Bennington Banner: Rep. Welch visits Bennington County, talks Plasan
The Bennington Rotary Club hosted U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, during its regular weekly meeting on Friday at Mount Anthony Country Club. Though the congressman's visit was planned weeks ahead of time, the very recent news that Plasan will soon be closing its doors in Bennington dominated the conversation.
"This is bad news about Plasan. We all know it; there's no sugarcoating it," Welch said. "It is an extremely good employer and good company that provided excellent jobs here in Bennington. All of us have to understand how completely tough this is for these employees."
The congressman went on to suggest the greater impact a manufacturer's closing has on a community: "I think we have to have a moment of real reflection on what we do now, and what it means. Again, it's not just those jobs that's what's most immediate, but the contributions the company has made to this community. That company has bought other goods and services in Bennington one person's success can breed the success of another business."
He said the problem is that corporations are always going to be seeking to consolidate business near headquarters and ports, whereas companies ingrained in the community will be less likely to move to increase productivity and efficiency.
The congressman spent the day in Bennington County. After the Rotary Club meeting, Welch met with Bennington leaders at the town hall before traveling to Mack Molding in Arlington, a business that he said is one that will last a lifetime because it's rooted into Vermont's communities, more so than just in terms of labor."The governor is going to be all in, and our state government is making efforts for those folks who are losing their jobs, to get new jobs," Welch said. "It's important to do."
Welch said that Mack and Plasan offer high skill jobs, but that decisions to leave have nothing to do with Bennington's labor force.
"There are some excellent businesses growing down here, but there is a shortage in labor," he said. "Obviously, the folks at Plasan are very skilled; not just in their work skills, but in the temperament that they have."
The problem with skilled labor employers leaving, is that it will also often push out its employees to seek those kinds of jobs elsewhere. In working with Vermont, Welch said he hopes to advocate for federal funds to secure infrastructure improvements and job training that will help attract and retain employers.
"The infrastructure problem in southern Vermont is something I've heard about since my time in the state senate in the 80s," Welch said. "You have been advocating consistently, and rightly so, to have an infrastructure down here that allows you to send goods and services to other markets. We're still debating about the railroad, and in Congress, I am working as hard as I can to get this western corridor developed, and I am convinced that can be a significant boon to the regional development across the southwestern part of the state."
Of course with that said, Welch said that everyone has to come up with a way to pay for it.
When you've got an international company, they are subject to a lot of international challenges, and Plasan is one," Welch said. "There is a reason why there are these efforts locally, to rebuild businesses from the ground up: Everything from the brew pubs that are attracting a lot of activity among young people; to locally started businesses; to the condition and quality of our schools; things that are really our responsibility at the local level. Those things are so important to building that infrastructure, and Ideally what you would have is a partnership between the state government and the federal government, passing policies that make sense."
The congressman said that he was happy to have spent the day in Bennington County, listening to what town officials and business leaders have to say. In terms of more bad news about closing, "we've got to move on," he said. "What you need and what I pledge to give is partnership, as your representative in Washington."
Welch said he will do what he can to offer assistance from federal agencies for infrastructure, job training and job growth, moving forward.