The biggest tech story in Vermont this week is that IBM, one of the state’s largest private employers, is selling its microelectronics facility in Essex Junction. After 56 years, the tech giant plans to leave Vermont and get out of the chip-manufacturing biz.
If federal regulators sign off on the deal, the plant’s new owners will be California-based GlobalFoundries. Its spokesman, Travis Bullard, told Seven Days in a written statement that the company has no plans to close the plant “for the foreseeable future.”
“While it’s almost impossible for any business to make open-ended commitments, we can say that we have no plans to reduce the workforce at this time,” he said.
Reassuring. Sort of.
Fortunately, Big Blue’s departure isn’t the only local tech story unfolding right now. At the end of the week, dozens of Vermont tech companies will gather to recruit employees and show their stuff at the 8th Vermont Tech Jam. This annual job fair and tech expo, organized by Seven Days and the Vermont Technology Alliance, showcases dozens of the state’s fastest-growing and most-innovative companies. Coincidentally, many of them were founded by — or employ — people who once worked at IBM.
There are more of those thriving enterprises in Vermont than you might realize. Flip through the exhibitor bios in the program guide, and you’ll find firms from Bennington to Waitsfield, from Williston to St. Albans. They’re ramping up and, in some cases, can’t hire people fast enough to fill job openings.
The Jam gives Seven Days’ editorial staff an opportunity to write about Vermont’s tech economy, and the ways in which technology is changing the state.
The issue opens with an A to Z guide to the local tech scene by Cathy Resmer, who’s spent the last few years studying the landscape. You’ll get zettabytes of info out of it. Seven tech scenesters have their say in “People Power.” Ethan de Seife asked each of them what they do and why, and how Vermont can grow its tech economy.
In “Irene’s Silicon Lining,” Ken Picard explains how disaster-relief funds available after Tropical Storm Irene helped Vermonters on the other side of the digital divide, including Bethel farmer and forester Carl Russell, who logs with a pair of draft horses. Picard explains how the Vermont Digital Economy Project helped Russell purchase an iPad Mini, which he outfitted with GPS mapping tools that have helped his business.
In State of the Arts, Xian Chiang-Waren discusses the dark side of connectivity: internet addiction. China’s struggle against it is the subject of a new documentary, Web Junkie, which will be screened at the Vermont International Film Festival, starting this week. The new doc goes behind the scenes at a rehab center in Beijing. There’s a free showing of the film at the Tech Jam on Friday, October 24, at 3 p.m. It’s followed by a panel discussion with gamers and counseling staff from Champlain College.
And in this week’s tech-themed Whiskey Tango Foxtrot column, Mark Davis asks — and answers — the question, “What the heck is the Internet of Things?”
The cover of this year’s Tech Issue hints at another new development in the local scene: the rise of maker spaces — places where DIY artists, engineers and enthusiasts gather to tinker with 3-D printers and laser cutters. You no longer have to work for a big company like IBM to access industrial-quality tools and prototyping equipment.
Feeling inspired to make your own laser art? Find out how by visiting Generator during the Vermont Tech Jam. The maker space is located downstairs from the main exhibition floor in Memorial Auditorium.
Instead of letting an out-of-state corporation dominate its headlines, Vermont is learning it can generate its own.