The Entrepreneurship Committee is proud to report the results of our second year in operation. Our committee is represented by a strong group of local leaders focused on the development of future visionaries, entrepreneurs, and business leaders throughout our region.
We are pleased to report the successful execution of our first year goals. Our committee supported the launch of Rutland’s first makerspace, The Mint. The Mint, Rutland’s Makerspace is currently in operation and is supporting the development of entrepreneurs with the tools they need for success.
These tools come in two forms: physical tools such as state of the art equipment, like their laser cutter, 3D Printer, CNC router, plasma cutter, and much more, and equally important, intangible tools such as mentorship, one-on-one support for developing business plans and sound business practices, and education through seminars and classes. These tools will ensure a strong foundation for growth. Rutland’s makerspace is also a community of likeminded individuals looking to support the success of The Mint and each other – it is this environment of collaboration that is most exciting. By offering each other their diverse expertise, they are creating a powerful place to incubate the growth of individuals, start-ups businesses, and the community as a whole. This environment is very similar to the environment that REDC has established: collaboration among many organizations united under a common goal: the economic viability of our community.
We are also pleased to report another successful Road Pitch event. The scene at the event was much like last year: standing room only, high energy, and a great showing by our Rutland County entrepreneurs pitching their business ideas with the goal of being selected to move on in the competition and potentially attract Inventors to support their venture.
Without the strong support of many community members and businesses, we would not have the success we have encountered. We thank you for believing in our vision and helping to support the growth and development of our community. We also thank the Mint Operational Committee who were the visionary’s and founding members of the Mint Makerspace, their commitment to this project is the true key to its success.
As we look into 2018, the prospects are bright. We will continue to support and further develop The Mint and the Road Pitch competition. We are now focused on sustainability and the development and support of entrepreneurs that come through these channels. The Mint currently has two businesses operating out of the facility, our goal is to support their success and develop additional business by providing the opportunities to foster their growth and development.
Committee members include: Lyle Jepson, Peter Amons, John Casella II, Brian DeClue, Brennan Duffy, Collin Fingon, Rick Gile, Jerry Hansen, Bernie Krasnoff, Lou Scott and John Russell III.
John Casella II, Committee Chair
The Finance Committee received several loan requests in fiscal year 2017 (12 months ended September 2017). Three loans totaling $280,000 were made to local businesses. These loans have drawn down the available funds to loan to $300,000 at September 30. As a goal, the 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 $350,000 revolving loan to REDC. As part of the application approval process, REDC committed to provide 25 %, or $87,500, of its own equity funds as part of the total $350,000 approval. REDC will lend out these funds to local businesses. The loan funds have performed well and there are no delinquent loans.
The ownership of the Qualitad Building provides long term stable cash flow to support REDC operations. The existing primary tenant is in year two of a five-year lease for a larger share of the building than initially used. During the year, the north parking lot was repaved for $68,000 and sections 2 and 4 of the roof were replaced at a cost of $100,000. The $68,000 for paving was funded from REDC equity. The $100,000 was financed with a VEDA loan coincident with the refinancing of the building’s mortgage. Sometime in the next 10 years sections 1 and 3 of the roof will need replacement.
Green Mountain Power (GMP) sometime ago gave REDC $100,000 for the purpose of beneficial investment in local economic development. So far, $60,000 has been invested. $10,000 has been given toward the region marketing initiative and $50,000 has been donated to The MINT, Rutland’s Makerspace. In addition, REDC has donated 8,000 square feet of space in the Qualitad Building for a three-year period to help get The MINT, Rutland’s Makerspace off the ground.
The agreement with Castleton University for providing executive director services continues and was renewed this year through the end of 2021. Staffing changes occurred this year with the resignation of Assistant Director Sara Gilbert who left to pursue a different position with another organization. Duties and priorities were reorganized resulting in the creation of an Outreach Coordinator position, which was filled in October by Erin Anderson. Tyler Richardson remains as Assistant Director, and Sharon Traverse as part-time Finance Director.
REDC has been very successful this past year in obtaining State economic development grants. Through the Regional Economic Development Grant Program, four regional businesses were awarded grants for projects resulting in growth and job creation. A total of $61,500 were secured for the four businesses, which represents 20% of the grants awarded statewide through this program.
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: Scott Greg, Rolf Hirschman, Chris Keyser, Brenda Wilk, Andrew Simonds
Karen Garrow, Committee Chair
Working with the Rutland Regional Chamber and Commerce, the city of Rutland, numerous local communities and a variety of other partners, REDC took bold strides in marketing this year.
As approved by the REDC board last year, REDC and the RRCC combined our marketing committees into one, and along with the Downtown Rutland Partnership, Rutland Redevelopment Authority, I Love Rutland, Green Mountain Power, Killington Resort and the Killington-Pico Association, formed the Rutland Regional Marketing Committee. This new committee represents the most collaborative and comprehensive focus on regional marketing in generations.
