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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.