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December 15, 2014

The Politics of Economic Development

Filed under: SRDC — admin @ 9:09 pm

(This column by SRDC’s Executive Director Bob Flint appears in the December SRDC Newsletter)

I’ve used this anecdote before, so excuse me if you’ve already heard this.  But it’s handy to trot this out from time to time to make a point.

I was at a meeting several years ago where there was grumbling about the state of the economy.  Someone asked what was needed and the response was “jobs!”  Any specific type of jobs?  And the response was again “jobs!”

Like anything else, there are layers and nuance to the sustenance of the economy, whether it’s global or here in our backyard.  We deal with many of the same challenges my colleagues around the world do on a daily basis.  I serve on the Board of Directors for the Northeastern Economic Developers Association, which covers 11 states and the District of Columbia. At our quarterly meeting last week, I heard many of the issues that we wrestle with here, from workforce development concerns to energy costs.

But we also shared the regional quirks from our various home bases.  Since we just came off an election in November, it was interesting to hear how “economic development” is inherently so politicized, both as an issue that government wants to enable, but also in the other areas that directly impact the ability of businesses to survive and prosper.

In Vermont, we are in regular communication with our companies and hear about the challenges they’re facing.  Some issues are beyond our control, to a point, like transportation (we’re not going to have an international airport in our region, although we do have Hartness State Airport, which is a great resource!).

However, there are others where there is a direct interface with public policy in the state.  Land use and permitting come to mind, as there’s an understandable desire to protect the “Vermont” we all love, but occasionally that collides with the need to build or expand a facility to provide the “jobs” that are needed.

Sometimes, I’m putting out fires where a public regulator is a little too gung ho in implementing and administering rules and treats the customer/ businessperson in a less than appropriate manner.

Or it’s trying to find that balance on an important issue like Health Care or Education and figuring out how to ensure that the residents of the state have the highest quality possible. While, at the same time, developing a way to pay for it that is sustainable and allows Vermont companies to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

The Legislature will be back in session shortly and they will be working on these, and many other, issues.  But, it’s important for all of us to help them remember that, while all of us want “jobs!” it’s critical to truly understand what is necessary for that to happen and appreciate what it already preventing that from occurring on a larger scale.  As well as ensuring that, just like our friends in health care, they “do no harm” in whatever laws are enacted.

Many thanks for your continuing support of SRDC this past year!  There’s a lot in the hopper for 2015 and we look forward to sharing more good news with you in the coming year.   Happy Holidays to you and your families!

December 4, 2014

Springfield Group Purchases Assets of Trout River Brewing, Opening Brewery at One Hundred River Street

Filed under: SRDC — admin @ 10:20 pm

A group of Springfield-area entrepreneurs, Vermont Beer Shapers, announced that they have purchased the brew recipes, equipment and name of Trout River Brewing Company of Lyndonville.  They will be opening their brewery in the One Hundred River Street facility in downtown Springfield Vermont.

Vermont Beer Shapers is a local company created by Trevor Billings, Gabe Streeter and Kelen Beardsley, who have been interested in developing a brewing business for some time.  According to Beardsley, this was an opportunity to purchase an existing Vermont brand. “Trout River is an established name in Vermont and is known for great beer.  We’re looking forward to continuing the traditions of the brewery, while working to make it our own”.

Beardsley said that equipment has been moved to Springfield and work will be starting soon on renovations for the new brewery space. He said that they hope to have the new facility up and running this winter. Initially, the focus will be on the production and distribution of beer.  There is the potential of a tasting room or even a brew-pub in future years, he added.

Claremont Savings Bank provided the financing for this project. Beardsley added that Vermont Beer Shapers also appreciated the help they received for their efforts from Springfield Regional Development Corporation and their Small Business Development Center. Beardsley Stated “There was a tremendous amount of support from the local community to help us with this project, we are extremely excited to bring this business to our hometown”.

Trout River Brewing was started in 1996 by Dan Gates.  Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

November 24, 2014

Photos from SRDC’s Annual Meeting

Filed under: SRDC — admin @ 3:38 pm

SRDC held its Annual Meeting on November 18, 2014 at the American Legion Post 67 in Chester, Vermont.

Al Gobeille, Chair of the Green Mountain Care Board, shared his observations about the status of health care reform and the continued need for additional measures to attempt to control the costs of care in the state.

SRDC Project Manager Paul Kowalski gave an update on the CDBG-DR program, which has provided grants to area business impacted by Tropical Storm Irene.  Executive Director Bob Flint reported on a variety of SRDC’s efforts over the past year, including the current status of the former J & L Plant 1 and Bryant Grinder properties.

