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Friday, July 23, 2021

Burlington-Area Hotel Rooms Are in Short Supply, and Prices Are Up

Posted By on Fri, Jul 23, 2021 at 10:51 AM

Lisa and Roland Gaujac at the Old Lantern - CALEB KENNA
  • Caleb Kenna
  • Lisa and Roland Gaujac at the Old Lantern
Vermont’s hopping with visitors this summer, and nowhere is that more evident than the Burlington area, where hotel rooms are scarce and room rates have risen steeply.

“I’m suddenly inundated with people because there’s no lodging,” said Lisa Gaujac, who owns the Old Lantern Inn and Barn in Charlotte with her husband, Roland Gaujac. “There’s so much lodging normally in the Burlington area that I don’t usually have people calling and saying, ‘Do you have a room available?’”

Hospitality business owners have been living with uncertainty since COVID-19 restrictions closed them down in March 2020. While they were allowed to reopen at limited capacity a few months later, it was difficult for them to book guests for this summer without knowing what the pandemic restrictions would be.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

U.S. Won't Open Border to Canadians Until at Least August 21

Posted By on Wed, Jul 21, 2021 at 6:17 PM

Jackson's Lodge in Canaan - ANNE WALLACE ALLEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Anne Wallace Allen ©️ Seven Days
  • Jackson's Lodge in Canaan
The United States won't open its border to visitors from Canada until August 21, the White House announced on Wednesday — dealing a blow to hospitality and other businesses that have long relied on tourists from Canada.

“I’m sure the congressional delegations and governors of every border state to the north are probably furious right now, and rightly so,” said Jeff Lawson, who is vice president of tourism and marketing at Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce. “I’m pretty upset about it.”

Northern state governors and members of Congress have been pushing the White House for weeks to open the border. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has shown impatience with the White House, especially after the Canadian government this week announced that travelers would be able to enter Canada from the United States on August 9 without quarantining in a hotel “provided the COVID situation is under control.” Scott said he has asked the White House to reciprocate, saying it is now safe to do so.

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Sunday, July 11, 2021

Jet Fuel Shortage Hits Burlington International Airport

Posted By on Sun, Jul 11, 2021 at 10:37 PM

Burlington International Airport - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Matthew Thorsen ©️ Seven Days
  • Burlington International Airport
Updated at 11:45 a.m. on July 12, 2021.

Several flights were delayed out of Burlington International Airport on Sunday because some airlines couldn't obtain fuel due to supply problems.

Airlines generally purchase fuel from Albany, N.Y., that is stored in a tank farm at BTV owned by Heritage Aviation. The company then delivers the fuel to planes on the tarmac, according to Heritage CEO Matt Collins. The Albany facility is supplied via Hudson River barges; Collins was told a barge was late. "Obviously we can't deliver what we don't have," Collins said.

Fuel ran low on Saturday, he said.

"We've tried to cover the airlines the best we could with our own retail fuel," he added. "We're at a position now where ... I don't really have much of anything to sell. I can't even front the airlines any more fuel." Collins said he had a small reserve that could cover any emergency medical flights.

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Friday, July 9, 2021

Southern Vermont's Jamaica Cottage Shop Sold to New Hampshire Company

Posted By on Fri, Jul 9, 2021 at 5:13 PM

Domenic Mangano - COURTESY DOMENIC MANGANO
  • Courtesy Domenic Mangano
  • Domenic Mangano
Jamaica Cottage Shop, a Londonderry company that produces sheds and small homes, was sold Friday  to a homebuilding company in Claremont, N.H.

The business and its 90 employees will stay in Londonderry, said Domenic Mangano, who founded the Cottage Shop in 1995. The purchaser is Bill Silverstein, owner of WHS Homes, which produces homes under an array of brands.

Mangano declined to say how much he sold the company for. But he said the employees probably won’t see much difference in the work they are doing. They were told of the impending sale two weeks ago, said one employee who asked that his name not be used in the story.

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Friday, July 2, 2021

Scott Vetoes Rental Housing Registry Bill

Posted By on Fri, Jul 2, 2021 at 2:36 PM

Gov. Phil Scott - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Updated at 4:16 p.m.

