Welcome Fall with Local First Members

It’s autumn in the Upper Valley once again, and Local First Alliance members King Arthur Flour and the Co-op Food Stores make it easy to welcome the season in good taste.

kingarthurflour_biggerOn Saturday, September 17, King Arthur Flour hosts its 4th Annual Fall Festival from 10 am to 4 pm in Norwich. Kick off the baking season with demonstrations and interactive activities for kids and adults, live entertainment, raffles, and of course plenty of delicious local eats to sample and buy.

Then on Thursday, September 29, the Co-op Food Stores are partnering with Vital CoopLogoFS
Communities to offer a butchering demonstration from professional butcher Jeff Withington to help consumers learn to make the most of their local meats. The demo, held at the Co-op Culinary Learning Center in Lebanon, also features delicious local food and beverage samples. Reserve your tickets today!

A common theme among Local First Alliance members is their commitment to giving back to the Upper Valley community. King Arthur Flour and the Co-op Food Stores have been leading companies in these efforts for years. Recent examples of their generosity include King Arthur Flour’s August Garden Table supper, which raised nearly $4,000 for Hunger Free Vermont, and the Co-op’s new Pennies for Change program, which raises thousands of dollars every month for local nonprofit organizations.

Whether you’re shopping, cooking, or just looking for something fun to do, remember to think Local First!


Heat Local First: Lyme Green Heat

When Lyme native Morton Bailey started his business, Lyme Green Heat—a new member of Local First Alliance this year—he was just a guy in a truck delivering bagged wood heating pellets to residential customers around the Upper Valley heating their homes with pellet stoves.

Today the thirty-something has grown the business to become the only bulk distributor of wood pellets in New Hampshire, serving commercial and residential customers with wood pellet boilers—central heating—throughout New Hampshire, Vermont, and even into Massachusetts.

“Being a local family I guess I never planned to go too far anyways, and being here in the Upper Valley and in New England in general, heating is a big part of our lives,” Morton explained when asked about why he started this local business. “I’ve always been the outdoor type, and I’ve always valued and been part of the wood economy, and it just made sense to start to look at this fuel as a way to heat people’s homes with a locally based product.”

The shift to bulk pellet delivery for central heating systems has been a big change over the last few years, Morton said, and he couldn’t be more excited to bring what he sees as an easy, renewable, local fuel source to the region.

“This is wood heat for everybody,” he said. “It’s just as easy as burning oil or propane but it’s locally produced and grown in your backyard. You’re literally eliminating that fossil fuel use, and that’s important as we move forward. In the big energy picture of New England, home heating is our biggest energy consumer. Fortunately for us we have this incredible resource, which is our forests, and when they’re properly managed and maintained we’re able to harvest that wood, turn it into an energy source, and in turn it’s going to regrow and be there for future generations.”

Thanks to Morton, Lyme boasts the highest rate per capita of residential wood pellet boilers in the state. And it’s not just because of his enthusiasm and his connections in town; it’s also because of his work to help establish and expand the New Hampshire Wood-Pellet Central-Heating Rebate Program, which now offers residents rebates of 40% of installed cost up to $10,000 for pellet boilers.

When Morton started bulk delivery seven years ago he sold 100 tons of fuel; last year he delivered nearly 5,000 tons. The wood pellet fuel market is growing, but it’s not easy.

“It’s a tough market going up against oil and gas,” he said. “As a company we see so much value in this whole local movement. The local food movement has had such an impact, and we want to be on the same level.”

In addition to using local products and serving local customers, Lyme Green Heat supports the local community and strives to do more. Last Arbor Day they provided saplings for the students at the Lyme School – a Lyme Green Heat customer – to plant and to learn more about how they heat their school. Lyme Green Heat also sponsored Vital Communities’ Upper Valley Energy Committee Roundtable in April.

“We’re just getting started on this end of things but I see it as a nice way for us to continue to community-build with our little enterprise,” Morton said.

Inspiring Positive Community: Village Green Publishing

Guest post by Jen MacMillen, Publisher

The main question we must continue to ask ourselves is, “Why are we here doing what we do?”

