Thanks to a substantial investment by FreshTracks Capital, a Shelburne-based venture capital fund, Caledonia Spirits of Hardwick, a distillery which sells Barr Hill Gin, Tom Cat Gin and Barr Hill Vodka, has the money needed to carry out its national marketing plan. SunCommon, a solar energy company based in Waterbury, used its FreshTracks investment money to expand from providing solar systems to private home owners, to offering residential, commercial and community systems, according to company Chief Financial Officer Chach Curtis. “There’s nothing more rewarding to me than when we can invest in an entrepreneurial company that makes a great Vermont product and to be able to help that company grow in a way that also positively impacts Vermont’s economy,” said Cairn Cross, one of the founders of FreshTracks Capital. FreshTracks is a seed and early-stage venture capital firm focused on financing businesses in Vermont and surrounding regions.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Two long-sleeved shirts, a sweater, a fleece jacket, two scarves and two pairs of socks. That has been Karen Ericson’s go-to outfit in her office in Des Moines, Iowa, in recent weeks. “I am still shivering,” the 39-year-old graphic designer said last week, estimating the temperature in the office was in the mid-60s while outside, the city hit 19 degrees below zero at one point.
RUTLAND — With all the interest in natural and organic diets, it is no wonder Juice Amour on Center Street in Rutland has suddenly become so popular. “It has been an amazing response,” said co-owner Katie Churchill, whose shop opened on Dec. 2.
The New York Times The new tax law is likely to accelerate a hotly disputed trend in the U.S. economy by rewarding workers who sever formal relationships with their employers and become contractors. Management consultants may soon strike out on their own, and stockbrokers may hang out their own shingle. More cable repairmen and delivery drivers, some of whom find work through gig economy apps like Uber, may also be lured into contracting arrangements.
The New York Times ROCKLAND, Maine — Reade Brower cuts an unassuming figure for a media mogul. On a drizzly October day here, he could be found tucking into a grilled cheese sandwich with bacon at the Home Kitchen Café, clad in a Hawaiian shirt, shorts and a Red Sox cap. The owner of the Rutland Herald and Times Argus was wearing shoes, which he often foregoes, like he had when he ran a recent marathon. Appearances aside, however, Brower’s footprint on this state’s newspaper industry is enormous. He owns 18 weeklies and four of the seven daily newspapers in Maine, and his presses print the other three.
MONTPELIER — In August, the Drawing Board art supply and frame shop in downtown Montpelier passed the baton to the third “generation” of owners when longtime employee Liz Walsh took over as solo owner. “I am excited to be the new steward of the Drawing Board. Art supply and frame shops hold a certain kind of magic, possibility in every tube. And we love to see the artwork that comes through the doors. We see everything from wedding certificates to band posters, to fine oil paintings,” she said.
Call it Vermont’s version of lost and found. The state treasurer is trying to find the owners of $80 million in unclaimed assets. Over the years, the amount of unclaimed assets turned over to the state on an annual basis has grown from $3.5 million in 2002 to $10.4 million last year, raising the total to $80 million. Treasurer Beth Pearce said the state has done a good job of making companies that hold those assets aware of the unclaimed property law. In turn, that’s allowed the state “to get more money out the door” to the rightful owners, she said.
After years of climbing the corporate ladder, Steve Leach finally decided to give up the shirt and tie and find his bliss growing saffron. It started in February, when Leach tuned into a broadcast on saffron cultivation through the University of Vermont in Burlington. “I’ve been working in the corporate world all of my professional career, but have always had an interest in starting my own business,” said Leach, a new farm owner at Red Thread Farmstead in Swanton. “When you get to start a business from scratch at the age of 40, you have a different perspective on what that business should entail,” he said. Leach said he wanted the ability to work from home with flexible hours, and to include his family in aspects of the business.
Green Mountain Power and SunCommon are teaming up for what’s believed to be a first-of-its-kind community solar program for low-income customers. Low-income GMP customers in Middlebury will be able to sign on to a special program to take advantage of solar energy without any investment. SunCommon is in the process of installing a 166.5 kilowatt solar array on the roof of GMP’s Middlebury service center. Households can sign up for membership in the community solar project if their household income falls within 150 percent of the federal poverty level, or $36,900 for a family of four. Members receive 7 percent off the price of power generated by the array or the equivalent of receiving $100 in solar credits for $93.
Challenges facing the ski industry are driving trends and changes at Vermont resorts. According to research for the National Ski Areas Association, a lack of leisure time, expense and the aging of baby boomers have been driving down resort visits. “Recent NSAA research over the past two seasons identifies similar challenges faced by beginners, including travel distance/time, cost, time commitment, work responsibilities and cost of equipment,” said Earl Saline, NSAA director of education programming. The Vermont Ski Areas Association estimates skier visits to Vermont resorts have fallen from about 4.35 million 10 years ago to 3.92 million last year. More optimistically, the NSAA announced in May that U.S. ski areas tallied an estimated 54.7 million skier and snowboarder visits during the 2016-17 season, up 3.7 percent from the previous season’s 52.8 million total.
“The Power of Moments” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, 2017, Simon & Schuster, $29, 307 pages. It was quite the event. Your staff members really outdid themselves, and you were proud of them. Everybody pitched in, clients were overjoyed, and there wasn’t one attendee who didn’t leave without a smile and a promise to come back next year. In “The Power of Moments” by Chip and Dan Heath, you’ll see how to make your event even better.
Vermont’s struggle to grow its workforce weakens our economy, inhibits the ability for Vermont businesses to expand their operations, and threatens the ability for Vermonters and future generations to grow and thrive here in the Green Mountains. An aging workforce, stagnant wages in jobs without career ladders, the cost of housing and child care, the opioid epidemic, and a need for more young adults entering the workforce are all contributors to our workforce dilemma. According to a 2013 Vermont Food System Workforce Needs Assessment report, 40 percent of large employers and 50 percent of small employers surveyed said that hiring challenges are holding their businesses back, meaning they are faced with reduced revenue, less efficient production and delayed plans to expand into new markets or larger production spaces. Four years later, the challenges have only increased. The simple demographic fact is that more people are retiring and fewer people are entering the workforce each year.
RUTLAND — Nine months ago, Jonathan Glinski, 33, launched a professional home and commercial property inspection business. Based in Rutland, Fairview Services is an independently owned and operated franchise of National Property Inspections of Nebraska. Although he grew up in southern New England, Glinski is not a newcomer to Vermont. The family regularly came to ski at Killington, and he attended Castleton State College in 2003-2004, returning to Connecticut to finish college and begin a career in the lumber and building materials industry. Then a “head-hunter” located an opening with R.K. Miles lumber and hardware company at its Manchester location, and Glinski moved back to Vermont in 2011 to take the job.
NerdWallet Incomes are up, the stock market is soaring, and home prices have largely recovered from the mortgage meltdown. But Americans still haven’t regained all the wealth they lost and, on the whole, are worse off than in 1998. The Federal Reserve’s just-released Survey of Consumer Finances, done every three years, tells a stubbornly grim tale. Median net worth for all families, measured in 2016 dollars, dropped 8 percent since 1998. (The survey’s definition of families includes single people and childless couples and is equivalent to how other government surveys define households.) In addition: — The lowest income families — the bottom fifth — saw their net worth fall 22 percent.