DATA: Jobs in Vermont

Amid election-season rhetoric and political spin about jobs, this series of data visualizations documented labor statistics over time and across sectors, with both county-level detail and nationwide context. I conceived and designed the series, wrangled and analyzed the data, and wrote accompanying explanatory stories.

Analyst, economist weigh potential of IBM sale to Globalfoundries

1348 words / VTDigger.org

If IBM were to sell its computer chip-making unit to California-based Globalfoundries — patents and all, as the company is widely rumored to be considering — would the new owner of Vermont’s largest manufacturing plant even want to keep it?

Probably not, according to Len Jelinek, a semiconductor manufacturing industry analyst for the global information firm IHS.

IBM is Vermont’s largest private employer, with about 4,000 workers, and anxiety about the impact of the plant’s sale and potential closure is palpable.

Despite these feverish efforts to keep IBM in the Green Mountain State, there is little the state can do to prevent a potential closure of the plant. Global trends are driving behind-the-scenes negotiations between powerful industry players.

Job losses of IBM’s magnitude are easier to absorb over time, economist Art Woof acknowledged. Still, he said, the area’s financial engine is diversified and resilient enough that even such a “worst case scenario” would not kill the economy.

Study shows 40 percent of Vermont children are not ready for Kindergarten

A new report on the health of Vermont’s children shows that 40 percent of the state’s children were deemed “not ready” for kindergarten in 2012-13. Almost one-third of third-graders read below grade level — a figure that jumps to 45 percent for children living in poverty.

“Any business leader that does not think this is a huge business issue, candidly, they just haven’t done their homework,” Green Mountain Power president and CEO Mary Powell said.

Q Empire: The man behind the Northeast Kingdom’s biggest plan

3332 words / VTDigger.org

Ariel Quiros is the entrepreneurial force behind Jay Peak ski resort and the $600 million Northeast Kingdom Economic Development Initiative – one of the largest development projects ever attempted in Vermont.

Though the project is high profile, Quiros is not. The international tycoon, though sometimes seen, is seldom heard.

The first generation American stands out at press conferences for his mystique: When he’s not got the ear of the governor, Quiros is most often seen standing uncomfortably before a crowd with pursed lips, staring silently and expressionless, at nothing in particular, through ice blue eyes.

Quiros quietly presides over an integrated set of projects that together constitute the largest private investment Vermont has ever seen: expansions at Jay Peak, development of the newly renamed Q Burke Mountain ski area, the mixed use Renaissance Block planned for downtown Newport, the future site of a biotech firm in the same town, and the promise of a new and improved Newport State Airport in Coventry.

“I make the vision,” he says quietly, a touch of gravel in his voice after 20-plus years of smoking.

Community fears history will repeat itself at Q Burke Mountain

3310 words / VTDigger.org

It’s the day before Q Burke Mountain opens for the winter, and Ary Quiros could just as well be preparing for battle as for business.

The new CEO is opening the ski resort for the first time since he started at the mountain the previous winter, and he’s amped. If Quiros, 36, can turn this chronically failing but beloved ski area into a stable business, he will succeed where prior, much wealthier, owners have failed.

The arc of history and local expectations give him long odds. But Quiros — and his staff — are determined.

Wearing a weathered, Army green jacket and frequently checking a watch face practically the size of his wrist, Quiros shuttles from one outpost of operations to another to check on his troops: snowmaking, ticket sales, kitchen, pub and cafeteria. Finances. Marketing. Housecleaning.

“It’s like being in the Army again,” Quiros says.