Gov. Phil Scott makes low-key visit to J.K. Adams

DORSET — Gov. Phil Scott spent part of Wednesday in Dorset getting to know more about a Northshire business.

The governor made a low-key visit to J.K. Adams, taking a quick tour of the family-owned kitchen and home wood product manufacturer and retailer. For about 45 minutes, he walked through the store and factory with owner Malcolm Cooper, CEO John Blatchford and lawmakers Rep. Linda Joy Sullivan (D-Dorest) and Sen. Brian Campion (D-Bennington), among several others.

The visit was followed by a stop at an appreciation day luncheon for the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, for their work at Owls Head Town Forest.

It was the first of two consecutive days in Southern Vermont for Scott, as he was scheduled to appear in Bennington on Thursday for an announcement connected to the redevelopment of the Putnam Block.

Amid the noise of lathes and routers and the smell of sawdust, Scott spent much of the tour chatting with workers and with Cooper about the business and its products.

In the meantime, Blatchford explained how the state's Working Lands fund — an economic development grant fund helping first products and agricultural businesses — has helped the company train workers in "lean manufacturing" practices, and how those funds will also help the company overhaul its website.

"It was great to have him here," Blatchford said. "We know he's a supporter of small business and he showed support of Vermont Working Lands."

The industry has changed dramatically, Blatchford said, as product life cycles become shorter and competition for retailer shelf space increases. Even products that sell well are being retired by retailers because they feel the need to constantly reinvent product lines.

"You need layers you didn't need before," he told Scott. "You have to move faster than ever before. ... Now we have a full-time designer and a full-time marketing manager just to keep up."

As the tour progressed to a wood-burning machine that customizes items such as cutting boards, Scott, Blatchford and Cooper discussed issues facing manufacturers in the state, such as workforce housing, training and strategic partnerships. For example, Blatchford said J.K. Adams would love to have more in-state suppliers for the kiln-dried lumber it uses for its products, but has not been able to find a Vermont supplier who can make the neccesary equipment investment.

The state's size works against it in some industries, Scott said. "I'd like to have a discussion about the aerospace industry," he said. "If we can build relationships with Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut, we can work together. ... I think that's what we need to do."

Reach Greg Sukiennik at 802-490-6000.


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