Friday, February 17, 2017

Media Note: Vermont PBS Reaps $56 Million in FCC Spectrum Auction

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2017 at 1:16 PM

Vermont PBS board chair Patricia Gabel, left, and station president Holly Groschner - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • Vermont PBS board chair Patricia Gabel, left, and station president Holly Groschner
Vermont PBS announced Friday that it sold one of its four broadcast licenses for $56 million, money it plans to use to fund new programs and expand services for years to come.

The station said the loss of the license would not cause any reduction in over-the-air coverage. Instead, the windfall could transform the sleepy station into one of the most financially powerful media organizations in Vermont.

Vermont PBS, which airs syndicated shows such as "Sesame Street" and "NOVA," along with local productions "Outdoor Journal" and "Vermont This Week," says it plans to use the bulk of the money to provide expanded offerings in both over-the-air and digital platforms. It has no plans to use the money for "brick and mortar" improvements, Vermont PBS president Holly Groschner said during a press conference inside the station's Colchester studios.

"We are doubling down on the Vermontness of our broadcast," Groschner said. "We are hoping to be able to produce more Vermont content and [explore] more Vermont issues."

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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Senate Panel Nixes Scott's Labor-Commerce Merger Plan

Posted By on Tue, Feb 7, 2017 at 2:41 PM

Labor Commissioner Lindsay Kurrle and Commerce Secretary Mike Schirling (seated, head of table) - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Labor Commissioner Lindsay Kurrle and Commerce Secretary Mike Schirling (seated, head of table)
A Vermont Senate committee voted 4-1 on Tuesday against Gov. Phil Scott’s plan to merge the Agency of Commerce and Community Development with the Department of Labor.

For Scott, it served as the second legislative defeat of his proposed changes to state government in a week. But this time, lawmakers were quick to argue that they agree with parts of the governor’s plan — just not all the details.

Last week, another Senate committee and the full House voted to nix Scott’s plan to delay school budget votes while freezing spending plans at this year’s levels. Scott’s proposal served as the cornerstone of his budget address.

On Tuesday, the Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs Committee voted down Scott’s executive order to fold Commerce and Labor into a new Agency of Economic Opportunity. Critics said it would be a mistake to put the agency that promotes business in charge of regulating labor laws.

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Pending Lawsuit Stalls Winooski Hotel Project

Posted By on Thu, Feb 2, 2017 at 11:01 AM

Marcy Harding, holding legal pad, leads a hotel site visit Monday. - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Marcy Harding, holding legal pad, leads a hotel site visit Monday.
Opponents of a proposed 97-room hotel in downtown Winooski won a round Monday in their bid to block the project, which they say would exacerbate a parking shortage and eat up public park space.

The seven-story hotel, which would sit across from the Winooski traffic circle on Winooski Falls Way, is being opposed on two fronts.

Last week, neighboring property owners that are part of the Winooski Downtown Redevelopment Association filed a lawsuit in Vermont Superior Court to stop the hotel.

Then on Monday, the group convinced a regional environmental commission to hold off on hotel permit review until the court battle is resolved.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Charlotte Pair Say They Plan to Invest Big in Vermont Businesses

Posted By on Wed, Jan 11, 2017 at 7:33 PM

  • Courtesy of Vermont Works
  • Vermont Works
Come spring, the managing partners of a private equity fund hope to funnel some much-needed cash into established Vermont businesses.

Frank Koster and Robert Zulkoski, next-door neighbors who live in Charlotte, have initiated a “soft launch” of Vermont Works, an investment firm focused on building sustainable jobs and supporting health and wellness initiatives. The partners plan to offer $1 to $5 million investments to companies that are up and running but need additional money to hire staff, build infrastructure, or further expand, Koster said.

Though it’s not off the ground yet, Koster predicted that such a “fresh injection of capital could be a game-changer for the state economy.”

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Friday, January 6, 2017

The Hackers Are Coming! Burlington Electric’s Crisis That Wasn’t

Posted By on Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 6:47 PM

Neale Lunderville - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Neale Lunderville
Burlington Electric Department communications director Mike Kanarick said he didn’t notice the first time his cellphone buzzed just after 8 p.m. on December 30. Or the second time. It was a Friday night after all, and Kanarick’s house was crowded with 25 guests celebrating Hanukkah with a healthy offering of potato latkes and Heady Topper.

It wasn’t until after 8:20 p.m. that Kanarick heard about a Washington Post report, posted 25 minutes earlier, that suggested that the municipal utility had been hacked by Russians. By then the news had already gone viral; Kanarick’s work phone was inundated with calls from unfamiliar numbers. He called back one he recognized: BED general manager Neale Lunderville’s.

Lunderville had gotten wind of the story around 8:15 p.m. He and his wife were at dinner at a friend’s house when Green Mountain Power spokesperson Kristin Carlson called to ask: “Has your electric grid been hacked?”

