In its first year of operation, the REDC Entrepreneurship Committee is pleased to report significant accomplishments, which have resulted from the hard work of a dedicated group of committee and community members and staff.
With support from community partners and businesses, the Entrepreneurship Committee hosted the second annual Road Pitch Competition where 95 members of the public and judges supported three area business start-ups. They included Ana Araguas’ – “Ana’s Empanada’s”, Rollin Rochele’s – “Clustas” and Castleton University student Jekabs (Jake) Grinbergs’ – “SPAERAGAMES.” Support is ongoing as REDC staff and partners work with these and other innovative entrepreneurs.
The Road Pitch Competition is part of a broader initiative intended to support early and mid-stage businesses with the information and resources necessary to develop a comprehensive and sustainable plan for success. The goal is to have the Entrepreneurship Committee be an organized professional entry point. The development of this support structure continues to evolve as highly skilled committee members bring their areas of expertise to the process.
In addition, the Committee has provided guidance to the development of a plan of operation for the newly created Greater Rutland Makerspace. With great confidence the Entrepreneurship Committee recommended to the full REDC Board that the Makerspace be awarded support during its start-up period. Following almost two years of planning, which has included two Maker Faire events in Downtown Rutland, the Operational Committee of the Greater Rutland Makerspace secured start-up funding from REDC and short-term free facility rental at the REDC Incubator Building located on Quality Lane.
Committee members include: Peter Amons, John Casella II, Mike Coppinger, Brian DeClue, Brennan Duffy, Collin Fingon, Kyle Finneron, Rick Gile, Jerry Hansen, Bernie Krasnoff, Whitney Lamy, Jen Miller and John Russell III.
John Casella II, Committee Chair
The Finance Committee received a number of new loan requests in FY16 and made or committed loans totaling $364,000. Increased loan activity has drawn down the loan funds available to be lent out. As a goal, the finance committee wishes to always have funds available to lend to local businesses so it approved making another competitive application to the Department of Agriculture for a $250,000 revolving loan to REDC. REDC in turn will lend out these funds locally. The loan funds have performed well and there are no delinquent loans.
The finance committee has determined that ownership of the Qualitad building provides long term stable cash flow to support REDC operations and therefore does not wish to sell the building. Existing tenant signed a new five year lease for a larger share of the building. Accordingly, the finance committee approved spending $64,000 for repaving the north parking lot. It also approved spending $68,000 over the next two fiscal years for partial replacement of the roof. At the same time, reimbursement of expenses for the building have been streamlined in a shift toward the tenant paying more of the property expenses directly.
The agreement with Castleton for providing executive director services and facilities use in return for an annual fee has been financially successful. Cost run rates are generally in line with previous levels while at the same time putting more employee feet on the ground doing economic development work. Staff has been applying for State grants for local businesses and they have succeeded in getting a total of $104,141 in grants for companies like Carpenter and Costin, BalanceWorks, Awesome Graphics, Ann Clark Cookie Cutters, and Vermont Maple Sriracha. New staff including Tyler Richardson and Sara Gilbert have hit the ground running. Sharon Traverse as Finance Director is also relatively new to REDC and has made a fast and effective transition.
REDC is audited annually by an outside accounting firm. These audits continue to be “clean” audits citing no issues of materiality and no issues regarding internal controls.
Committee Members: Karen Garrow, Scott Gregg, Rolf Hirschmann, Chris Keyser, Brenda Wilk, Mark Foley
Peter Amons, Committee Chair
This has been the most exciting year in REDC’s recent history from a marketing perspective, as we developed new partnerships, plans and opportunities to significantly change the way the greater-Rutland County region is marketed and branded. Following significant discussions about REDC’s mission and vision and agreement on a focus that includes our traditional work to help recruit and grow local businesses as well as a new, much broader focus on reversing dwindling population trends, REDC’s marketing efforts are becoming more directed and clear than any time in memory.
The REDC Board of Directors and the board of the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce voted this year to merge our marketing efforts and create one overarching marketing committee. This decision came during an ongoing effort that includes REDC, the RRCC, Downtown Rutland Partnership, Rutland Redevelopment Authority, I Love Rutland, Green Mountain Power, Killington Resort and the Killington-Pico Association to work collaboratively on new programs and campaigns. Through this committee, working with nearly a dozen local businesses that have contributed funding as well as officials in Rutland City and towns across the county, we’re developing the first true marketing campaign for the entire region in years.
The effort is focused on three key issues: dispelling the myth that there are no local jobs available and educating local high school and college students about the opportunities to grow their careers, and families, here; expanding regional tourism and more broadly marketing the county’s significant recreational resources, from mountain biking and skiing to fishing, boating and hiking; and reversing downward populations that resulted from smaller families and an aging population statewide. This third leg of the three-legged campaign stool will include significant resources aimed at marketing to young families and professionals in Northeast markets, many of whom come to Rutland County to recreate and vacation, but have never considered making it their home.
