Coffee company layoffs hit rebuilding Vermont town hard

AP News
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Posted: Aug 07, 2015 5:02 PM
Coffee company layoffs hit rebuilding Vermont town hard

WATERBURY, Vt. (AP) — For years, the company now known as Keurig Green Mountain provided well-paying, stable employment in Vermont. That's about to change.

The company announced this week that the bulk of about 200 layoffs in the state would be in Waterbury, a town still rebuilding after the loss of about 1,100 jobs four years ago when Tropical Storm Irene flooded the state.

Local residents recognize the business fortunes of Keurig Green Mountain are beyond their control.

Resident Theresa Wood, who helped rebuild the community after Irene, said everyone in Waterbury knows someone affected by the layoffs or at least knows someone who knows someone.

She said the company, still known locally as Coffee Roasters, has provided dependable, well-paying jobs with good benefits that will be hard to replicate, even in a state with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.

"Sort of the hometown feel of the company as they have grown in sales — they are not the small- medium-sized company that they used to be," Wood said. "They are corporate America now and this type of thing happens in corporate America."

Before Tropical Storm Irene flooded Waterbury in August 2011, there were about 1,400 state government jobs spread through an aging, but picturesque complex on the south side of the community that was first built in the 19th century as the state's psychiatric hospital, but evolved to become home to a number of state agencies.

The flooding caused the state to abandon most of those buildings, taking away all but about 300 of those jobs in the unflooded state public safety building.

On Wednesday, Keurig announced it was cutting about 330 jobs of a total of about 6,600 after disappointing sales numbers.

Keurig said that before the layoffs it employed about 2,000 in Vermont, but they wouldn't break those numbers down by location. Before the layoffs Vermont state Rep. Tom Stevens, a Democrat, said the company employed between 700 and 800 people in Waterbury.

At the time of the flood, Keurig, headquartered in a part of town away from the river, remained a rock of employment, Stevens said.

"After we lost so many people at the state complex, we still had a real solid base of employees who came in and helped support our retail," Stevens said. "The company was generous in the recovery efforts and that will never be forgotten."

The company, now known as Keurig Green Mountain, was created in 1980 in nearby Waitsfield. The company was incorporated the next year as Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Its headquarters moved to Waterbury in 1995.

Over the years it continued to grow, owning in large part to the Keurig single-cup brewing system. Last year, the company became known as Keurig Green Mountain.

While Keurig jobs were cut in Waterbury, the rebuilding, renovation and flood proofing of the state office complex, Vermont's largest state building project, is nearing completion. The first of what are intended to be about 900 state employees are due to begin moving into the 115,000-square-foot, $125 million complex by the end of the year.

Even though other jobs will be returning to Waterbury, Stevens said the community would work hard to help those displaced by this week's cuts at Keurig.

"They have been a pretty good neighbor over the years," Stevens said.