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April 23, 2010

The local harvest: A lesson in entrepreneurship

Back in 1977, two young guys, Mark Curran and Steve Birge, met on the ski slopes in Vermont. Before long, they hatched an idea: create a market that provided fresh, quality produce in Ludlow, Vermont. They pooled $600 between them and traveled back and forth to Boston, loading up their old VW bus with fresh vegetables from the wholesale markets in the city. They also stopped at various Vermont farms along the way.

That was the beginning of Black River Market. Soon, they had the idea of going beyond a market and approached restaurants to sell their farm fresh foods. Salad bars were becoming all the rage, so their timing couldn’t have been better!

Since those humble beginnings, Mark and Steve have grown their business (and renamed it Black River Produce) and harvested a steady crop of success. In their first year in business, Mark says they posted about $70,000 in revenue. Now, they do about $200,000 “on a good day”, he says, or $40 million a year.

SRDC stepped in when Black River Produce outgrew its space in 2005. We facilitated their acquisition of a former dairy production facility where the company could spread out from its cramped 12,000 square feet of space into 63,000. It just made sense to renovate an existing structure rather than start from the ground up.

Mark says he could have easily moved over the border to New Hampshire when the company needed to expand, but his roots are here. Black River Produce was born and grew up in these parts. Their products are feeding Vermont residents (and beyond), restaurant diners, schoolchildren, college students, hospital patients and staff, and many, many more. The company reflects the flavor of Southern Windsor County and Vermont and we are so glad to have made it possible for them to make a healthy contribution to our economy and our lives.

High tech with low stress

When you drive through Chester, with its quintessential small town Vermont appearance, you see lots of beautiful homes, churches, and shops. But tucked in this quiet town in Southern Windsor County is a business that relies on the region’s telecommunications infrastructure to survive. NewsBank is a global provider of news and information. The company maintains vast volumes of Web-based research products that feed the needs of the government and military libraries, colleges and universities, schools, libraries, and researchers.

NewsBank’s connection can never be down. It is a 24/7 company with tremendous bandwidth and over 320 servers. The company has a large fiber hookup between its Chester location and AT&T in Watertown, MA—all provided and maintained by the local telecommunications provider, VTel.

NewsBank’s Chief Operating Officer Mike Walker, who has been with the company for 24 years, says he has never experienced any snags when it comes to the local technology infrastructure. And if anyone or any business can attest to the advanced networks here in this part of the Green Mountains, it’s NewsBank.

I know that there are many reasons to live in our corner of Vermont, particularly the quality of life, with a slower pace and less stress. But luckily, you don’t have to sacrifice the convenience of your technological needs in order to live better!