Take a guess on Greater Burlington’s biggest economic sector. And it’s not ice cream – at least, not by itself.
An industrial boom in the 1990s centered on electronics industries: IBM Burlington, in nearby Essex, employs 6,000 people on 725 acres; its clean room builds microchips 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Software, instrumentation, electronics, computer parts, cables and medical devices all are big business in the Burlington area. The companies themselves may not be big, but their sheer diversity and number balance out what they may lack in size.
Some examples: Bio-Tek makes high-performance microplate instrumentation and software used in pharmaceutical research. Ladd Research makes microscope parts for laboratories worldwide. Green Mountain Software is a mobile computing software development firm that counts Fortune 500 companies and start-ups among its clients.
Living Systems Instrumentation makes systems for blood vessel research.
Traditional manufacturing maintains a hold on the region’s economy, too, with companies producing fabricated metals, chemicals, machinery, furniture, wood products, jewelry and glass, among other offerings.
The list includes food products, as well. Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream, now one the region’s largest employers, got its start here, as did Bruegger’s Bagel Bakery. Both have become household names. Ben and Jerry opened their first store in 1978 with $12,000 and put a renovated downtown gas station on the map. The company now employs more than 700 people.
Tourism is the area’s second largest sector. The Church Street Marketplace, a pedestrian mall, is hugely popular. Employment in the 20-block downtown shopping and residential district alone is reaching 10,000 workers in service, government and retail.
It could be said, though, that innovation is Greater Burlington’s biggest economic force. Seventh Generation Inc., maker of eco-friendly cleaning products such as 100 percent recycled paper towels and non-toxic detergents, has its headquarters here. So does Burton Burlington, the first U.S. snowboarding company, which operates its flagship store on Industrial Parkway.
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