The goal is to use multi-year, sustainable and targeted digital marketing campaigns to demonstrate that a great quality of life can be created and enjoyed in Rutland County at a much lower cost and with far fewer stressors than in Boston, New York or other major metro areas. We’re just getting started on these new efforts, but are excited to put Rutland County’s best face forward, and demonstrate the real quality-of-life benefits professionals of all ages, especially those just building their careers, can enjoy by living and working in Rutland County.
Our committee is excited about the possibilities, and eager to move forward our new strategies to showcase Rutland County’s strengths.
Steve Costello, Committee Chair
REDC / Chamber Public Policy Committee
REDC and the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce (RRCC) continue to strengthen collaborative efforts on issues that are relevant to our region. The joint Public Policy Committee is one such example.
This past year saw the continuation of the Legislative Luncheon Series, a series of forums that are intended to be informative and timely in regards to current and future legislative activity. As part of ongoing communication between committee members, the public and legislators, the Public Policy Committee presented to the Rutland County Delegation at Castleton University in June, 2016. The presentation updated legislators on REDC’s activities, including business partnerships and leadership in regional initiatives such as discussions concerning future development of the Rutland Southern Vermont Regional Airport, development of a Makerspace for education and training, and collaboration with Killington Town and Killington Resort to boost tourism.
The Public Policy Committee is focusing its work on projects that are manageable and for which outcomes can be achieved. This includes working to insure that the Rutland Region and Vermont are considered to be welcoming and supportive of business by making permitting processes predictable, timely and cost effective.
In addition, the Committee recognizes the need to support population growth that will support the high skill workforce demands of business and industry. To that end, the Public Policy Committee has reached out to the Vermont Futures Project, an initiative funded by the Vermont Chamber Foundation. Using information provided by the Vermont Futures Project, the Committee will use a data driven approach to communicating policy and procedural needs.
Committee members include: Bill Ackerman, Ray Ault, Mary Cohen, Mike Coppinger, Dave Correll, Blair Enman, Jim Goss, Tara Kelly, Nicole Kesselring, Shana Louiselle and Wayne Wilmans.
Lyle P. Jepson, REDC
Mary Cohen, RRCC
Real Estate Committee
The Real Estate Committee submits the following updates for the year:
Qualitad Building Update
With Atomic Audio moving out of the building at the beginning of FY2016, Ellison has moved into most of the building and has signed a five-year lease for 82% occupancy of the building. This has prompted the committee to identify capital improvements that should be addressed while a long-term tenant is in place. These improvements are for the benefit of the tenant as well addressing neglected needed maintenance items.
Paving. The north parking lot needs re-paving, and we’ve received estimates that put the cost at $68,000. The Board of Directors approved spending up to this amount at their June meeting, and the work is expected to be completed by calendar year’s end.
Roof. In June, the committee reviewed three bids to repair the roof. The bids were presented addressing five different sections, each with differing states of degradation and associated repair costs. Two of these sections are newer and need no attention at this time. The highest priority repair has been identified as “Section 2” and has been estimated to cost $64,000 to repair; it is anticipated this section will be addressed in September 2017 and $64,000 has been allocated for the FY2017 budget for the repair. “Section 4” and “Section 1” have been identified as the secondary and tertiary priorities, respectively, with an estimated cost of $40,000 each to repair each section. For the FY2018 and FY2019 budgets, it is anticipated $40,000 will be allocated for each fiscal year’s capital improvements to address these repairs. The committee will determine which roofing company to use when the time comes to schedule the repairs for “Section 2.”
Completed Maintenance. A few small maintenance items were immediately addressed upon the signing of the lease. Several dead trees and bushes were removed. Grass seed was spread on bare spots. Bushes along the sidewalks and dock doors were trimmed back. Several bulbs to exterior parking lot lights were replaced.
Available Commercial Sites
We’ve updated the online commercial site selection tool on the REDC website this year, making it more visually appealing and easier to use. This new tool was heavily promoted upon launch and subsequently used by a large audience. Staff has increased outreach for commercial site visits and plans to increase these visits in the next fiscal year.
The Makerspace Operations Committee has been working with the Entrepreneurship Committee to prepare a presentation for the Board of Directors to use the remaining 18% of the Qualitad building for a maker space. At their September meeting, the Board of Directors granted a request to use this space for three years rent-free, with no utilities charged to them for a two year period. This has no impact on the FY2017 REDC budget, as this request was anticipated and planned for in the budget. The Makerspace Operations Committee has begun the work of renovating the space, acquiring the necessary equipment, and identifying community partners in preparation for opening in 2017.
Mark Foley, Jr., Committee Chair