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Burton ends snowboard manufacturing in Vermont

By John Curran
Associated Press Writer / March 16, 2010

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MONTPELIER, Vt.—Burton Snowboards, the snowboard innovator whose name has been synonymous with Vermont since the dawn of the sport, is ending its manufacturing operations in the state, moving 43 jobs to Austria, the company announced Tuesday.

Burton Manufacturing Center, in South Burlington, which manufactured a portion of the company's high-end boards that sell for $700 to $1,500 retail, will close in June. The work will move to a facility in Uttendorf, Austria, run by Keil that has been producing the high-end boards for 25 years.

Prototyping work will be moved to the company's global headquarters in Burlington, which employs 377 people and will remain there.

High production costs in Vermont were cited as the reason, but the privately held company wouldn't be more specific or say what the per-board savings would be. The bulk of Burton's snowboards are manufactured in Europe and Asia already.

"When I started Burton Snowboards in 1977, all we did was make snowboards in Vermont," said founder Jake Burton Carpenter, in a news release issued by the company.

"Thanks to the BMC staff, we've excelled at prototyping and developing product in Vermont, which is why all four Burton Olympic halfpipe medals were won on snowboards coming out of our local factory. But simply put, it costs us significantly more to produce a board in Vermont than we are capable of selling it for, and sadly, this is not sustainable in the current economy," said Burton, who was not available for an interview.

The Austrian factory has the technology and capacity to increase production, the company said.

The announcement was disappointing news to Vermont, where the sport was pioneered.

"At the end of the day, the important part of the news is that Burton Snowboards -- the company and the brand -- remain in Vermont, with its world headquarters here," said Parker Riehle, president of the Vermont Ski Areas Association. "We'd prefer those jobs were in Vermont than in Austria."

Burton said the workers displaced would get help from the state Department of Labor to assist them with unemployment benefits and potential job opportunities.