Williston Tech Company Polly Lays Off 17 People in Vermont

Source: Seven Days

by Anne Wallace Allen

Williston-based Polly, a digital auto insurance marketplace for car dealers, has laid off 15 percent of its 255 employees, including 17 workers in Vermont.

Tough times in the auto industry and in the economy overall are to blame, said Ben Jastatt, the company’s senior director of communications. 

“The COVID pandemic continues to disrupt the automotive space, and inventory levels remain far lower than what they were pre-pandemic,” Jastatt wrote in an email on Monday. “More broadly, 2022 signaled the beginning of a new and much more demanding economic climate with stubborn inflation and rising interest rates.”

Layoffs have swept through many big tech companies including Netflix, Amazon, Twitter and Meta in recent weeks. The business website Crunchbase News reported on Friday that more than 88,000 workers in the tech sector have lost their jobs in mass cuts so far this year.

The layoffs last Thursday were Polly’s first, Jastatt said, though he noted about 15 people lost their jobs last summer as part of a role restructuring. There was no net job loss in that restructuring, he said.

The workers will likely be able to find other job opportunities, especially if they’re in Chittenden County. Vermont’s unemployment rate hovers around 2 percent, and tech companies are trying hard to find workers, said Jeff Couture, the executive director of the Vermont Technology Alliance. Couture said the job board on the Tech Alliance website has more than 300 listings.

“The trend I see is more toward,How do we get the people we need?” Couture said of his 200 or so members. “I have not seen any obvious effort to reduce hiring or initiate layoffs in the tech sector.”

Polly, formerly called DealerPolicy, is one of Vermont’s success stories. The company, which provides mobile technology that helps car shoppers choose from among several insurance quotes, was founded in 2016 by Travis Fitzgerald and Jeff Mongeon. It grew quickly, acquiring several other companies and winning sizeable venture capital investment, including $140 million last year. In summer 2021, company officials said Polly had 250 employees, and they planned to add another 100 that year to work in Williston or remotely.

“Our number one priority was to treat everyone impacted with dignity and respect and to support their transition in every way we could,” Jastatt said in the email. He added that the company’s trying to help the workers find new jobs and is allowing them to keep their company laptops.

Couture said he doesn’t know of any other significant tech sector layoffs in Vermont, at least not recently, though he noted that employment numbers do rise and fall with global business cycles at GlobalFoundries, the semiconductor manufacturer that has a plant in Essex Junction. That company has warned employees of impending layoffs before the end of the year, VTDigger.org reported.

“I haven’t seen that what is going on with the major tech companies nationally has had an impact on the smaller or Vermont-based tech companies,” Couture said. He thinks the impact of the Polly layoffs is likely to be small. 

“These aren’t huge numbers,” Couture said. “There are a lot of job opportunities with Vermont-based businesses.”

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