When we boil it down to a common essence, one could argue that it’s to engage in positive community. Vital Communities clearly plays a significant role in building positive community by unifying the Upper Valley and finding the common core issues that, if addressed and improved upon, will benefit the greater good. Village Green Publishing strives to provide a similar service by using the printed page.

For the most part, everyone belongs to at least one community and oftentimes is a member of many sub-communities. We take our kids to school; we volunteer at the library; we shop at our local merchants. Each of these interactions creates opportunities for community building, and so it goes: what goes around comes around. We all live, work, play, raise families, and help our neighbors, often in a subconscious need to foster positive community. It’s built into our genes. To be social is a survival mechanism. In these modern times, we have the luxury of engaging in positive community for the sheer fact that it feels good to be a good citizen!

Village Green Publishing provides a vehicle for local stories to inspire positive community. The Quechee Times, the Norwich Times, and the Lebanon Times are print publications that mail directly to every address in their respective communities—free of charge. The philosophy behind this method of distribution is that in order to truly serve a community and inspire readers to engage in positive, community-building efforts, our publications must reach every single household—not just those who can or wish to pay for it.

And, for the business members of our communities, these papers serve as a mutually beneficial medium of exchange. Our local merchants and business owners have well-read vehicles in which to share their messages with community members, and, with the money they pay for their space, we are able to produce a top-quality publication and get it in the hands of those loyal community members.

Again, what goes around, comes around.

As a Local First Alliance member and a strong believer in supporting the local economy, Village Green Publishing is doing its part to keep the upward spiral of positive momentum going by creating publications which feature only the “good people, good places, and good things happening” in each of the communities served. By focusing on the positive rather than the sensationalist, doom-and-gloom messages of mainstream media, readers are able to feel good about where they live and with whom they do business, since most likely it’s with a neighbor they just read about in the last edition!

Vital Communities’ name alone points to the importance of creating a strong, healthy, positive community for the well-being of its entire citizen body. Village Green Publishing has the privilege of telling the stories of how these community efforts take shape.

Mud Season in New England

There are two things New Englanders can count on – mud season and taxes. The bright side of mud season is that it means we’ve made it through yet another winter. The good news about your taxes is that Local First Alliance has a great local business member to help with that.

John Ring, Certified Public Accountant (CPA), has lived in the Upper Valley for more than 40 years and is proud to be an 11th-generation Northern New Englander and a Local First Alliance member. Born and raised in Claremont, John now works out of his home in Norwich and has been a CPA since 1971. He knows how hard it is to make it through a winter here and that the last thing you need is trouble with your taxes. As a CPA who calls the Upper Valley home, he is an advocate of shopping and banking locally as much as possible.

Just in case you are nervous about the perils of mud season and driving on those back roads, Local First has you covered there, too.

A.B. Gile, Inc. Insurance, based in West Lebanon, combines a deep sense of community with an understanding of local insurance needs. Founded in 1871, they offer auto, home, renters, and commercial insurance for private and business clients. If you’ve become distracted with thoughts of summer and warmer days, they also offer boat insurance.

What happens when you do business with a great Local First member like A.B. Gile? They reinvest their profits in our community. This local business alone contributes to more than 75 nonprofits throughout the Upper Valley region.

“For almost 140 years, A.B. Gile has been guided by three rules: to be fair and honest, interested in our clients and their problems, and to treat our clients’ needs as if they were our own,” said Alan Harkabus, small business claims manager for A.B.Gile. “A.B. Gile’s community support has included supporting youth sports, the arts, Special Olympics, law enforcement, and initiatives like Vital Communities. It is our responsibility to give back to the community we live in.”

For more dedicated Local First members who can meet your shopping and service needs, visit our online directory.

Thank you for supporting our Upper Valley economy. Wishing you warm thoughts for a beautiful spring.

Update Your Branding, Style and Technology

Now that we’re through the holidays, it’s time to turn to local service providers to help us fulfill some of those holiday resolutions. Maybe your plan for 2015 is to be more tech savvy, or to get that start-up business off the ground. Local First Alliance members can help update your branding, style, and technology while supporting our local economy.

