Welcome Norwich Solar Technologies!

We are proud to welcome Norwich Solar Technologies as a Local First Promoter Sponsor!  The White River Junction-based renewable energy company provides end-to-end solar solutions to businesses in Vermont, New Hampshire, and throughout New England. Norwich Solar Technologies (NST) supports local job creation, increased energy independence, and reduced pollution while following socially responsible business practices and is commitment to our community.

One example of NST’s commitment to community is their Community Impact Fund. The fund allows local investors to own community solar projects that expand participation to low-income residents, nonprofits, and start-up businesses while allowing investors to use their tax liability to make positive economic and environmental returns. The fund links mission-minded investors with high-impact projects that make the Upper Valley stronger.

The type of projects that the Community Impact Fund targets are projects that can generate broad benefits to the community such as economic development and greenhouse gas reduction. The fund has a 2019 target to finance $2.5M of non-traditional ventures, primarily focused on solar projects that can significantly lower electric bills of these underserved communities. While the fund is primarily focused on solar projects in 2019, the longer-term goal is addressing the “energy burden” transportation and housing put on low-income individuals and our environment. Low-income households suffer a disproportionate energy burden, defined as the percentage of gross household income spent on energy costs.

Since launching in December 2018, the fund has completed three projects serving a low-income community, an environmental nonprofit, and a human services nonprofit. Collectively, these initial projects will save their beneficiaries an estimated $600,000 over their lifetime and eliminate 950 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, two more projects are underway to serve additional low-income households and a local new business startup.

Read more about NST Community Impact Fund projects:
NST is also working with local schools, including projects with the Hartford Schools, Thetford Elementary School, Bradford Elementary School, Newbury Elementary School, Oxbow High School and River Bend Tech Center, the Mountain School, Plainfield Elementary School, Dublin School, KUA, and Cardigan Mountain. Norwich Solar provides more than solar installations at schools, they engage with the faculty and students to enrich STEM curriculum. They have built and provided hands-on interactive displays, taught classes, provided support to teachers with curricula materials, and given student assembly talks. Data from solar PV arrays can be readily integrated into the educational curriculum, and are easily coordinated science, technology, engineering, and mathematics initiatives.
NST is a member of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility and proudly supports the following nonprofits with time and sponsorships: CHAD (Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth), Alzheimer Society, Norwich Historical Society, Vermont Public Radio, New Hampshire Public Radio, Vital Communities, and Upper Valley Aquatic Center.
Norwich Solar Technologies was founded in 2011 with a vision of developing and commercializing leading-edge innovations in Clean Technology to advance the integration and deployment of affordable Solar Power to help New England companies improve their Triple Bottom Line (financial, social and environmental goals). The reason is clear: today’s business leaders know that investing in clean energy creates good jobs, increases competitiveness, and is better for the environment. Norwich Solar Technologies provides companies with turnkey services as a trusted, long-term clean energy partner giving commercial and industrial customers Development, Design, Engineering, Procurement, Construction, Power Purchase Agreements, Structured Financial Solutions, and Long-Term Operations and Maintenance services to help them meet their goals. Clients include schools, nonprofits, municipalities, commercial & industrial enterprises, farms, small businesses, and residential clients. Learn more about Norwich Solar Technologies here.

Have an Idea That Could Use a Lift?

Local Businesses, Farmers,Entrepreneurs, Nonprofits, Community Initiatives:

Do you have an incredible project just waiting to happen?

Want to grow your organization, our community, and the local economy, but don’t have access to capital?

The Local Crowd (TLC) Upper Valley is a rewards-based local crowdfunding platform that helps communities invest in local businesses, entrepreneurs, nonprofits,
and initiatives that are mission-driven social enterprises. If your organization contributes to the community and could use a lift, apply to be part of the Fall 2019 cohort of campaigns.
Submit a proposal for 2019 crowdfunding campaigns if you:
  • Have a project with a budget under $10,000 .
  • Have a simple, achievable project that will generate excitement in your community.
    (your proposal can be part of a bigger project, but it should have stand-alone value.)
  • Have a project that will create an economic and/or social benefit to your business and the community
  • Are a business or organization with the principle of doing something good for people or the planet
  • Are able to invest time to build a successful fundraising campaign in September and October 2019

Sample project ideas: Farm infrastructure, renewable energy installation, community garden or art project, vehicle to expand nonprofit service, capital to launch a new rural enterprise, food business equipment

Submit your project proposal by September 4

TLC Upper Valley will select up to six projects to participate in this crowdfunding cohort, based on the potential of each project to positively impact their local economy and community. Selected proposals will launch their campaigns in November, with support and guidance from TLC Upper Valley Advisors.
Campaign guidelines here.
 