For pics of the event - http://on.fb.me/1zm0S1D

October 17, 2014

Workshop on Protecting Intellectual Property, Nov. 13 in Springfield

Filed under: SRDC — admin @ 7:44 am

Do you have an idea or innovation you’re preparing for the marketplace? Learn how to protect it during a free workshop on Thursday, Nov. 13 at the Howard Dean Education Center in Springfield. The session is from 10 a.m. to noon and will focus on “How to Protect Your Intellectual Property.”

This is the second of two workshops being held in Springfield to help innovators who are creating new technologies and need the know-how to bring their ideas to market. It’s being co-sponsored by the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) and the Springfield Regional Development Corporation.

Scott Holson, VtSBDC’s technology commercialization advisor, will talk about the various forms of intellectual property protection, how to determine if your innovation should be patented, and the steps involved in the process.

“I encourage anyone to come to the intellectual property workshop who is interested in gaining an understanding of trademarks, copyright, trade secrets and patents,” he says.

Following the workshops, Scott is available to provide free one-on-one advising on starting a business or selling an innovation, and creating a plan to make it happen.

The VtSBDC workshops are available thanks to a $95,000 grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration that’s helping Vermont businesses compete on a national level for research and development opportunities.

To register for the workshop or to learn more about the Technology Commercialization Program, visit vtsbdc.org/commercialize or contact Scott Holson at sholson2@vtsbdc.org.

October 7, 2014

Free Workshop for Local Entrepreneurs, Oct. 14 in Springfield

Filed under: SRDC — admin @ 9:24 am

On Tuesday, Oct. 14th, the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) and Springfield Regional Development Corporation (SRDC) are hosting a free workshop for regional businesses and entrepreneurs. The session, which will focus on How to Commercialize Your Idea, is being held from 10 a.m. to noon at the Howard Dean Education Center in Springfield.

This is one of two workshops that will be held in Springfield to help innovators who are developing new technologies and would like to learn how to bring their ideas to the marketplace. Scott Holson, VtSBDCs technology commercialization advisor, will talk about the process of bringing an idea to fruition and locating funding through a variety of grant programs.

“I encourage anyone to come to the commercialization workshop who is interested in better understanding the steps to take to reduce or completely eliminate the valley of death often spoken about when starting a new company”, he says.

Following the workshops, Scott is available to provide free one-on-one advising in making grant submissions, applying for research and development funding, and succinctly presenting your business case.

The VtSBDC workshops are available thanks to a $95,000 grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration thats helping Vermont businesses compete on a national level for research and development opportunities.

To register for the workshop or to learn more about the Technology Commercialization Program, visit vtsbdc.org/commercialize <http://vtsbdc.org/commercialize> or contact Scott Holson at sholson2@vtsbdc.org <mailto:sholson2@vtsbdc.org>.

October 1, 2014

Supplying the Fuel For the Engines of the Regional Economy – Our Workforce Challenges

Filed under: SRDC — admin @ 10:10 am

(This column by SRDC’s Bob Flint appears in the Fall SRDC Newsletter - http://conta.cc/1vuxip2)

Those of you that know me pretty well know that I’m generally an optimistic person.  I try to maintain a sunny outlook and try to look at the glass as “half-full”.

But even I have my days when that’s not the case.  I was in one of those funks recently, which probably had to do with spending too much time wallowing in the muck that is the world of “brownfields”.

However, spending some time on business visits last week perked me back up and reminded me of what’s really important with our regional economy – helping our existing companies continue to thrive and prosper.

It was refreshing to see how many businesses are doing well at the moment!  Orders are coming in and workflow appears to be very steady.  You can feel the energy in several of the places I stopped at recently.

But I did consistently hear about one major concern that threatens this positive trend – the challenge in finding qualified employees.  We have heard for some time about the occasional difficulty in attracting middle-upper management talent to our region, but there’s a new urgency to those conversations.  What’s even more startling is the need for entry-level workers.

There are a number of resources locally and in the state to help provide training opportunities for the existing workforce, as well as for those looking to find a job.   The Vermont Training Program has recently undergone a makeover and is now positioned to help more employers than ever!  Please contact us to learn more about your company could benefit from a VTP grant.

The real problems, however, are nuanced and complicated.  There are socio-economic challenges that are beyond anything this region has seen before.  SRDC is working with area partners, from the WIB to the RPC and AHS, and many others, to have the necessary conversations and start to build consensus on what tools are needed to address these issues.

