Before I got derailed with the modern nullification follies, my wife and I were describing some of the surprising successes of people, ideas, and organizations in Burlington, Vermont.
Burlington has a relatively thriving print newspaper; its airport is designed to lower rather than raise travel-stress levels; it has a vibrant downtown; its high-tech manufacturers, many descended from IBM's original decision to place a plant nearby, now serve customers around the world; its unemployment rate has stayed in the low-4% range, versus 7 - 8% for the country as a whole; as the largest city in one of the nation's whitest states, Burlington has been absorbing immigrants and refugees. Plus, it offers the elusive, magic-unicorn-like Heady Topper beer. There are problems here as everywhere, but for the moment we're trying to identify sources of resilience and success.
Because I've spent so much time over the years learning about (and in one case working at) info-tech and Internet firms in the usual-suspect places -- the SF Bay area, greater Seattle, Boston and environs, DC and New York -- one other Burlington story got my attention. This was Dealer.com, a very successful firm that provides an array of software and web sites for the auto-dealer industry. Its auto-dealer customers use its systems to market their dealerships and inventory, manage customer relations, handle their own back-end operations, and do a variety of other things that are not my focus now.
The company started in Burlington in the late 1990s, as Earthcars.com, and now employs some 800 people, still known as "Earthlings" in tribute to the original name. That's a company picture of some recent Earthlings, above. It has recently expanded into a huge former factory site in near-downtown Burlington and also has a branch operation in Manhattan Beach, California. (Cruelly, a video monitor in the Burlington office shows weather readings from Burlington and Manhattan Beach, side by side. Miraculously, on the day of or visit it was warmer in Burlington.) As of our visit last month, the company had already taken on 100 more people this year.