Business

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

Vermont Works - COURTESY OF VERMONT WORKS
  • 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

NECI students in 2014 - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • 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

Mike Schirling - MATTHEW THORSEN/FILE
  • 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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Friday, September 16, 2016

The Rutland Herald and Times Argus Are Officially Sold

Posted By on Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 5:56 PM

The headquarters of the Rutland Herald - FILE: CALEB KENNA
  • File: CALEB KENNA
  • The headquarters of the Rutland Herald
The Rutland Herald and the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus newspapers were officially sold Friday, according to the newspapers’ own report.

Terms of the deal were not released, but the transaction was expected after reports of financial difficulties at the papers. Rob Mitchell, whose grandfather purchased the Herald in 1947 and the Times Argus in 1964, will stay on in his role as editor in chief. 

The new owners, Reade Brower of Maine and Charles “Chip” Harris of New Hampshire, have extensive experience owning and printing newspapers in New England.

As part of the sale, current employees can stay in their positions, Rutland Herald reporter Susan Smallheer reported Friday.

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Shumlin, Locals Celebrate Opening of Scandal-Tainted Burke Hotel

Posted By on Thu, Sep 8, 2016 at 5:00 PM

Gov. Peter Shumlin, left, and Michael Goldberg, the receiver appointed by a federal judge to oversee Jay Peak Resort and Burke Mountain - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • Gov. Peter Shumlin, left, and Michael Goldberg, the receiver appointed by a federal judge to oversee Jay Peak Resort and Burke Mountain
Gov. Peter Shumlin and Caledonia County officials on Thursday celebrated the opening of the Burke Mountain Hotel & Conference Center, one of many Northeast Kingdom projects whose completion was thrown into doubt by the EB-5 foreign-investor scandal.

Speakers said the $66 million hotel was desperately needed to keep the ski resort and surrounding communities economically viable, but they acknowledged the controversy surrounding it.

The hotel was one of many projects of former Jay Peak Resort president Bill Stenger and his business partner, Ariel Quiros, that were funded by foreigners who each invested at least $500,000 in exchange for citizenship consideration. In April, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil case against the men that accused them of running a "Ponzi-like" scheme and defrauding investors out of $200 million.

The SEC recently entered a settlement agreement with Stenger, and it continues to pursue the case against Quiros. The U.S. Attorney's Office has not ruled out pursuing criminal charges against both men.

Shumlin, in both prepared remarks to the crowd and later with reporters, offered a full-throated defense of his administration's work both in detecting alleged wrongdoing and then allowing construction and investing in the Burke hotel to continue after the SEC filed suit.

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Friday, September 2, 2016

Stenger, SEC Reach Settlement Agreement in EB-5 Fraud Case

Posted By on Fri, Sep 2, 2016 at 1:37 PM

Bill Stenger at Q Burke Mountain Resort - DON WHIPPLE
  • Don Whipple
  • Bill Stenger at Q Burke Mountain Resort
Former Jay Peak Resort president Bill Stenger has reached a settlement agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission in its civil case alleging fraud in the Northeast Kingdom EB-5 investor program.

Stenger, who along with former business partner Ariel Quiros was accused of running a “Ponzi-like scheme” in their development projects, agreed to cooperate with investigators and forfeit any right to an appeal in paperwork filed in U.S. District Court in Florida on Thursday.

The agreement said Stenger could incur a financial penalty, but did not specify an amount. The SEC’s case against Quiros is still pending.

In a complaint filed in April, the SEC alleged that the men defrauded international investors of $200 million and “omitted key information” while raising money for the Northeast Kingdom Economic Development Initiative — a series of projects planned for Jay, Newport and Burke. The developers allegedly swindled several hundred immigrant investors, who each invested at least $500,000 in exchange for eligibility for U.S. citizenship. 

VTDigger.org reported that Stenger released a statement after reaching the agreement saying that he was “fully cooperating” with the court-appointed administrator who has taken over business operations in the NEK and that the agreement “sets up a framework to fully resolve the case the SEC filed against me.”
Attorney General Bill Sorrell, Gov. Peter Shumlin, Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Susan Donegan and Secretary of Commerce Pat Moulton discuss allegations against Bill Stenger and Ariel Quiros. - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Attorney General Bill Sorrell, Gov. Peter Shumlin, Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Susan Donegan and Secretary of Commerce Pat Moulton discuss allegations against Bill Stenger and Ariel Quiros.
“Based upon the terms of the settlement, this is all I can say and will be saying,” Stenger said, according to VTDigger. “I ask that you please respect that I will not be making any more public statements about the settlement nor about the case. I want to focus my efforts fully to assist the receiver and to help the investors.”

The agreement does not cover any potential criminal investigation. It bars Stenger from participating in any EB-5 programs, except for work to help a court-appointed receiver in the Northeast Kingdom. Stenger also agreed to “appear and be interviewed” by SEC staff upon request.

U.S. Attorney Eric Miller, who has previously said he could launch a criminal investigation into Stenger and Quiros’ activities, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The agreement is here:

Bill Stenger


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