The heartening thing is that there are a number of quality employers that serve as the hub of a still-thriving area economy.  We thank all of you for continuing to do business in Vermont and in Southern Windsor County.  And, we appreciate your continued support as we work to develop an even stronger workforce that can be the fuel for the engine of economic development in our area.

September 25, 2014

Black River Produce Co-Founder Mark Curran Honored for Good Business Practices

Filed under: SRDC — admin @ 3:18 pm

On Tuesday, September 9th, nearly 150 members and friends of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR) came to Shelburne Farms for an event in honor of Mark Curran, Co-founder of Black River Produce and winner of the 2014 VBSR Terry Ehrich Award for Excellence in Socially Responsible Business. The sold-out dinner and award ceremony was a celebration of local food, relationships, and socially responsible business practices.

““We were thrilled to be able to honor Mark this with award”,” noted VBSR Executive Director Andrea Cohen. Named for the late owner of Hemming’s Motor News and a founding member of VBSR, the award is given to a VBSR member who best exemplifies Terry Ehrich’’s commitment to the environment, workplace, progressive public policy and community. “”Mark, and his business partner Steve Birge, have worked hard to grow Black River Produce in a sustainable way. They have been instrumental in supporting our local food movement and have taken a number of steps to reduce their carbon footprint and increase their energy efficiency while growing quality jobs in our state.”

Chuck Ross, Secretary of Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets opened the award ceremony by discussing the importance of Vermont’s local food economy while highlighting how much Black River Produce has done to further that mission. After glowing remarks from VBSR Board Vice Chair, Chris Miller of Ben & Jerry’s, Mark spent a few minutes discussing how his upbringing shaped him into the business person he’d become. Curran explored how far his company has come (opening a new meat processing facility), how they had grown sustainably (reinvesting in the company), and how they practice social responsibility (supporting local farmers, utilizing renewable energy and biodiesel trucks). Curran also took time during his address to thank and highlight the leadership and vision of his business partner Steve Birge. Attendees expressed their appreciation of the moment by honoring both Mark and Steve with a standing ovation.

(Photo courtesy of Tasha Wallis)

September 11, 2014

Public officials, business leaders and cybersecurity experts gather at Norwich on 9/22 with FTC Commissioner Julie Brill as the featured speaker

Filed under: SRDC — admin @ 9:17 am

The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), a non-profit public-private partnership focused on helping all digital citizens stay safer and more secure online, is coming to Vermont with its STOP. THINK. CONNECT. Two Steps Ahead: Protect Your Digital Life Tour to educate consumers and businesses about adding layers of security to their everyday online activities.

The event being held on September 22nd from 9-11am at Norwich University’s Milano Ballroom is part of a ten-city tour to spread the word about activating security features available on many of the web’s most popular sites. Commissioner Brill will open the event with remarks, and the morning will feature a hands-on demonstration showing attendees how to step up their security on sites like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, LinkedIn. The event also includes a panel discussion with representatives from the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern MA, ME, RI & VT, FBI and Norwich University.  Concluding the event will be a live demonstration by students in the Center for Advanced Computing and Digital Forensics at Norwich University.

Recent publicized data breaches in the retail and other sectors and the Heartbleed open SSL vulnerability have shed the light once again on account security when passwords and other account credentials are lost.

Lack of consumer adoption of good password practices continues to create problems as well, as evidenced by the fact that “123456” and “password” have long been the top passwords in use. A Pew Research Center study indicated that last year 21% of Internet users (18 years and older) have had an online account compromised, such as a social networking account or an email account, and only 23% think their accounts are very secure.

The good news is more and more Internet sites are implementing additional security features that can help computer users add another layer of security to their accounts. These features go by many names – such as two-step verification, login approvals, and multi-factor authentication – and use a variety of methods, including SMS texts to a mobile device, or random one-time use password generators, but the goal is the same, allowing only authorized people to access an account.

Consumers still need to be vigilant about using strong passwords, because they are not going away anytime soon.  Users should follow the basic security advice to have long, strong and unique passwords.

“Making use of available security precautions like the emerging account security tools, where available, should be a starting point for staying safe online,” said Michael Kaiser executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. “Utilizing all available security measures and understanding the consequences of actions and behaviors online is the key message underlying the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. campaign.”