Continuing his post-session showdown with the legislature, Gov. Phil Scott on Friday vetoed a bill that aims to improve and expand the state’s rental housing stock.

The bill, S.79, would require landlords of both short- and long-term rentals to register with the state and pay a $35-per-unit annual fee to fund a new team of housing safety inspectors.

The measure didn’t get over the finish line during the regular session, but lawmakers took it up during a veto session last week. It squeaked by in the 30-member Senate, receiving the exact number of votes — 20 — needed to override the governor's veto. Three moderate Democrats joined all seven Republicans in opposition.

In his veto message to lawmakers, Scott argued that the bill would actually reduce the number of rental properties in the state at a time when there is a need for significantly more.

“Most agree we suffer from a critical housing shortage for middle income, low income and homeless Vermonters, but the solution is not more regulation,” Scott wrote.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Cannabis
Canadian Company Acquires Two Vermont Dispensaries in $25 Million Deal

Posted By on Tue, Jun 29, 2021 at 5:05 PM

Trimming plants at Champlain Valley Dispensary - FILE: LEE KROHN
  • File: Lee krohn
  • Trimming plants at Champlain Valley Dispensary
CeresMED, which owns medical cannabis vendors Champlain Valley Dispensary and Southern Vermont Wellness, will merge with the Toronto-based company Slang Worldwide in a $25 million deal. The transaction will provide CeresMED with an infusion of capital as it prepares to enter the recreational market next year.

“It's been a long road to get here, and we’re super excited to have found someone who aligns with our values and how we see ourselves in the bigger industry, and who can capitalize us,” said Bridget Conry, director of brand experience for CeresMED. “It's been really hard to finance our growth.”

Slang, a publicly traded company that buys and sells licenses for cannabis edibles and accessories, has distributed some of its own brands through CeresMED’s dispensaries since 2015; because federal law prohibits the interstate sale of cannabis, explained Conry, CeresMED purchases the formulas and manufacturing equipment from Slang, then assembles the products in its own facilities.

The merger will underwrite a 50,000-square-foot expansion of CeresMED’s Milton headquarters and eventually allow the company to hire up to 50 more employees, said Conry, effectively doubling its size. The acquisition will also open new markets for CeresMED’s Vermont-manufactured CBD products in 12 other states, including Oregon and Colorado, where Slang owns distribution channels.

“This is an opportunity for Vermont brands, especially women and BIPOC-owned brands, to get that exposure and possibly be able to link up to those supply chains, as well,” said Conry.

With the sale of CeresMED, all three of Vermont’s medical cannabis license holders will be owned by out-of-state conglomerates. Under S.54, the bill passed by the Vermont legislature last year that legalized the sale of recreational marijuana, medical cannabis license holders can begin selling for recreational use in May 2022, five months earlier than the October 2022 start date for other Vermont retailers. Given the added advantages of corporate investment, some cannabis advocates are concerned that Vermont’s recreational market has already been stacked against small independent producers.

“This kind of consolidation isn’t a surprise, unfortunately, but it’s happening even sooner than we anticipated,” said Geoffrey Pizzutillo, executive director of the Vermont Growers Association.

In other states that have legalized recreational use, he said, retailers who operate under large corporate umbrellas can afford to set artificially low prices to gain advantage over their competitors. The Vermont Growers Association has been advocating for municipalities to ensure greater equity in the cannabis marketplace, Pizzutillo said; several towns, including Burlington, adopted policies on Town Meeting Day that eliminate the five-month head start for medical license holders.

“We want a decentralized, craft-driven market,” said Pizzutillo, “so we can export our $20 gram just like we export our $10 IPAs.”

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Monday, June 14, 2021

Vermont Crosses 80 Percent Vaccination Threshold, Scott Lifts COVID-19 Restrictions

Posted By on Mon, Jun 14, 2021 at 11:19 AM

Gov. Phil Scott - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Updated at 2:55 p.m.

