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Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Beta Expansion at Airport Hits Snag Over SoBu Parking Regs

Posted By on Tue, Mar 29, 2022 at 4:49 PM

The Beta facility at BTV - FILE: OLIVER PARINI
  • File: Oliver Parini
  • The Beta facility at BTV
Beta Technologies' plan to construct an electric aircraft manufacturing plant at the Burlington International Airport hit a snag last week over the placement of a parking lot, prompting outcry from the fast-growing startup and Gov. Phil Scott.

South Burlington's Development Review Board gave conditional approval to the master plan for Beta's 40-acre airport campus. But a single condition — that the company erect a building to block a parking lot from view along Williston Road — could sink the project entirely, the company claimed.

Scott addressed the matter at his weekly press conference Tuesday, just as the municipal board was voting to reopen Beta's application, a sign that it may reconsider its recent decision. Failure to do so, Scott told reporters, could prompt Beta to move its manufacturing plant to Plattsburgh, N.Y., where it already tests its experimental aircraft, or elsewhere.

"We can't let that happen," he said. "This is too important."

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Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Idaho Company Acquires an Iconic Vermont Energy Storage Firm

Posted By on Wed, Mar 23, 2022 at 6:00 AM

Jay Bellows of Northern Reliability - FILE: KEVIN MCCALLUM ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Kevin McCallum ©️ Seven Days
  • Jay Bellows of Northern Reliability
Waterbury-based energy storage systems manufacturer Northern Reliability has been acquired by an Idaho company — but it’s not going anywhere.

KORE Power announced that NorthernReliability will be part of a new entity called KORE Solutions and will remain in Waterbury. It will immediately add 25 positions, KORE Power said in a prepared statement.

The Waterbury company has created more than 1,000 energy storage projects around the world, including many for off-grid uses in extreme environments such as Antarctica.

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Monday, March 21, 2022

South Burlington's University Mall Sold for $60 Million

Posted By on Mon, Mar 21, 2022 at 6:47 PM

The University Mall - CAT CUTILLO
  • Cat Cutillo
  • The University Mall
The University Mall in South Burlington has new owners. In a deal inked on March 4, Taconic Capital Advisors and Eastern Real Estate partnered to purchase the 52-acre property on Dorset Street for $60 million.

The new owners are exploring plans to "reenergize" the 617,000-square foot mall, according to a press release the two companies sent Monday. The release said the mall is 95 percent occupied, with more than 50 local and national businesses as tenants.

"The property has been a gathering place for decades and our commitment is to build on its success as a vital retail and economic asset for Vermont," Taconic Capital Advisors director Alex Fleming said.

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Thursday, March 17, 2022

Pandemic Losses Spur NCAA to Set Up Captive Insurance in Vermont

Posted By on Thu, Mar 17, 2022 at 9:07 PM

The NCAA lost hundreds of millions of dollars when it canceled its 2020 basketball tournament - WILLIAM HOWARD | DREAMSTIME.COM
  • William Howard | Dreamstime.com
  • The NCAA lost hundreds of millions of dollars when it canceled its 2020 basketball tournament
After a disastrous two years for the National College Athletic Association, during which it canceled its revenue-boosting college basketball tournaments in 2020, the organization has created a new insurance program that is headquartered in Vermont.

The NCAA’s board of governors voted in January to create a captive insurance program — through which the NCAA can establish its own insurance company instead of paying another company to shield it from the expenses of business losses in the event of a disaster.

Vermont has honed its rules over the last four decades to make itself an attractive domicile for captive insurance programs. The Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, which oversees the captive insurance industry, says 600 such companies are now active in Vermont, more than at any time before.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Vermont Business Leaders Plan to Establish a Bank

Posted By on Tue, Mar 15, 2022 at 9:30 PM

FRANCISCO JAVIER ZEA LARA | DREAMSTIME
  • Francisco Javier Zea Lara | Dreamstime
Hula founder Russ Scully, landlord Bill Bissonette, the three sons of IDX Systems cofounder Richard Tarrant Sr. and a constellation of other Chittenden County business luminaries have teamed up to open the first new Vermont-based bank since 1989.

Eight proposed directors and 11 organizers have applied to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC, to open the Bank of Burlington, a business-only lender.