“The recent string of security breaches, which involve the release of sensitive information on a massive scale, illustrates why data security is a consumer protection priority for the FTC.  Our enforcement actions hold companies accountable for providing reasonable security.  We also work hard to educate companies and consumers about how they can protect consumer data. I am looking forward to discussing these efforts on September 22,” said FTC Commissioner Julie Brill.

The event will run from 9-11am and registration is open to the public free, but space is limited.

“We want to thank all our partners who are helping to make the event at Norwich a success,” Kaiser said.  The RDC’s of Vermont are one of the organizations that are sponsoring this event.

To register visit: https://twostepsvermont.eventbrite.com

To learn more about staying safe online and to find links to websites that offer additional account security visit: www.stopthinkconnect.org/twostepsahead.

August 29, 2014

Start Your Own Business Workshop on 9/18 in Springfield

Filed under: SRDC — admin @ 4:17 pm

Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) is offering a four-hour workshop on how to start your own business and write a business plan.  The course will be offered on Thursday, September 18th from 9:00 am. to 1:00 p.m. at the Springfield Regional Development Corporation, 14 Clinton Square, in the 1st floor conference room

Starting Your Own Business is conducted by experienced business advisors and designed as a step-by-step guide for starting a business in Vermont for the first-time business owner:

  • Evaluate whether there is a viable business in your good idea
  • Identify your target customers and explore how to conduct market research
  • Learn how to register your company, apply for tax numbers and protect your brand
  • Prepare to write an effective business plan
  • Find out about financing options and learn what a credible loan package looks like
  • Receive access to the online workshops to increase your knowledge in money, marketing and management (at your convenience) valued at over $150.00

By the end of this workshop you will be well-informed about the resources available to you and the steps involved in launching a successful business.

Space is limited. To register for the workshop sign up online at www.vtsbdc.org (click on the training tab). For registration questions, please email Heather Gonyaw at hgonyaw@vtsbdc.org.  The registration fee is $99.00.  Your payment includes a start-up workbook in hardcopy and pdf format.

Vermont Small Business Development Center is a non-profit partnership of government, education and business, organized to help Vermont small businesses succeed. No-cost, confidential advice is provided to existing business owners and new entrepreneurs throughout the state.  The local SBDC office is part of Springfield Regional Development Corporation. For more information visit www.vtsbdc.org or contact Debra Boudrieau at (802) 885-2071 or dboudrieau@vtsbdc.org.

Vermont Small Business Development Center is a partnership program with the U.S. Small Business Administration.  The support given by the U.S. Small Business Administration through its funding does not constitute an expressed or implied endorsement of any of the co-sponsors’ or participants’ opinions, products or services.

July 21, 2014

Hartness State Airport Hosts Successful ACE Camp!

Filed under: SRDC — admin @ 3:30 pm

Hartness State Airport in North Springfield, VT, the State’s oldest airport, established in 1920, was host to another successful Aviation Careers Education Camp (“ACE Camp”) last week, sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration, Vermont Agency of Transportation, and the Vermont Aviation Advisory Council.

Fourteen girls and boys, ages twelve to fifteen, participated in a week long camp devoted to aviation careers and education.

On arrival at Hartness Airport, the campers toured half dozen aerobatic airplanes that had competed in the prior weekend’s Green Mountain Aerobatic Contest. Charles Schumacher, a member of the New England Aerobatic Club, displayed his Extra 300 aircraft and explained to the campers how aerobatic pilots maintain ground reference while flying vertically and inverted. Heather Posey, a Reading resident, spoke about her career as an Air Force C-130 pilot. Now retired from the military, Heather spoke about her current job flying Airbus 319’s for US Airways.

Over the five day camp, participants flew in gliders, helicopters, single-engine aircraft, plus a New York Air National Guard C-130 “Hercules” transport from the Lebanon, NH airport, to Cape Cod, Kennebunkport, ME, and back to Lebanon. The campers built and flew rockets, cut and assembled aircraft wing spars, and learned the basics of aerodynamics.

The next to last day of the camp gave every participant a flight in the 1947 P-51D Mustang fighter “Old Crow,” a Nanching “YAK” fighter-trainer, and Cessna CJ-3 executive jet transport airplanes. The P-51 and CJ-3 jet flights were generously provided by Jim Hagedorn, President and CEO of Scotts/Miracle-Gro. Mr. Hagedorn’s Spring Brook Farm Foundation has, for more than 20 years, hosted the Farms for City Kids program.

If you have a youngster that may be interested in next summer’s ACE Camp at Hartness Airport, please call Larry Perry or Shayne Wilcox at Hartness Airport, 802-886-7500.

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