Economy looks bright for Franklin County

'Steady, stable growth' expected to continue

Michelle Monroe

By Michelle Monroe

Executive Editor

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The Facts

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‘We should feel really fortunate.’

- Tim Smith, FCIDC

ST. ALBANS — Wages and employment are up in Franklin County, according to data from the State of Vermont.

Experts expect that growth to continue with several major employers set to expand.

“I think there’s reason for optimism,” said David White, president of White + Burke. White said he was expecting the “steady, stable growth” to continue.

White + Burke Real Estate, Inc. examined the county’s economic data as part of an ongoing planning project with the Northwest Regional Planning Commission and St. Albans City. They found wages have increased nearly 10 percent since 2011, reaching an average of $43,132 in the county and $48,180 in the city.

This was in line with the state, which saw an increase of 9.8 percent to $44,223 in the same period.

However, looking back over a full decade, from 2006 to 2015, local wages grew faster than the state, with wages in the county increasing 28.2 percent while the city’s average wage increased 30.5 percent, compared to 24.3 percent for the state.

That‘s in keeping with recently released U.S. Census data showing Franklin County’s income increasing faster than any other county in the state.

University of Vermont economist Art Wolfe gathered the census data into a chart showing Franklin County’s median income was $62,113 for a household and $79,436 for a family in 2015.

According to Wolfe’s data, household median income increased 9.1 percent in Franklin County from 2010 to 2015 and family median income increased 19.3 percent.

Median income means half of those in the county earned more than the median number and half earned less. It is not the same as the average income number used by the state and compiled by White + Burke.

The number of people employed in the county also grew at a faster clip than the state, with employment increasing 3.9 percent across the state since 2011, while employment in the city grew 13.9 percent and 8 percent in the county overall, according state data.

The combination of increasing employment and wages leads White to expect steady, stable growth in both the economy and population, he said.

Asked about the wage increases, White said it was likely because sectors increasing in the county also tended to pay higher wages, including professional and business services, government and health care. Since 2010, the county has added 457 professional and business service jobs and 73 health care jobs.

The public sector, which is a full quarter of the county’s employment, added 340 jobs from 2010 to 2015. The public sector includes jobs at the Citizenship and Immigration Service Center and with government agencies managing the border.

One area that remained flat over the last five years was manufacturing. Employment in that sector barely moved, but Tim Smith, executive director of Franklin County Industrial Development Corp. (FCIDC) said that would be changing.

Two of the area’s best-known manufacturers are in the midst of an expansion. Both Vermont Precision Tool in Swanton and Ben & Jerry’s in St. Albans will be adding capacity and additional staff, according to Smith.

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