Bottom Feeding

CNBC recently ranked states by their overall competitiveness, including categories like cost of doing business, education, quality of life, workforce, access to capital, etc.  As CNBC describes it:  42nd place

We score all 50 states on more than 60 measures of competitiveness, developed with input from a broad and diverse array of business and policy experts, official government sources, the CNBC Global CFO Council and the states themselves. States receive points based on their rankings in each metric. Then we separate those metrics into 10 broad categories, weighted based on how frequently each is used as a selling point in state economic development marketing materials. That way, our study ranks the states based on the criteria they use to sell themselves. This year some states were tied. Learn more about our categories and methodology.

So where did that rank Vermont, the state whose governor routinely touts as a great place to live in, work, and do business in?


Just to be a bit more helpful to Peter Shumlin’s staff, that’s the bottom quintile.  Vermont is in the worst bracket.  The good news?  Vermont ranks highly in quality of life, in 2nd place.

As most Vermonters know, you can’t eat or live in a quality of life.  What it looks like in the CNBC rankings, though, is that Vermont would be ranked even lower if it weren’t for the Quality of Life metric, and Education – and Education is high based on per-pupil spending.

Below is the ranking sorted by lowest-ranked, the Worst 10 States.  What’s interesting is that Vermont’s workforce is ranked so low, yet Shumlin has frequently said that companies have jobs, but have trouble hiring qualified candidates.  Well, there’s a reason – because even if some firms are looking to hire better-qualified candidates, it’s very likely that those candidates are already working in another state, for the other factors shown below.  They choose not to live in Vermont, so you won’t see their applications coming in.

Vermont's worse than Mississippi?

Vermont’s worse than Mississippi?

Since Vermont is ranked 34th in average income (based on 2012 Dept of Labor info), why would, say, an engineer decide to take a pay cut to live in a state with a higher cost of living than other states?  It’s like getting hit twice – first, in taking a lower-paying job, and second, in taking on higher costs of living.  It’s not like other states don’t have lakes, skiing, and foliage.

Speaking of the cost of living, last year Vermont was ranked 40th, and now it’s ranked 41st in 2015 – so it’s heading in the wrong direction:

I'll bet that small shed on the right can be rented out for $850/month.

I’ll bet that small shed on the right can be rented out for $850/month.

What do the top 10 states look like, in terms of attributes?  The short answer is:  Nothing like Vermont.

A top ten list where VT cannot be found.

A top ten list where VT cannot be found.

Minnesota has essentially the same rating that Vermont does in terms of Quality of Life and Education, but Minnesota is ranked 1st, and Vermont is 42nd.  So if you’re looking to say that at least Vermont has high ratings in those categories – and those would be the only two highly-ranked categories for Vermont – then you’re fresh out of reasons to stay in Vermont, if you want to make a living, own your own home, and have something, someday, to pass onto those children.  As it turns out, you can have a high rating for Quality of Life, and a high rating for Education, and not get slammed with a huge tax burden, and get paid a decent wage.

As an example of why Vermont is perceived to be, well, less than friendly toward business, I give you (courtesy of Vermont Digger):  People Complaining About Natural Gas – and the new pipeline that will bring this cheap and plentiful energy source into Vermont:

Witnesses who testified against Vermont Gas said cold climate heat pumps are an efficient alternative heating source, home heating oil prices are low, and NG Advantage can send natural gas on tractor-trailer trucks to industrial customers who still want the gas.

Well, let’s see if I can help here by asking a few questions:

How many homes have cold climate heat pumps in Vermont?  What would it cost to install them in a few hundred thousand homes?

Heating oil prices are low now.  Is that going to continue indefinitely?  What’s been the incentive for people to switch to domestically-produced natural gas?  Was it historically low and unchanging oil prices?

Tractor-trailer trucks run on, what, sunshine and rainbows?  How about the roads they run on?  Are they also made of rainbows, or are those made of unicorns?  If your argument is that natural gas will create additional greenhouse gases, what comes out of the exhaust pipes of tractor-trailers?

Lastly, let’s look at Cold-climate heat pumps – Even Efficiency Vermont states that you’ll need traditional backup for these heat sources:

As outdoor temperatures drop, so does the efficiency and heat output of an air-source heat pump (one

One assumes this sign wasn't raised when Vermont Yankee's petition for an extension was denied.

One assumes this sign wasn’t raised when Vermont Yankee’s petition for an extension was denied.

challenge of using this technology in a cold climate). Selecting one of the qualifying models will help with this. A back-up heat source will be needed when the temperature drops below zero.

So, the answer to heating your home in a state that’s pretty well-known for cold winter temperatures is a system whose efficiency drops the colder it gets?  And that you’ll still need your traditional heat sources to stay warm in the winter?

These are the arguments being used to stop construction on a natural gas pipeline?  I hate to break it to those opposed, but your arguments actually bolster the case for construction of the natural gas pipeline.

But don’t worry, Rutland Area Climate Coalition.  Help is on its way to argue your cause for you in the form of…..Jim Dumont?

Jim Dumont, who represents AARP and Kristin Lyons, pressed the Public Service Department on several points.

Natural gas distribution, Dumont argued, has only about a 25 percent cost advantage over a cold-climate heat pump.  Dumont argued that cold-climate heat pumps are cost-effective for homeowners as compared to natural gas. Further, he said that industrial customers don’t need natural gas through a pipe because they can trucked in by NG Advantage.

So let me get this part straight – natural gas distribution is only 25 percent better than a cold-climate heat pump?  Only 25%?  Gee, I don’t know, maybe if were only 83% better, Dumont would have me convinced.

Call me crazy, but 25% better seems a lot better than 0% better.  Arguing that industrial customers don’t need

Only in VT can we argue that increased trucking is good for the environment.  And good for snarky t-shirts.

Only in VT can we argue that increased trucking is good for the environment. And good for snarky t-shirts.

gas through a pipe because they can have it trucked in is a laughable, side-splitting argument to make.  They could have it parachuted in, too, so they don’t need it through a pipe.  But considering that they can have it through a pipe, and it’s cheaper and more efficient to have it piped in, well, perhaps the industrial customers can build one less natural gas truck loading dock and roll around in a big pile of their saved dollars.

But as it’s become pretty clear, based on the CNBC rating, that these circling-the-drain arguments about whether or not a gas pipeline is better for Vermont is another perfect example of why Vermont’s business climate is continually ranked at the bottom of the barrel.  When Vermonters wonder aloud why they can’t find better-paying jobs, or a job at all, look no further than their fellow Vermonters who populate such groups as the Rutland Area Climate Coalition.



One thought on “Bottom Feeding

  1. great article and analysis. Vermont would be a great place to live and work if there were jobs and it was affordable to live there. By the way, does anyone know anyone that moved to vermont to save money or because jobs were so plentiful? I only know people that moved out.

    You mention natural gas and electricity. Many people don’t understand that electricity is usually generated from something like natural gas, coal, and other sources that are more environmentally friendly but still require a lot of production that produce emissions (cables, plastics, etc).

    According to the wall street journal, you would have to drive a prius 55k miles before you offset the environmental impact of PRODUCTION. In other words, there is a ton of mining for lithium and it takes 55k miles of driving to offset that by using a battery. Yet the government is subsidizing this stupidity.


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