Now hiring: Local companies increasing staff despite recession (8/27/09)

Aug. 27, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The economic recession has brought a difficult year for many in Williston and the  Champlain Valley. While Vermont has escaped some of the recession’s worst effects, many people have been affected by layoffs, salary cuts and a lack of high-paying jobs.

Though the job market has been slow to rebound, there are companies in Williston looking for employees. In fact, a few businesses are expanding quickly enough that they’re having trouble filling positions in a timely manner.

Across Vermont, unemployment is still high, but it’s showing slow signs of decline. On Tuesday, the state’s Department of Labor released its July unemployment numbers. Currently, 6.8 percent of the state’s workforce is unemployed, down 0.5 percent from the previous month. While some of the rise in employment can be attributed to seasonal summer jobs, some of it also comes from a growing number of permanent jobs in the state, said department spokesperson Andy Condon.

Searching through online job sites, such as and, will show several Williston businesses are looking for employees.

In Williston, hiring managers for local companies said they’re receiving higher-than-average numbers of resumes for open positions. And the message they’re sending is, “Keep them coming.”

American Income Life

The international insurance company American Income Life set up a Vermont office earlier this year in Blair Park and has been busy filling available positions. The company hired 10 people in recent months and is looking for more.

“We need to be have at least three managers and 25 employees by December,” said John Cochrane, the Vermont office’s manager.

American Income Life, or AIL, is one of the largest insurance companies in North America. It handles customers strictly within unions and other member-only organizations.

Cochrane explained the company is looking for individuals interested in what he described as “entrepreneurial opportunities.” Employees earn money through performance and by the number of families that sign onto one of AIL’s insurance policies, he said.

Cochrane said the ideal candidate for the job is someone who’s not afraid to take risks and work hard.

“As long as you go to work, you will make money,” Cochrane said. “We want people who want more out of life.”

After an extensive interview process, AIL employees must then earn a Vermont insurance license before going through company training.

Cochrane said there is high potential for growth within the company, especially since the AIL Vermont branch plans to open offices in New Hampshire and Maine in the future.

For more information, visit or call the Vermont branch at 264-9755.

Hampton Direct Inc.

After moving to its new headquarters in the former KBA North America building on Hurricane Lane last month, Hampton Direct Inc. is hiring for six positions; plans are also in place to open up six more positions in the coming months.

Hampton Direct is an international distribution company, famous for its Wonder Hanger and Draft Guard products.

According to the company’s Web site, Hampton Direct is looking for a customer service specialist, a retail sales manager and a supply chain manager. Human Resources Director Mary Wylde said last month the company routinely receives resumes from around the country, but has hired Vermonters much of the time.

“We’re seeing a high quality of candidates apply, which hasn’t always been the case,” Wylde said.

For more information and job descriptions, visit the company’s Web site at

U.S. Census

There is also short-term and part-time work available throughout Williston. The U.S. Census office in the White Cap Business Park is looking to hire close to 800 people statewide starting early next year. But those interested in census positions should contact the office soon to schedule a mandatory exam this fall.

The census office’s recruiting manager, Ellen Biddle, said the majority of those hired will be field operatives. The position will require people to visit homes of individuals who did not return a census form through the mail. Next year’s job will help give the government the most accurate population count for 2010.

To qualify for a census job, applicants must first complete a 30-minute, 28-question test. Biddle said the test is a “general knowledge” exam and that Vermonters have a very high pass rate. Once the test is passed, census managers will assign the employee to a certain position.

Pay rates range from $13.50 to $17 an hour, depending on the position, Biddle said.

“That’s terrific pay for work in this area,” she added.

Census operations are due to wrap up by December 2010.

For more information, visit