For more than 25 years, Systems Plus Computers in Lebanon, New Hampshire, has been the Upper Valley’s source for computer products and services. Did you get some holiday gadgets you aren’t quite sure how to use? Not to worry. Systems Plus has a staff of trained IT professionals that will gladly guide you through new computer setup, upgrades, data migration, and conversions. And if you didn’t get the gadget you were hoping for, Systems Plus has it.

As a Local First Alliance member, Systems Plus has also made a commitment to reinvest your hard-earned money into the community by donating to more than 100 local organizations every year! Owner and Local First Steering Committee member Jake Blum also works to assist charities and nonprofits with computer and IT requirements through contributions, reduced pricing, and technical support.

Another Local First member who is paying it forward is Erika Gavin, owner of Erika Gavin Designs. Her long list of skills includes branding, art direction, publication design, illustration, photo editing, and corporate marketing. Like Jake, Erika works to give back to the community using her unique set of skills and is responsible for the creation of our beautiful Local First Alliance logo. Erika knows how to make your business marketing dollars count when it comes to the appearance of your business and brand. As a member of the community, she also has a unique understanding of our Upper Valley market and the design needs of a small, local business.

Be sure to search our online directory for other Local First Alliance members who can help you check off the New Year to-do list and keep our community strong, sustainable, and vibrant.

Reinvesting In The Community

Local First Alliance strives to help our community understand how local, independent businesses benefit the Upper Valley economy. We frequently say that local businesses reinvest in the region and provide jobs, but they also create a supportive network for other area businesses, nonprofits, and charities.

Local First Alliance member Great Eastern Radio, based in West Lebanon, owns 16 stations spanning Central Vermont, New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, and the Upper Valley. Whether you’re looking for oldies, talk radio, or the best hits of today, Great Eastern has it all.

What it also has is a vested interest in our community. Great Eastern has dedicated countless free and discounted hours to promoting our region’s charities and nonprofits big and small.

“Reinvesting our time in the communities we serve is important, from food drives for local food pantries to children’s charities, including new initiatives in place this year for groups like 68 Hours of Hunger, 2015 is becoming a launching pad for great platforms like our “KIXX Cares for Kids” campaign, a yearlong effort embracing all areas of needs for children in our region,” said Nichole Romano, marketing director at Great Eastern Radio. “Great Eastern Radio is pleased to be a member and partner with Local First Alliance, with its focus on Main Street businesses and community minded efforts.”

Another Local First Alliance business doing its part to support our region is Norwich-based, Nomad Communications. This homegrown firm, with a team including a few four-legged friends, works to expand the reach of its clients through creative marketing. Nomad has large international clients, but with a base in the Upper Valley, the team has a unique grasp of our region’s marketing needs and enjoys working locally for our small businesses. You’ve likely seen Nomad’s eye-catching designs – including in logos and campaigns for Kimball Union Academy, Lake Morey Resort, Vermont Village Applesauce, Vermont Button Cookies, and Vital Communities – and not even known it. We encourage you to join us in our efforts to support local businesses that give back to the community and keep our Upper Valley vital. To find more great local businesses, check out our online directory.

Village Green Publishing, Fat Hat and the 19 Days

Local First Alliance is thrilled to help grow “The 19 Days” local holiday shopping and giving event beyond the boundaries of Norwich. December 1 through 19, Local First Alliance members and many local businesses will give a portion of their sales to the Upper Valley Haven through this campaign to encourage local spending and promote charitable giving. With Dan Fraser of Dan and Whit’s leading the charge and Norwich as the epicenter, local businesses from throughout the region are excited to support and expand this community effort.

For Local First Alliance member Village Green Publishing, publisher of the Lebanon Times, Norwich Times, and Quechee Times, participation in this campaign was an easy decision.

“Village Green Publishing’s mission is to highlight the ‘good people, good places, and good things happening’ in the communities it serves. For us, it’s all about building positive community and inspiring each other to do good things in our world,” said owner Jennifer MacMillen. “Our business is built on creating reciprocal relationships between the businesses and readers we serve. ‘What goes around comes around’ holds true, especially at the local level. We believe in patronizing our local merchants almost as our civic duty to keep the flow of money circulating strongly within our shared local economy.”

