As part of a continuing effort to bolster economic development in Northern Vermont, Senator Patrick Leahy (D), Senator Bernie Sanders (I), Congressman Peter Welch (D) and Governor Peter Shumlin (D) joined Northern Border Regional Commission Chair Mark Scarano in announcing more than $1.8 million in federal grants on Friday.
In a joint statement, Leahy, Sanders, and Welch said: "The grants are as varied and unique as the communities they will help, but they share a common theme. Each one will grow the economy and have a measurable impact on the lives of Vermonters, and communities across our Northern Counties."
The NBRC was established by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill and was recently reauthorized in the 2014 Farm Bill. The program provides funding for development in economically distressed Northern Border counties in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and New York. Leahy, as the senior-most member of the Senate's Agriculture and Appropriations Committees, played a pivotal role in renewing the Commission in the 2014 Farm Bill and in dramatically increasing its authorized funding. Representative Welch led a parallel reauthorization and funding effort in the House.
Shumlin said: "This year was our most competitive grant round yet, with more applications received than ever before. While it is very difficult to choose among so many strong projects, we are confident that this group of investments will deliver immense benefits to Vermont, both immediately and for years to come. Specifically, these grantees collectively estimate that their projects will create or retain nearly 450 jobs across Northern Vermont."
Mark Scarano, federal co-chair of the NBRC said: "Thanks to the dogged support of Vermont's Congressional Delegation, the NBRC is able to provide these critical development awards to great Vermont projects. I have no doubt that these projects will have a positive and lasting effect on northern Vermont's economy for quite a while."
The State of Vermont takes the lead in reviewing proposed Vermont projects. The 2016 grantees include the following projects:
Burke Racing, awarded $240,000 to help replace a 61-year-old lift with a new T-bar lift at Burke Mountain, which will help Burke Mountain to become an official U.S. Ski Team Development Site.
Northeast Organic Farmers of Vermont, awarded $54,985 to provide technical assistance to small and medium size dairies that are seeking to transition to organic production.
Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Farm & Forest Viability Program, awarded $164,588 to provide technical assistance services to up-to 26 "Working Lands" businesses.
Town of Craftsbury, awarded $212,403 to help install 15 miles of broadband fiber optic cable lines in Craftsbury as well as "lighting up" an additional 19 mile section of existing dark fiber through Craftsbury, Greensboro, Albany, and Hardwick.
Forestille Foundation awarded, $250,000 to assist with Craftsbury's Village Center's revitalization and help local businesses.
Northeast Vermont Development Association (NVDA), awarded $150,000 to assist Quebec businesses seeking to create operations into Vermont by expanding the Vermont Quebec Enterprise Initiative to the Northeast Kingdom.
Vermont Employee Ownership Center, awarded $40,000 to further capitalize the Center's revolving loan fund that provides loans to enable employee ownership conversions.
Catamount Film & Arts, awarded $176,665 to purchase a mobile stage for multiple community festivals in coordination with municipal and non-profit partners as well as Lyndon State College's music industry program.
Vermont Department of Public Service and Northern Forest Center awarded $76,667 to assist public-serving institutions in converting to wood pellet boilers, to save on energy expenditures and help grow Vermont's nascent modern wood heat sector.
Umbrella Inc., awarded $163,760 to support workforce development partnerships with local food service and hospitality employers that will assist up to 45 women in transition (including survivors of domestic violence).
Vermont Council on Rural Development, awarded $28,667 to support a "Community Visit" project that will assist a Northeast Kingdom community to set priorities, construct action plans, and advance community and economic development projects.
Community College of Vermont, awarded $167,445 to implement a workforce development plan developed by CCV, local manufacturers and partner institutions, and the Franklin/Grand Isle Workforce Investment Board to train 60 individuals over three years.
Lamoille Housing Partnership, awarded $48,847 to install solar PV panels on the rooftops of 11 high efficiency manufactured homes in Hardwick. These homes will be owned by Lamoille Housing Partnership and rented to low income individuals and families.
Lamoille Regional Solid Waste Management District, awarded $50,000 to repurpose the currently unused Johnson bio-solids facility for processing of organic materials, filling a gap in north-central Vermont for a composting facility. This investment will help extend the life of the State's lone landfill in Coventry, will help LRSWMD comply with the mandate of the Universal Recycling Law, and will also help LRSWMD develop a source of revenue to offset costs and reduce user fees.