TLC details:
You (project/campaign creator) will need to:

  • Form a Campaign Team to actively promote your fundraising project
  • Work closely with the TLC team to leverage training, marketing, and community outreach tools
  • Adhere to the “three keys of success” promoted by The Local Crowd platform:  YOU share with your personal network. YOU make it happen.

You will receive:

  • Support from the TLC team to run a successful funding campaign
  • Access to business development support from project partners including SCORE, Space on Main, SBDC, SBA, GMEDC
  • Marketing and outreach support to spread the word about your project
  • Free Crowdfunding Readiness Assessment ($85 value)
  • Funds raised via the crowdfunding campaign for the designated project (less the 5% platform fee)
  • Opportunity to reduce platform fees if you meet campaign milestones

Community. Connection. Capital.

TLC Upper Valley is one of five sites across the country participating in a National Science Foundation research project to pilot The Local Crowd. The project is measuring community knowledge and support for social enterprises, also known as the 4th sector.
Be part of the research and share your knowledge with this short survey.

Fat Hat Clothing-Keeping it Local for 40 years

Forty years ago Joan Ecker started Fat Hat Clothing Company with free fabric remnants and a treadle sewing machine. Today F.H. Clothing Company is a nationally known family business that designs, produces and sells stylish, comfortable clothing at two retail stores in the UV , craft shows throughout the Northeast and at over 200 boutiques throughout the country.  Starting an independent clothing company required creativity, determination and an entrepreneurial spirit. Keeping it operating in today’s retail and global trade environment is challenging and stressful. When all is going smoothly Joan spends her days drawing new designs for future collections but most days are spent trouble-shooting, staying relevant, being competitive, managing a profitable bottom line and negotiating and renegotiating the ever-changing landscape of a dwindling supply chain in the world of small business.

On a recent visit to the “headquarters” of F.H. Clothing Co. in Quechee, I toured the 270 year old barn which includes a retail store, sewing shop, inventory and shipping departments. Joan’s daughters run the  business with Joan where kids and dogs are often found running around. When I arrived Joan was busily fixing a window display where a mannequin riding a bike collapsed and took everything with it when playing dogs flew through the store.

I had a chance to talk with Joan about being an entrepreneur and small business owner in the Upper Valley. Here are some highlights from our conversation.

Fat Hat as Social Enterprise:

Over the years, the Fat Hat corner in Quechee has acted like a business incubator for upstart businesses since Joan intentionally kept rents low in order to support entrepreneurs as they get their businesses off the ground because she knows how difficult it is to find and access the critical resources when starting out.

Joan is a mentor in Job Shadow project of Upper Valley Business and Education Partnership. Through this project middle school students spend a day learning about the business.  They choose fabric, pick a design, resize it for themselves, cut, sew and model their creations.  Along the way they learn why it costs what it costs to make clothing and that the cost of labor is mainly what drives the price of finished goods.

Fat Hat continually tries to work with socially responsible manufacturers based in the US.  As the industry shifted to off-shore production, a key mission for the business was to keep their clothing completely produced in America. In the early years Joan brought a few other boutique designers to her “cut and sew” guy in NYC to help him establish his small shop manufacturing business that works hard to provide a healthy working condition, in pay and environment for his employees.

Throughout the year F.H Clothing donates dozens of fat hats to cancer patients going through chemotherapy.

Businesses Challenges:

Labor- As most UV businesses are acutely aware, the labor pool is small. There is no training for seamstresses and the population of these workers is aging out. Fat Hat desperately needs at least one person with the skills and interest in clothing construction and production to work in the Quechee building.

A living wage – No one can live well even on $15 an hour especially with the continual increases in the cost of living. The company pays all employees above this minimum wage but the higher that goes the harder it is to hold onto the business’s defined market and still make a profit.  (The students who were mentored even know this).  The minimum wage is not enough to support most people. At some point the cost of living needs to go down to help balance this.

