A voice from beyond the grave about IBM

Back in the 1980s there was an economist by the name of August St. John who taught at Adelphi College on New Yorks Long Island during an abbreviated academic session; he summered in Manchester for the rest of the year. I recite this bit of trivial history not to offer examples of professorial workloads and playtime, but to recall how St. John had created his own little lecture circuit around the state (Vermont, that is not New York). He could be heard, with free admission, declaiming on a variety of subjects ranging from the gentrification of previously rural areas to governmental hostility-to-business. St. John was consistently dismissed as a crank by Vermonts Beautiful People yes the same folks he decried for their adverse impact on previously rural economies agricultural and small-town life. As time has gone by St. Johns observations have been proven right. Among other prognostications under the topic of the future-economy-of-Vermont, he predicted (and was literally hooted at) that IBM would find Vermont progressively (pun intended) less attractive as a place for capital investment and job creation. St. John believed Big Blue would therefore divert such future R&D and manufacturing efforts elsewhere. Fishkill, N.Y., subsequently proved St. John right. Whatever the attractions labor force, business climate, infra-structure which drew IBM to the Winooski River urban corridor in the late 1950s, they were overshadowed by other considerations in the mid-1990s when Big Blue chose to make multi-billion-dollar investments in New Yorks Hudson River urban corridor instead. Similarly, in the mid-2000s, when Dell Computer was seeking a national headquarters site, it was North Carolinas Forsyth County which proved more attractive than, among other venues, Vermonts Chittenden County. St. John forecast that IBM would not simply abandon its Vermont investment, but would use it up by making no further substantive improvements before finally selling out. Id guess that the recent behavior of Montpeliers Golden Dome (G.D. for short) folks led by Vermont Senate President pro tem Peter Shumlin calling IBMs representative John OKane a liar, couple with the G.D. folks on-going (and successful) efforts to convey morally superior levels of disdain towards Entergy Corporations Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, will help assure that St. Johns prediction comes fully true. From St. Johnsbury, heres some of the Caledonian-Records op-ed commentary on the subject: Once again, (Vermont) Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin has opened his mouth and inserted his foot. At a hearing on the Shumlin-engineered senate demand that Entergy put up double, again, the $400 million that they already have escrowed to decommission Vermont Yankee at some point in the future, Shumlin called IBM lobbyist John O'Kane a liar. Shumlin claimed that O'Kane lied when he said that Vermont Yankee would have to come up with significant cash, now, to meet the requirements of the bill. O'Kane was insulted and left the hearing as Shumlin began to realize what a gaffe he had just pulled and started furiously backpedaling. Whatever the issue, Senator Shumlin is a statewide embarrassment. When he is hyper-soaked with righteous anger at, even hatred of, opposition to his one-track ideologies, he loses all judgment and balance. His popping-off at O'Kane was just another of his screeds against nuclear energy in general and Vermont Yankee in particular. This time, though, he went beyond his typical anti-nuke rant and insulted a representative of Vermont's largest employer. IBM must be made to feel welcome here, not insulted. Whether the G.D. politicians are ashamed or not of their leaders choice of language, two underlying facts are pretty clear One is that their progressive mind-set enables them to believe that they are smarter than those with whom they disagree, and that therefore their occasional frustrated outbursts are to be understood, not criticized Two is that, in their pursuit of a faux-bucolic economic vision for Vermont (which definitely excludes any of the more complex elements at the upper end of Mendeleevs Periodic Table), they assume themselves to be entitled to create a legislative ambience aimed at encouraging both IBM and Vermont Yankee to shut down just as soon as they can put their affairs in order and leave. Do you suppose the spirit of the late August St. John is peering down on Vermont and nodding his head? I can almost hear him say, I told you so. Vermont observer Martin Harris lives in Tennessee.

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