the National Association of Manufacturers, manufacturers in Vermont accounted for 9.5% of the state’s output in 2018, employing 9.5% of the workforce and generating $3.2 billion.

The committee heard testimony on Thursday about ways in which the Covid-19 crisis, and accompanying supply chain problems, might draw manufacturing back to the U.S. Chairman

Mike Marcotte, R-Coventry, said he was open to talking about raising the profile of manufacturing on the state level.

“My thought is more of a department of manufacturing,” Marcotte said. “But that’s something we need to keep on our radar as we go forward, especially if it is our desire to bring more manufacturing back to the United States.”

— Anne Wallace Allen