Stable suppliers and costs- It’s a crazy world out there with fabric, shipping, production and tariffs.  There are no guarantees about final fabric cost if fabric does happen to come from over seas.  There’s no telling how long a boat shipment might be held out at sea waiting for a clear bill of health, there’s the worry that the knitting and weaving companies will close their doors, there’s no sense of stability that the NY building where goods are cut and sewn is not going to be sold in the next month or two for a new boutique hotel resulting in the production house having to find a new home (that’s happened twice in the last three years, and it upheaves everything).

The good news:
The business is thriving, the employees are terrific and the customers love the clothing!

 

Read about the history of this local business on their website.

 

“you’ve GOT to be putting us on!”

QUECHEE MAIN ST.
Quechee, Vermont 05059
(802) 296-6646

83 GATES ST.
White River Junction, VT 05001
(802) 698-3329

 

Supporting Social Enterprises

Exciting news! Local First is one of five sites across the country participating in a National Science Foundation research project to pilot The Local Crowd, a community crowd funding platform to support social enterprises. Crowdfunding is the process in which an entrepreneur, business or organization asks a large number of people (usually through the Internet) to contribute small amounts of money to support a new business or project. The Local Crowd® works with rural communities to create local crowdfunding ecosystems that support the growth and sustainability of local businesses and organizations. The project will assess the effectiveness of the community crowdfunding program as a tool for community building and economic development while providing access to capital for local businesses and entrepreneurs.

We are fortunate to live in a community that is replete with social enterprises that are mission driven organizations that use business principles to make the world a better place. Social enterprises are part of an emerging 4th sector. The three economic sectors of government, nonprofits and businesses make up our traditional economy.  A new 4th sector combines the mission driven approach of nonprofits with the market driven approach of business. These entrepreneurial ventures are creating financially viable enterprises that prioritize social mission over profit—pioneering new ways to get the work done

Local First will be supporting these businesses by hosting six funding campaigns through The Local Crowd Upper Valley that will launch in the fall. Stay tuned for details!

 

 

West Lebanon Feed & Supply is Committed to Community

A strong work ethic, a passion for helping others, and a sincere love of animals have been at the core of Curt and Sharon Jacques’ life and their business. West Lebanon Feed & Supply’s success is the result of the couple’s skills and passions-a unique mix of technical knowledge, drive, and heartfelt compassion. With their ownership, West the Lebanon business has grown into a remarkable destination retail location and valued home to some 35 employees.

The couple is being honored at Vital Communities’ Heroes & Leaders Celebration May 30 for their many years of working to enhance the vitality of the Upper Valley. Their commitment to community and local economy can be seen in their sponsorship and active participation in Local First and the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce among other efforts and their generous support of are organizations and nonprofits.

Curt and Sharon purchased West Lebanon Feed & Supply in 1995. In 2007, they opened an 11,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility that celebrates the human-animal bond. The business has since developed into a nationally and internationally top-awarded store in its industry. Now, Curt and Sharon’s vision of “Your Life, Your Style, Your Store” takes new shape through their venture GooberPick, as they continue to find innovative ways to serve the people and animals in their lives.

West Lebanon Feed & Supply owner develops delivery platform for small businesses

In a bid to help small retailers to meet the demand for convenience in the smartphone era, the owner of West Lebanon Feed & Supply is launching Goober Pick, a package delivery system that will bring purchases made online from area retailers to a network of storage lockers at high-traffic spots in Upper Valley towns. Read the rest of this Valley News article here.

 

Keeping Your Dollars Multiplying in the UV!

When you spend money at locally owned businesses, it is pretty easy to understand that those dollars directly impact the local economy as they keep local businesses in business. The local multiplier effect is less obvious, but key to keeping our economy strong.

The multiplier effect is the amount of local economic activity that is triggered by the purchase of any one item. Community economics tells us that the more a dollar circulates in a defined region, and the faster it circulates, the more income, wealth and jobs it creates.

Keeping dollars local is an act of reinvestment in your community. Buying local products and services and banking locally keeps money circulating closer to where you spend it. This creates a ripple effect as those businesses and their employees in turn spend your money locally. Corporate chains send most of your money out of town. E-commerce sends dollars directly out of our community weakening our Upper Valley economy. Studies have determined that three times more money stays in the Upper Valley when you Think Local First!

Follow the money and read about how many times your $20 circulates around the Upper Valley creating economic activity by clicking on the image below.