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NECI Sale ‘Imminent’ as New President Takes Over

Posted By on Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 12:28 PM

  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • NECI students in 2014
The cofounder of Vermont’s pioneering cooking school says a sale is imminent.

The New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier will likely change hands in three to four weeks, said Francis Voigt, the cofounder and former president of the school, on Friday morning.

He would not disclose the buyer or further details.

“We’re in process but it’s not finished yet,” Voigt said about the sale. “It’s a complicated arrangement and I’m just not free to disclose all of that right now,” he added by phone from his home in Cabot.

The school, founded in 1980, helped foster a taste for haute cuisine and the farm-to-table movement in Vermont.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Scott Will Reappoint Financial Regulation Commissioner Pieciak

Posted By on Tue, Dec 20, 2016 at 2:59 PM

Governor-elect Phil Scott - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Governor-elect Phil Scott
Mike Pieciak, who helped lead the state’s investigation of Northeast Kingdom development projects funded through the federal EB-5 immigration program, will keep his job under the next governor.

Governor-elect Phil Scott announced Pieciak’s appointment Tuesday as commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation. Pieciak’s four deputy commissioners will also stay on, Scott announced.

Scott credited Pieciak’s work in investigating the controversial EB-5 projects, which generated civil federal charges against developers Ariel Quiros and Bill Stenger.
Mike Pieciak
  • Mike Pieciak

“Michael has demonstrated a strong commitment to protecting Vermonters’ financial security — especially throughout the EB-5 investigation — while also thinking outside the box to help foster entrepreneurship by modernizing systems to help Vermont meet the demands of a new marketplace,” Scott said in a press release.

Departing Gov. Peter Shumlin had just promoted Pieciak to commissioner in July after Susan Donegan left state government. In 2012, Pieciak, a lawyer who grew up in Brattleboro and lives in Winooski, served as campaign manager for Democratic Attorney General Bill Sorrell.

Scott, a Republican, opted to keep Pieciak along with deputy commissioners overseeing specific areas: Cynthia Stuart for banking, Kaj Samsom for insurance, William Carrigan for securities and David Provost for captive insurance.

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Friday, December 16, 2016

Scott Names Former Burlington Police Chief Commerce Secretary

Posted By on Fri, Dec 16, 2016 at 4:36 PM

  • Matthew Thorsen/File
  • Mike Schirling
Governor-elect Phil Scott named former Burlington police chief Mike Schirling his commerce secretary and tapped central Vermont small business owner Lindsay Kurrle to lead the Department of Labor.

Scott made the announcements Friday afternoon as he slowly fills cabinet positions ahead of his January 5 inauguration.

Schirling, who retired from the police force in 2015, has been executive director of the economic development and technology nonprofit organization BTV Ignite for a little more than a year.

Scott cited Schirling’s innovation and leadership experience in hiring him to run an agency that will be under particular pressure to produce results. Scott campaigned on a promise of generating economic growth.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Allegiant Air Prepares to Take Off From Burlington — for Good

Posted By on Mon, Nov 28, 2016 at 1:22 PM

Burlington International Airport - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Burlington International Airport
Budget flights to Orlando, Fla., on Allegiant Air are being phased out at Burlington International Airport three years after they began.

The airline will officially sever service out of BTV in March 2017, ending the run between Burlington and Orlando Sanford International Airport.

The penny-wise airline likes airports with little infrastructure and lower fees than what Burlington’s airport generally charges, according to Gene Richards, director of aviation.

“They were not happy,” Richards said. “They do not want to pay the fees that the other airlines pay because that is not their model. So I think that’s what it came down to.”

An airline spokeswoman confirmed that Allegiant's service to Burlington will end on March 4. "Increased airport costs and a route that lacked strong demand made it a situation which was no longer financially feasible for us," Hilarie Grey wrote in an email.

News of the departure comes as the airport negotiates five-year agreements with the other airlines that fly in and out of Burlington. American Airlines has already signed an agreement, and Delta, United and JetBlue have agreed to terms and are expected to sign by year’s end, according to Richards.

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Unilever to Buy Seventh Generation

Posted By on Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 2:52 PM

Company headquarters in Burlington - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Company headquarters in Burlington
The same multinational company that purchased Ben & Jerry’s back in 2001 is scooping up another Vermont-based company.

Unilever announced plans Monday to purchase Burlington-based Seventh Generation for an undisclosed sum.

Unilever North America President Kees Kruythoff hailed the acquisition of Seventh Generation — which makes Earth-friendly laundry soap, toilet paper, dishwashing detergent and personal care products — as beneficial for both companies. 

“We’re thrilled to add Seventh Generation to our brand portfolio, providing us with the opportunity to accelerate growth with our retail partners and connect in new ways with consumers,” Kruythoff said in a press release. 

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