Slightly more than 80 percent of all eligible Vermonters have now received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to Gov. Phil Scott, who celebrated the milestone by making good on his promise to lift all remaining COVID-19 restrictions.

At a press conference on Monday, Scott said that he was moving Vermont into the final phase of its reopening plan. Capacity restrictions and gathering limits are now lifted, mask wearing is no longer required and most businesses are now under recommended guidance instead of the stringent health mandates that have governed their daily operations for much of the last 15 months.

The announcement comes 464 days after the state identified its first case of COVID-19 and marks a major step toward normalcy, signaling what many hope will be an end to the pandemic in Vermont.

"There are no longer any state COVID-19 restrictions," Scott said. "None. So unless there is a federal requirement in place — like [for] public transportation or long-term care facilities — employers, municipalities and individuals can operate under the same conditions as before the pandemic."

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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Two Defense Contractors in Colchester to Merge Into Single Firm

Posted By on Wed, Jun 9, 2021 at 4:55 AM

Omni Medical's building in Colchester - OMNI MEDICAL
  • Omni Medical
  • Omni Medical's building in Colchester
Omni Precision and Omni Medical, two Colchester firms with the same owner, are merging into one company to save money.

The new entity will be called Omni Medical, said chief operating officer Maribel Morgan. The move came after the company looked at ways of streamlining its processes and identified some redundant roles, she said.

Omni Medical sells a device that helps pilots relieve their bladders mid-flight without leaving their seats. Omni Precision makes a part for the product.
Morgan said the two entities, which were located side by side,  should never have been organized as separate companies. They'll be located in one building.

The two companies, owned by Mark Harvie, had about 84 employees before the merger process started, said Morgan. She expects the new company to have about 48 after some attrition. Some workers from Omni Precision are being offered jobs at Omni Medical. Harvie also owns a training facility in South Burlington called Omni Defense, she said.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Will Raap Plans to Turn Nordic Farms Into a Grain-Based Ag Hub

Posted By on Tue, Jun 8, 2021 at 1:00 PM

Will Rapp at Nordic Farms - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Will Rapp at Nordic Farms
Entrepreneur Will Raap, the founder of Gardener’s Supply and the Intervale Center, is purchasing Nordic Farms, a roughly 600-acre former dairy farm on Route 7 in Charlotte, he said last week.

Raap, 72, has an ambitious vision for the site. In collaboration with partners, he intends to build an agriculture center that showcases Vermont grains, botanicals and beverages on a working farm that produces these goods.

Envisioned as an “ecosystem” of enterprises, the project would encompass private businesses, nonprofit organizations and agricultural education. Shoreham-based WhistlePig Whiskey would have a tasting room and storage facility at the site , which would also be home to the Cyrus Pringle Museum. Named for the Charlotte-born, 19th-century botanist and grain breeder who cofounded Horsford Gardens & Nursery, the museum will focus on grains in the Green Mountain State.

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Vermont-Based Remote-Instruction Startup Nets $6 Million From Investors

Posted By on Tue, Jun 8, 2021 at 9:01 AM

Narine Hall - COURTESY OF CHAMPLAIN COLLEGE
  • Courtesy of Champlain College
  • Narine Hall
A video conference company cofounded by Champlain College professor Narine Hall has received a round of investment worth $6 million.

The company, InSpace, sells a platform that is designed to ease personal interaction between students and teachers in virtual classrooms. InSpace announced Tuesday that it received $6 million in two rounds of funding, including a $2.6 investment from Boston Seed Capital in January, and $1.5 million each from Gutbrain Ventures of Boston and PBJ Capital of Lincoln, Mass., at the end of May.

Hall is a data science assistant professor and academic program director at Champlain College. She created the platform with software and video engineer Haykanush Lputyan, who lives in Armenia. The two, friends from college in that country, launched it last year as the pandemic sent students and professors out of the classroom to work remotely.

The company said its software is now used by more than 100 universities and schools worldwide. Hall, who lives in Colchester, said InSpace was making money almost as soon as it was founded 11 months ago and now has about 10 employees in Armenia and five in Vermont. She's looking for more employees, including those who can work remotely.

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