The group intends to raise $20 million to $30 million before it gets started, said Mike Pieciak, the commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation.
A local lender is likely to be more flexible in approving business loans, Pieciak said. The proposal comes as financial institutions in Vermont are being sold and merging.

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After Sale, Packetized Energy Plans to Stay — and Grow — in Vermont

Posted By on Tue, Mar 15, 2022 at 2:17 PM

Paul Hines - FILE: TERRI HALLENBECK ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Terri Hallenbeck ©️ Seven Days
  • Paul Hines
Packetized Energy, a Burlington company that makes power-saving technology, has been acquired by New York City company EnergyHub and plans to grow in the coming year.

Founded in 2016 by University of Vermont electrical engineering professors Paul Hines, Jeff Frolik and Mads Almassalkhi, Packetized Energy has developed algorithms to help utilities communicate with water heaters, electric vehicles, and battery systems to determine when and how they are operating. The algorithms also allow utilities to control how much power a home or business uses — for example, by dropping the thermostat or water heater a few degrees during times of peak demand.

Some utilities already do this, using specialized software that monitors internet-connected thermostats and other devices to assess energy use remotely.

“We built the software platform around the idea that you’ll have lots of these internet devices connected to the grid, and we need a common language for communicating with all of them,” Hines said.

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Monday, February 28, 2022

Scott Pulls Russian-Owned Vodka Brands From Vermont Shelves

Posted By on Mon, Feb 28, 2022 at 7:05 PM

Mixing a vodka tonic - FILE: ZACHARY P. STEPHENS
  • File: Zachary P. Stephens
  • Mixing a vodka tonic
Updated on March 1, 2022.

Gov. Phil Scott has ordered state liquor stores to remove Russian-owned brands from their shelves in response to the “illegal and heinous Putin invasion of Ukraine.”

Brands that are labeled "Russian vodka" — such as Stoli and Smirnoff — but are not owned by Russian companies will continue to be sold.

The governor announced the move five days after Russian forces launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine that has earned worldwide condemnation and triggered global economic sanctions. Governors in other states, including Utah, Pennsylvania, Ohio and next-door New Hampshire have instituted similar bans.

“There are few things individual states can do alone, but I am heartened by the overwhelming and united response from the Free World in support of the people of Ukraine,” Scott said in a statement.

The move isn’t exactly expected to cripple the Russian economy. The 79 state-controlled liquor stores in Vermont only sell two brands from Russian owned distilleries — Russian Standard Original Vodka and Hammer + Sickle Vodka.

“They are not very popular brands,” said Scott’s spokesperson, Jason Maulucci.

There are about 750 bottles on the shelves in the stores, and they will be pulled down and returned to state warehouses. Of the $16 million in vodka sales in the state since July 1, the two Russian brands account for just $38,000, or less than half a percent, Maulucci said.

In addition to pulling them from the shelves, Scott ordered Wendy Knight, commissioner of the Department of Liquor and Lottery, to stop buying the Russian booze until further notice.

The state has not decided what to do with all the existing inventory, Maulucci said. The state owns all inventory in its warehouses and liquor stores until the moment of sale.

The state is also ceasing online sales of Russian-owned products, but the complete list of those brands, some of which are higher-end, was not immediately available.

“Vermonters are inspired by the bravery, courage, and sacrifice of those who seek nothing more than the freedom to determine their own futures,” Scott wrote in his statement. “The Ukrainian people are fighting for the same values we believe in, and we must come together to support them.”

Popular vodka brands founded in Russia, such as Smirnoff, are in fact no longer Russian-owned. Smirnoff, the world’s best-selling vodka brand, is owned by London-based global spirts conglomerate Diageo, Maulucci noted.
Signs at Beverage Warehouse in Winooski - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Signs at Beverage Warehouse in Winooski

The administration may announce other trade restrictions later this week, Maulucci said. “We’re trying to see what else we can do,” he said.

The private sector is also able to take steps to express its solidarity with the people of Ukraine, a sentiment Maulucci says the governor supports. Maulucci pointed to a WCAX story last week about a bartender at Magic Mountain ski resort in Londonderry pouring Stoli vodka down the drain.

Reached by phone Tuesday night, Jennifer Swiatek, owner of the Beverage Warehouse in Winooski, said she had been waiting for direction from the state Department of Liquor Control regarding Russian liquor brands.

