GE remains REDC's crown jewel
By Bruce Edwards
STAFF WRITER | November 19,2012
Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo
Rutland Economic Development Corp. named General Electric Member of the Year at its 75th anniversary gala and annual meeting Friday night at the Holiday Inn in Rutland Town. GE plant manager Dan DiBattista, center, and members of his team accept the award from REDC President Dale Rocheleau, right.
Sixty-one years ago, a group of Rutland business leaders persuaded General Electric Co. to relocate its Ludlow machine tool plant to the city.
The rest, as they say, is history. And as Jamie Stewart said Friday night at the Rutland Economic Development Corp.’s 75th annual meeting, the economic landscape of the Rutland region would be far different today if not for GE and its aircraft engine plants.
The company’s economic contributions and that of its employees garnered GE Aviation REDC’s Member of the Year award.
“It would be a very, very different community without them,” Stewart, REDC’s executive director, told a packed ballroom of guests at the Holiday Inn.
If there was any doubt about GE’s economic contributions, Stewart ticked off a list of statistics. He said it goes well beyond the 1,100 high-paying jobs at the Columbian Avenue and Windcrest Road plants, which make a variety of air foils for military and commercial jet engines.
“It’s the total impact because those people earn a living and spend money in our community and those dollars go around and around,” he said.
Stewart said those dollars add up to a total economic impact of more than $650 million a year.
He said that in turn translates into supporting 3,116 additional jobs in the community from the local grocery stores to construction companies.
According to Stewart, GE’s total annual tax impact is $61.5 million, not including local property taxes.
Beyond the economic numbers, Stewart said GE employees volunteer 1,800 hours a year in the community, including work on the Rutland Creek Path and Pine Hill Park projects.
Accepting the award on behalf of his staff and employees, GE Plant Manager Dan DiBattista said the honor speaks to the support from the larger community.
“... When I look at all these banners behind me, banks, schools, hospitals, and all the organizations, other employers, companies like ours don’t survive without all that,” DiBattista said.
Undoubtedly, recruiting GE was REDC’s greatest success story; but it hasn’t been the only one. The annual meeting celebrated REDC’s 75-year history with a slide show titled, “The Art of the Deal.” REDC, then known as the Rutland Development Corp., got its start in 1937 by building the first municipal parking lot downtown at the corner of Willow and Edson streets, the site of the current parking deck. From there, the group evolved into economic development.
Stewart said REDC’s early success was due in large part to Albert Cree, the head of Central Vermont Public Service Corp., and Robert Mitchell, a reporter and later publisher of the Rutland Herald.
But Stewart said it was Cree, with his forceful personality, who was the driver behind REDC’s early success for the first 18 years.
Chris Keyser, a former REDC board member and the organization’s de facto historian, said in reviewing REDC’s history a common theme emerges of “the immense amount of time and resources that have been invested by volunteers.”
Keyser singled out volunteers like Al Moulton of the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce and businessman Roland Seward, who had a vision, commitment and the perseverance to get things done.
REDC, one of a dozen regional development organizations in the state, was responsible for attracting companies that included Moore Business Forms, Metromail and U.S Samica.
Moore and Metromail are no longer here, but other companies have taken their place.
REDC’s Airport Business Park is home to 10 companies with more than 800 workers. REDC has also had a hand in development of the Cold River Industrial Park, West Rutland Industrial Park and Brandon Industrial Park.
REDC President Dale Rocheleau said the organization’s mission continues to be working to strengthen the economy and improve the quality of life.
“We are dedicated to the creation and retention of good jobs in a clean environment for working Vermonters and their families,” Rocheleau said.