 

The Benefit of B Corps

Certified Benefit Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. Society’s most challenging problems cannot be solved by government and nonprofits alone. The B Corp community works toward reduced inequality, lower levels of poverty, a healthier environment, stronger communities, and the creation of more high quality jobs with dignity and purpose. By harnessing the power of business, B Corps use profits and growth as a means to a greater end: positive impact for their employees, communities, and the environment. This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good and three Local First members are proud B Corps –  King Arthur Flour, Mascoma Bank, and Gardener’s Supply.

King Arthur Flour- B Corp & ESOP
King Arthur Flour is America’s oldest flour company and a founding member of B Corporations. King Arthur Flour’s success can be attributed to the fact that the company is one hundred percent employee-owned  which was accomplished through an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) in 1996. Employee ownership ensures that King Arthur Flour is committed to producing the best bag of flour available and keeps the company accountable for its practices everyday.

 “King Arthur Flour’s corporate culture has always been about long-term value and never about the next quarter’s profits” Suzanne McDowell, King Arthur Flour co-CEO

King Arthur Flour’s core values of quality, community, employee ownership, passion, and stewardship are displayed in its practices of community education and service, and environmental stewardship. Founded in 1790,  the company has more than 300 employees today and over $100 million in revenue. In 2012, King Arthur Flour took additional steps to protect its mission and legacy: the employee-owners voted to become a Vermont benefit corporation, a form of legal incorporation in state law, which more deeply embeds the same principles as the nonprofit certification process of being a B Corp. As a Vermont benefit corporation, grounded in employee ownership, the company will be able to continue to carry out its mission — “to inspire connections and community by spreading the joy of baking” — and its values, caring for its people and the planet, for many years to come.

Certified B Corps are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. They are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.

The B Economy is built by everyone who works for, buys from, invests in, learns or teaches about, or supports businesses striving to create a shared and durable prosperity for all. Vote with your dollars everyday and spend and invest in the businesses that match your values.

                

Becoming a B Corp
Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR) is hosting a workshop series this spring for businesses interested in learning more about becoming a B Corp. VBSR’s Measure What Matters workshop series is your opportunity to learn from some of the best companies in New England, see how you measure up against industry leaders, and find new ways to improve your business operations. Workshop attendees will leave with ready-to-use tools for change and an expanded network of professionals who believe in business as a power for good! Modeled after the B-Corp Impact Assessment, this new series will help members to better support their communities, reduce the impact of their operations on the environment and to create the best workplace for their employees. Workshops are available for VBSR and NHBSR members only. Registration is transferable within your organization.

Workshop Schedule:

 

Thinking Local First

Shop or Buy Local First is a common call to action. The threat to local businesses with competition from online commerce is real and growing, so it is important to patronize local businesses if we want our downtowns to continue to be vibrant and a place to connect with our community. The Upper Valley has hundreds of locally owned businesses that create jobs, pay taxes, donate time and money to local charities, and provide expert services so it is important to keep your dollars local when shopping or eating out.

Looking for that perfect gift or cozy piece of clothing? Visit Fat Hat Clothing Co. in Quechee and White River Junction. Need a cup of joe in Hanover? Stop in at the Dirt Cowboy Cafe. Love to knit? Check out the amazing selection of yarns at Scratch Supply in Lebanon and while you’re in Lebanon – enjoy a wood-fired pizza at Three Tomatoes Trattoria, a cappuccino at Lucky’s Coffee Garage, or a lunch special at Marsh Brothers Deli at the Little Store. Search the Local First Alliance members directory for the dozens of other retail and restaurant members.

Shopping local first only gets us part way there. Banking local, supporting local professional services, and getting your news from local sources are also important things to do to support our Upper Valley community. Ledyard National Bank and Mascoma Bank invest in our communities by providing mortgages, business loans, and investment opportunities that  build our economy.  Using local professional services are also an important way to support our economy. A.B. Gile, Woodstock Insurance, Janson & Colgan, PLLC, and John Ring, CPA are just a few Local First Alliance members to consider for your professional services. Find more professional services in the Local First Alliance member directory.

Supporting local news sources not only helps our economy but also ensures that we continue to have news organizations that are rooted in our communities and focus on issues that matter to the Upper Valley. Subscribe to or advertise in the Valley News and the papers from Greater Good Media– the Lebanon, Quechee and Norwich Times. Support VT Digger, VPR and NHPR and visit DailyUV to get a truly Upper Valley perspective.

Think Local First! You can find all Local First members in the member directory.
Remember to Keep it Local & Look for the Logo. Local First Alliance!