Dubie wrong on business climate

By Paul Millman
Burlington Free Press
Sunday, October 24, 2010

Brian Dubie, Republican candidate for governor, says he is business friendly. He says he has a plan to promote business development in Vermont.

I'm president of Chroma Technology Corp. in Bellows Falls. Together with our subsidiary 89North in Burlington, we employ over 100 people at high paying jobs in Vermont. These jobs come with company provided medical benefits and a retirement plan. Chroma Technology Corp. is a 100 percent employee-owned company. We started Chroma in 1991. In 2009 and 2010 we were among Inc. magazine's list of the 5,000 fastest growing companies in the United States. Earlier this year, Inc. magazine named Chroma one of the 20 best small-business workplaces in the United States.

Chroma was created and grown in the Vermont that Mr. Dubie blasts as a bad business climate. One of us is wrong. Chroma's success indicates that it's Mr. Dubie.

Mr. Dubie says that Vermont taxes discourage economic development. He's wrong. Taxes pale compared to the soaring cost of health care.

Mr. Dubie recently made the following statement: "I have not met a businessperson yet who says if we enact a single-payer health care system in Vermont that is going to be a boon for business."

Mr. Dubie knows better. He's heard my mantra annually at the governor's breakfast with the Vermont Business Roundtable where I am a member; the cost of health care restricts business development much more than taxes.

Do the math. In 2009 Chroma's costs rose to nearly $1.3 million. Our tax liability for fiscal 2009 was only $226,000 on sales of more than $20 million. Research and development tax credits reduced that number even further.

It's clear, and should be even to a nonbusinessman like Mr. Dubie, that the cost of health care has a much more profound effect on our ability to finance expansion than does the tax rate.

I think this is what they call a no-brainer.

During the last few years other Vermont business leaders and I testified that a publicly-financed health care system would save our companies substantial amounts of money.

Mr. Dubie, do you not understand that saving substantial amounts of money equals a boon for business? Perhaps Mr. Dubie doesn't want to hear the Vermont business leaders who call for a publicly financed system.

Mr. Dubie's concept of economic development is to lure big companies from other states. He wants to use tax credits to entice them. Oh yeah? Think Husky. Where are the two to three thousand jobs they promised when we gave them tax credits of $17 million?

We can get a much bigger return on investment by supporting the growth of smaller companies already in Vermont. Think of this list: NRG Systems, King Arthur Flour, Small Dog Electronics, Ben and Jerry's, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Chroma Technology, Gardener's Supply, groSolar, Seventh Generation, Hubbardton Forge, Zutano and Lake Champlain Chocolates.

These are all companies with both national and worldwide reputations. These are all companies that grew substantially within the current Vermont business climate. I'll go one step further; these are all companies that grew substantially because of Vermont's business climate.

My major criticism of Mr. Dubie is that he has been a terrible salesman for Vermont and he will continue to be so. I would never hire a salesman to sell a product he thought inferior. The voters of Vermont shouldn't either.

Paul Millman is president of Chroma Technology Corp. in Bellows Falls.