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Over the past two centuries, the state of Vermont has had both population explosions and population busts. First settled by farmers, loggers and hunters, Vermont lost much of its population as farmers moved west into the Great Plains in search of abundant, easily tilled land. Logging similarly fell off as over-cutting and the exploitation of other forests made the state’s forest less attractive. Although these population shifts devastated the state’s economy, the early loss of population had the beneficial effect of allowing the land and forest to recover. The accompanying lack of industry has allowed the state to avoid many of the ill-effects of 20th century industrial busts, effects that still plague neighboring states. Today, most of the state’s forests consist of second-growth.
Of the remaining industries, dairy farming is the primary source of agricultural income.
An important and growing part of the state’s economy is the manufacture and sale of artisan foods, fancy foods, and novelty items trading in part upon the Vermont “brand” which the state manages and defends. Examples of these specialty exports include Cabot Cheese, ginseng growers, Burton Snowboards, Lake Champlain Chocolates, King Arthur Flour, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, Fine Paints of Europe, Vermont Butter and Cheese Company, several micro breweries and Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream.
In 2001, Vermont produced 275,000 US gallons of maple syrup, about one-quarter of United States production. Vermont’s wine industry started in Vermont in 1985. There are 14 wineries today.
IBM, in Essex Junction, is Vermont’s largest for-profit employer. It provides a quarter of all manufacturing jobs in the state.
Captive insurance plays an increasingly large role in the state’s economy. With this form of alternative insurance, large corporations or industry associations form stand alone insurance companies to insure their own risks, thereby substantially reducing their insurance premiums and gaining a significant measure of control over types of risks to be covered. There are also significant tax advantages to be gained from the formation and operation of captive insurance companies. According to the Insurance Information Institute, Vermont in 2004 was the world’s third-largest domicile for captive insurance companies, following Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.
Tourism is Vermont’s largest industry. In winter, the ski resorts Stowe, Sugarbush, Stratton, Jay Peak, Killington Ski Resort, Mad River Glen, Okemo, Mount Snow and Bromley host skiers from around the world, although their largest markets are the Boston, Montreal and New York metropolitan areas. In the summer, resort towns like Manchester, Stowe and Woodstock host visitors.
Lake Champlain.Summer camps contribute to Vermont’s tourist economy. Trout fishing, lake fishing, and ice fishing draw outdoor enthusiasts to Vermont, as does the hiking on the Long Trail. In winter, nordic and backcountry skiers visit to travel the length of the state on the Catamount Trail. Several horse shows are annual events. Vermont’s museums, golf courses, state parks, historic sites and new boutique hotels with spas were designed to attract tourists.
The towns of Rutland and Barre are the traditional centers of marble and granite quarrying and carving in the United States. For many years the state was also the headquarters of the smallest union in the nation, the Stonecutters Association, of about 500 members. Up the western side of Vermont runs the “Marble Valley” joining up with the “Slate Valley” that runs from just inside New York across from Chimney Point until it meets the “Granite Valley” that runs south past Rutland, home of the Rock of Ages quarry, the largest granite quarry in America. The state is the largest producer of slate in the country. Production of dimension stone is the greatest producer of revenues by quarrying.
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