The Regional Marketing Committee has spent the past year raising funds from a wide variety of partners, hiring a top-notch digital marketing company, Mondo Mediaworks, and working with Mondo to produce a bold new campaign. The first pieces of the campaign were recently unveiled, and include television and digital advertisements aimed at local, state and regional image building. They are complemented by subcommittees focused on tourism and outdoor recreation, and informing local high school and college students about the opportunities to grow their careers here.
The digital campaigns focus on the “Real Rutland” – the entire county – including a focus on the extraordinary outdoor recreation opportunities here, the relatively low cost of housing compared to the region, low crime rates, great schools, the arts, and amenities that appeal to professionals young and old. The ultimate goal is to turn around the region’s population trends. We’re excited about the campaign, which will require a sustained and constant focus over several years, and we’re thrilled with the first round of video and related materials.
Steve Costello, Committee Chair
REDC / Chamber Public Policy Committee
A recent Herald editorial pointed out that to overcome issues of population decline and resultant slowing, and perhaps stagnation of economic growth, we must “lift regulation and provide incentives to businesses hoping to come here.” The Joint Policy Committee of Rutland Economic Development Corporation and Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce agree. We suggest that strategies or actions be taken in order to strengthen our state’s and, in particular, the Rutland Region’s ability to grow economically. These strategies must specifically target growth, through modifications to the permitting process, making it more predictable, timely and cost effective. Not only will this encourage the growth of new businesses, but as important, it will help those businesses that already provide for our families in the Rutland Region by incentivizing expansion and growth.
The Policy Committee recognizes the imperative that we must protect Vermont’s brand, while at the same time recognizing the need to grow business and industry in a strategic and incremental way. Economic growth will contribute to maintaining the way of life to which we have become accustomed. To protect our lakes, streams and water systems it is essential that we grow the tax base upon which financial support can be drawn. Allowing and encouraging businesses to grow is therefore essential to Vermont’s brand.
During the past legislative session, Representatives and Senators created the Commission on Act 250, which is intended to engage Vermonters in the process of reviewing the goals of Act 250, to assess the outcomes and to address relevant issues that have become evident since enactment in 1970. Act 250 regulates growth and development by way of what has become an increasingly burdensome process. The Commission is expected to provide their recommendations for changes, if any, in a report on or before December 15, 2018. The Joint Policy Committee intends to be participants in the “Commission on Act 250: The Next 50 Years” by providing recommendations and by attending Commission hearings.
Our message is a clear one. Businesses and local leaders tell us that a leading contributor to limited private investment, limited job and wage growth, and limited productivity results from a lack of predictable, timely, and cost effective permitting procedures at the state level. If businesses cannot predict their timeline for growth and if businesses cannot realistically determine the cost of such growth, there are limited incentives to undertake such growth. Based upon the need to preserve Vermont’s brand, while at the same time providing for economic development, the Policy Committee’s recommendations will address the three overarching issues of predictability, timeliness and cost.
The Policy Committee continues to monitor this and other policy issues that will affect Rutland County business growth.
Lawrence Jensen, Policy Committee Chair
President of the College of St. Joseph
Real Estate Committee
The Real Estate Committee submits the following updates for the year:
Qualitad Building Update
Ellison Surface Technologies is in their second year of a five-year lease for 82% occupancy of the building. The signing of the lease last year prompted the committee to identify capital improvements that should be addressed while a long-term tenant is in place, for the benefit of the tenant as well as maintaining our asset. The north parking lot was in significant disrepair, and REDC invested $68,000 of existing equity towards resurfacing the lot. Two sections of the roof were replaced at a cost of $101,000. We rolled the cost of the roof into a planned refinancing of the building’s mortgage, which effectively kept the monthly mortgage payments the same while avoiding paying for the roof repair out of REDC equity. It is anticipated two other sections of the roof will need replaced within the next ten years. Significant landscaping maintenance was completed, as well.
The MINT, Rutland’s Makerspace
The remaining space in the Qualitad building, roughly 8,000 square feet, has been donated to The MINT, Rutland’s Makerspace, for a period of three years concluding at the end of 2019. In further support of The MINT, REDC is also providing free utilities in the space for two years and provided a $50,000 startup grant. The MINT Operations Committee has taken on the work of renovating the space, acquiring equipment, and partnering with community collaborators. A soft launch occurred in March, and a Grand Opening event was held on August 12th to much success.
The committee continues to research ways to leverage tax incentives and creative partnerships to spur development in Rutland County, particularly in areas of downtown Rutland where various tax incentive programs are in play and a wide array of stakeholders are actively engaged. While still in the early stages, the committee has made significant progress and there are plans to continue the momentum going forward. This will be a long process, and there will be much more to come.
John Russell III, Committee Chair