Swiatek said that the situation had prompted her to look more thoroughly into the provenance of the vodka on the store's shelves.

"I thought more of them were [Russian], including Stoli," she said.

The state liquor outlet run by the Beverage Warehouse does carry the two Russian-owned brands that will be removed: Russian Standard Original Vodka and Hammer + Sickle Vodka. They are not huge sellers, Swiatek said, but Russian Standard "is one of the best vodkas out there for the money. People do buy it."

Swiatek described the Russian invasion of the Ukraine as "horrific," but said that pulling liquor brands from state agent store shelves, like those at the Beverage Warehouse, is "up to the DLC."

While awaiting direction from the state, Swiatek had pledged to donate any proceeds from Russian vodka sales to the United Help Ukraine nonprofit.

On Tuesday night, Swiatek said she was trying to educate staff and had instructed them to make signs to explain to customers that Smirnoff and Stolichnaya are not Russian-owned. She has also heard there is good vodka from the Ukraine, she added. "I would love to get Ukrainian vodka," she said.

Melissa Pasanen contributed reporting.

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Sunday, February 27, 2022

Cannabis
New Industrial Hemp Company Plans Big Footprint in Vermont

Posted By on Sun, Feb 27, 2022 at 11:10 PM

The E.T. and H.K. complex in St. Johnsbury in 1989 - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • The E.T. and H.K. complex in St. Johnsbury in 1989
The iconic E.T. & H.K. Ide grain mill buildings in St. Johnsbury have been sold to a company that plans to use them for processing industrial hemp.

The two cousins behind Zion Growers, Travis Samuels and Brandon McFarlane, said they also have their sights set on a 200,000-square-foot industrial building 100 miles to the southwest, in Proctor, that was once home to the Vermont Marble Company. By the fall harvest, the two say they'll be ready to process hemp into fiber that will be used to create building materials, animal bedding and cardboard.

Hemp — a version of the cannabis plant that won't get you high — is a sustainable replacement for materials such as plastic and composites, said McFarlane, a real estate attorney in Florida who graduated from Norwich University. McFarlane said processing hemp into paper, textiles, and "hempcrete" — a construction material — is more environmentally friendly than using traditional materials. He expects the market to grow.

“We see those as the three main players in the future where hemp is going to either be heavily involved or completely take over in the next couple of decades,” he said.

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Monday, February 21, 2022

Despite Regulator's Ruling, GlobalFoundries to Move Ahead With Power Plan

Posted By on Mon, Feb 21, 2022 at 7:06 PM

GlobalFoundries - FILE:JAMES BUCK
  • File:James Buck
  • GlobalFoundries
Semiconductor maker GlobalFoundries said on Monday that it plans to press on with plans to create its own electric utility, despite a ruling from regulators that the company would not be exempt from state renewable energy rules.

“To us, this is a key step forward,” said Ken McAvey, general manager of the massive Essex Junction factory known as "Fab 9." "We’re committed to following the renewable energy standards, and have already committed to set the bar even higher."

The Malta, N.Y.-based chip maker wants to better control its energy costs by running its 725-acre campus as a "self-managed utility" instead of buying its electricity from Green Mountain Power.

That effort seemed to suffer a setback last week when the Public Utility Commission ruled it didn’t have the authority to waive regulations that require utilities to sell increasingly cleaner, more renewable electricity to consumers. GlobalFoundries initially indicated it was "disappointed with the decision" and would figure out next steps.

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Friday, February 18, 2022

Regulators Deny GlobalFoundries' Bid to Be Its Own Power Company

Posted By on Fri, Feb 18, 2022 at 9:23 AM

GlobalFoundries - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • GlobalFoundries
Regulators have pulled the plug on semiconductor giant GlobalFoundries’ plan to slash its power bills by becoming its own utility.

The Vermont Public Utility Commission on Thursday rejected the company’s request to set up a “self-managed utility” to supply its massive Essex Junction chip plant with electricity instead of buying it from Green Mountain Power.

The commission ruled that it didn’t have the authority to exempt the company from state rules requiring utilities to purchase some of their power from renewable energy sources.

Environmental groups praised the move, while company officials were  
“disappointed with the decision and are now in the process of assessing the impact and next steps,” spokesperson Gina DeRossi wrote in a statement.

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