As IBM cuts jobs in Vermont, others hire

Burlington officials, tech execs explain a shifting employment landscape

IBM's shrinking U.S. workforce is particularly worrisome in Burlington Vt., which has long counted on the company to provide many good jobs for area residents.

A decade ago, IBM employed about 8,000 people in the region; city officials believe the IBM workforce has since declined to approximately 5,000.

City officials and business leaders say that the IBM job losses are being somewhat offset by new types of tech companies that are newly arrived to the Burlington area, or have been around a while and continue to grow. Many of these companies are focusing on providing electronic commerce and software as a service products.

One of those,, provides a range of marketing and Web development services to automotive dealers. The 12-year-old company now counts some 400 employees and says that it's is on track to add about 100 employees a year. Officials say there are usually some job 30 openings for various positions, including Java developers, graphic designers, IT applications managers, support technicians and network administrators.

Burlington-based works hard to keep its employees. It pays all the benefit costs and kicks in on 401K. The company provides its workers with a gym, tennis courts, a heavily-subsidized organic food cafe, ski passes and other things that help keep the staff healthy and happy , said Mike Lane, COO and one of the company's founders.

The local tech labor pool has its limits and the company has to recruit nationally, but convincing good workers to consider a move to Vermont isn't difficult, said Lane.

The state is "one of the most beautiful places that you can live," and the active, outdoor focused lifestyle complements the "work hard, play hard," attitude of many people in the IT industry, said Lane.

Burlington's population of 40,000 makes it Vermont's largest city and IBM, with facilities in nearby Essex Junction, population 10,000, may be the state's largest employer. has hired ex-IBM employees, and among the locals in tech, "a lot of people have IBM on their resume," said Lane. isn't the only are tech company that's growing, which makes the high-tech business and employment trend in Burlington particularly interesting.

For example, the area includes other businesses offering electronic commerce and marketing services that are similar to the model, but in different markets. Those include in Colchester, a provider of e-commerce and e-marketing tools to the grocery and consumer packaged goods industries, and Kea Group in Williston, which provides e-commerce services as well as physical warehousing, shipping and inventory control for businesses.

Alec Newcomb, the executive vice president of the 11-year-old MyWebGrocer, which counts some major grocers and manufacturers among its clients, has just crossed the 100 employee mark and sees itself growing to 200 employees in the near future.

The growth of these e-commerce-type services companies in Burlington area is also giving rise to a local "digital culture" fueled by growing combination of employees from these firms who get together at networking events and at local Web marketing summits -- "which you typically don't find in a community our size," said Newcomb.

The local colleges, Champlain College, the University of Vermont and Burlington College are also responding with programs and training.

Seamus Walsh, chief marketing officer at 15-year-old Kea, said one of the best things going for Vermont is the lower living and labor costs compared to the Boston and New York metropolitan areas. "We want to become the order capital of the world," said Walsh. "Don't go to India, come to Vermont."

The Kea group is also in hiring mode; it now has 30 full-time employees and five part-time workers and forecasts that it will employ 100 workers in 2010. Walsh said Kea's Vermont location has an extra benefit for Kea, namely the Port of Montreal which is easier to reach and less costly than some other nearby ports.

Newcomb acknowledged that there are some critics of the area's support for business -- the tax benefits lag behind some other areas, and the permitting process can be difficult. However, he added, "there are challenges everywhere you go."

Larry Kupferman, the director of community and economic development office in Burlington, noted that the city has a municipally operated fiber network and generates its own electricity, which allows it to offer business users comparatively low rates and plenty of bandwidth.

The new business won't be replacing the jobs that IBM has cut anytime soon, but they have given hope that this area can adapt itself to changing economy and draw people with the right skills.

"People don't move here primarily for work," said Kupferman, "They move here for lifestyle as well as work," he said.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov , or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is .

Read more about it industry in Computerworld's IT Industry Topic Center.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags SaaSIT industrycareerscloud computingIT managementinternetIBMSoftware as a service

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Patrick Thibodeau

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?