Small Business Administration Administrator-designate, former wrestling entertainment executive, Linda McMahon testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.

SBA head sees business being held back

The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Six months into her tenure as head of the Small Business Administration, Linda McMahon sees a split among small business owners — they are increasingly optimistic, she says, but many are held back by their inability to get loans or find the right workers for jobs that are staying open. “Entrepreneurs are willing again to be bigger risk-takers than they have been over the past eight years,” McMahon said in a phone interview this week with The Associated Press. But, she said, there are also lingering effects of the Great Recession, and “I think there is still a caution.”
McMahon’s observations matched owners’ self-assessments in surveys including ones released by Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management and Dun & Bradstreet Corp. and by the National Federation of Independent Business. She also named some of the stumbling blocks that many owners have cited in addition to a scarcity of loans and workers: regulations, taxes and the cost of health care, all issues President Donald Trump has pledged to address.

Tax Commissioner Kaj Samson.

State listens to taxpayers’ concerns

Because Vermont sales tax laws are so complicated, to do their job correctly, cashiers at Pinky’s on State, a deli and gift shop in downtown Montpelier have to conduct a “mini-audit with each customer,” Pinky’s co-owner, Nancy Martel, told a four-person panel from the Vermont Department of Taxes, during the department’s recent listening tour on tax concerns. The mini-audits, she said, can take up to three minutes each, a real concern during a busy lunch-hour rush. The main problem for a business like hers, she said, is some items are taxed some of the time but not always. “Chips are not taxed if sold alone but are taxed if sold with a sandwich. If they are part of your meal they are taxed.

Members of the University of Vermont Dining Services team visit Pete's Greens in Craftsbury recently  as part of a tour of Vermont farms organized by Sodexo's Vermont First program.

UVM nails goals for locally sourced food

It’s a challenge the University of Vermont did not shy away from — supporting family farms through the purchase of locally grown and raised produce and meat products. So, five years ago UVM joined the national Real Food Challenge with the goal to increase the purchase of Vermont food products so that 20 percent of what’s served on campus would be locally grown. UVM committed to reaching that goal by 2020. Instead, it met the goal this year, three years ahead of schedule. Now, the school has upped its commitment to 25 percent by 2020.

Jen Cohen, left, shows participants from the Twin Rivers Supervisory Union where and how to hit a steel drum during a team building exercise Aug. 3.

Steel drums bring power of music to corporate culture

RUTLAND — The steel drum music of Trinidad is making its way to Rutland via Calypso Consulting, a new business set up by Jennifer Cohen. Cohen, a classically trained pianist and violist with 30 years experience as a performer and educator, wanted to bring what she describes as a transformational experience to the workplace. “Music has a way of connecting us like no other experience. I have seen how the transformative power of collaborative music-making can be used to achieve outstanding results,” she said. Cohen taught herself how to play steel drums, and first introduced it into Clarendon Elementary School, where she taught.


With stories of the road, ‘Long Haul’ moves well

“The Long Haul” by Finn Murphy, 2017, W.W. Norton, $26.95, 229 pages
From here to there. That’s where you need to move your stuff: from Point A to Point B. Take it out of one place and put it in another, possibly many miles away. And it’s not like you can wiggle your nose or wave a magic wand to do it, either. You need someone who knows what he or she is doing. In “The Long Haul” by Finn Murphy, there’s somebody like that out there.

Organization works to put farmer, farmland together

Farmers across New England are faced with new challenges every day, including the issue of finding the right piece of land to farm. As a part of its undertaking to help farmers overcome these challenges, the Department of Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Vermont continues its efforts with the Land Access Project to help transition farmers, landowners, conservation organizations, service providers, communities and policymakers throughout New England. The Land Access Project is entering its final year of a three-year timeline. This project builds from the first phase of Land Access, which took place from 2010 to 2013, and focused on improving and coordinating access to resources and services available for farmland. This current phase is structured around land access and transfer networking.

Diane Wheeler checks a chart after pruning a row of tomatoes at the Backyard Farms greenhouse in Madison, Maine. It is one of the largest hydroponic greenhouses in New England. North Country Growers plans to start building its two, 10-acre hydroponic greenhouses in Berlin, N.H., in 2017.
Robert F. Bukaty / AP FILE PHOTO

$25M invested to grow New England produce via hydroponics

A business that wants to build two hydroponic greenhouses in New Hampshire’s North Country to get tomatoes and salad greens more quickly to New England supermarkets has received $25 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. North Country Growers plans to start building its two, 10-acre greenhouses in Berlin, New Hampshire, soon, and planting next July, with its first harvest next October. The company expects to produce 8 million pounds of tomatoes and 15 million heads of lettuce annually in a year-round operation. “Northern New Hampshire has very few really hot nights, which makes it perfect for us,” said North Country Growers CEO Richard Rosen, who grew up in the greenhouse business. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says hydroponics, or growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions in water, without soil, is a growing area of commercial food production.

Jae C. Hong / AP PHOTO
Bundles of $20 bills are placed on a table as Jerred Kiloh, owner of the Higher Path medical marijuana dispensary, prepares a trip to Los Angeles City Hall to pay his monthly tax payment in cash in Los Angeles. For Kiloh, the cash is a daily hassle. It needs to be counted repeatedly to safeguard against loss. State and local taxes must be set aside and stored, sometimes for a month or more.
Jae C. Hong / AP PHOTO

Inside a nerve-rattling trip to pay pot taxes


LOS ANGELES — Jerred Kiloh’s eyes narrowed as he checked his mirror again. The black Chevy SUV with tinted windows was still behind him. It had been hanging off Kiloh’s bumper ever since he nosed out of the parking lot behind his medical-marijuana dispensary with $40,131.88 in cash in the trunk of his hatchback. Kiloh was unarmed, on his way to City Hall to make a monthly tax payment, and managing only stop-and-start progress in the midday traffic. He was afraid of one thing above all else: getting robbed.

Jacob Edgar, a global talent scout and music producer who grew up in Plainfield, in Iquitos, Peru on a shoot for the television show, “Music Voyager,” which he hosts. Edgar founded the Charlotte-based music company Cumbancha in 2006.
Photo by Luke Askelson

Cumbancha in Charlotte: Music from a big world

CHARLOTTE — Defining in simple terms what Jacob Edgar does for a living is no easy task. Sure, you could call him an ethnomusicologist, which he is, by training, earning a master’s degree in the unique field from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1994. “But most people don’t know what that is,” he said with a laugh. “So I have a hard time explaining it to them.” Or they assume he’s in academia, which couldn’t be further from the truth. “I guess you could say I’m a global talent scout and a music producer,” said Edgar, who founded music production and promotion company Cumbancha.

Onion River Animal Hospital owner Karen Bradley in front of the Berlin facility, designed to make veterinary visits less stressful for pets and owners.

Pet hospital geared to ease anxiety for animal, owner

BERLIN — There is a current shift in veterinary medicine toward creating a fear-free practice that reduces anxiety and stress for both pets and owners. Onion River Animal Hospital, a full-service operation, has made fear-free practice one of its top priorities at its new, state-of-the-art facility on Airport Road in Berlin. “Some of what stresses our patients happens at the level of the facility. Noises, odors and face-to-face meetings with other patients can be anxiety triggers for some pets,” said Dr. Karen Bradley, owner of Onion River, and one of six veterinarians at the clinic. “Reducing the anxiety and stress that some of our patients feel when visiting us is one of our most important goals right now.”
“It is certainly trending now,” said Dr. Sara White, president of the Vermont Veterinary Medical Association, about fear-free practices.