Fat Hat Clothing Co. in Quechee, Vermont, is another Local First Alliance business eager to help The 19 Days grow. Fat Hat Clothing Co. was one of the first businesses outside of Norwich to ask to participate this year.

“We are happy to be a part of this during the holidays,” said owner Joan Ecker. “We have a gift for everyone in our store, and tons of stocking stuffers. Much of our silver jewelry is hand-made by my daughter, with new pieces being added every day. And all of our clothing is made in America.”

How can you support The 19 Days? Shop at participating businesses! Click here to see a list of our members and other businesses involved. We encourage you to “Think Local First” this holiday season when shopping for goods or services.

Spend a little – give a lot.

Warmest wishes for a joyous season from Local First Alliance.

Ledyard National Bank

Ledyard National Bank Sponsors 19 Days

Local First Alliance isn’t just about keeping money in our local economy; it’s also about giving back to the community we call home. Local First Alliance member Ledyard National Bank will be standing behind this statement on December 1 as an underwriting sponsor of The 19 Days of Norwich campaign. This holiday local-spending campaign, created by Dan Fraser of Dan & Whit’s in Norwich, raises donations for the Upper Valley Haven, which provides shelter, food, and services for people experiencing homelessness. Now in its second year, Local First Alliance businesses will help Norwich expand this exciting project throughout the Upper Valley.

The premise of the campaign is simple. This December 1-20, participating locally owned businesses will donate 1% of their sales of a specific product, service, or their overall sales to the Haven. Through a series of events, discounts, and promotions, shoppers are encouraged to shop locally and make their dollars count. As this year’s holiday season fast approaches, Local First Alliance members from throughout the Upper Valley have joined the effort to promote shopping locally and encourage this important reinvestment in our community.

The concept arose in 2013 when Fraser discovered that the Haven was experiencing a severe shortage of food around the holiday season. He quickly mobilized the town of Norwich and its local business owners, recruiting Norwich businesses to donate “1% for the Haven” in what became “The 19 Days of Norwich.” The effort raised $27,860 and 12.5 tons of food for the Haven. This year, with Ledyard National Bank as a sponsor and the participation of Local First Alliance members, we can expect another impressive outcome.

“I am doing this because we need to be aware that right here in Norwich, and throughout the Upper Valley, hunger is an issue for many people,” said Fraser, a Local First Alliance member. “I started this because our friends and neighbors are the ones in need – these are the people who we work with, children who attend our schools, families that live next door to you or just down the road. I am thrilled that Local First Alliance is pairing with us in this effort. People are slowly realizing that supporting local business matters. Money spent locally stays local.”

On top of their donation, Dan & Whit’s is also selling a cookbook with all proceeds going to the Haven. Breakfasts, canned food drives, wine tastings, open houses, and holiday specials will be available throughout Norwich and the Upper Valley during the 19 days. Shoppers can stop by Dan & Whit’s or a participating businesses. You can find a calendar of ongoing events here.

Local businesses interested in joining “The 19 Days of Norwich” campaign may contact Emily@VitalCommunities.org.

Mascoma Savings Bank

Champion Member Mascoma Savings Bank

Local First Alliance works to support our local independent businesses. I often hear people say, “I shop locally when I can,” or “There a few local restaurants I always go to.” My response to that is, “GREAT! Those are wonderful ways to reinvest in our community.”

I do, however, know that it’s not realistic to expect someone to buy EVERYTHING locally. Local First Alliance simply asks you to “Think Local First” whenever possible. Buying local isn’t always about the items you purchase – it’s about the service providers you choose, too.

Mascoma Savings Bank is one of Local First Alliance’s Champion members. A mutually owned business, Mascoma answers directly to its customers and puts significant time and money into the community. I wanted to see for myself just how this bank reinvests our hard-earned, local dollars, so I Googled “Mascoma Savings Bank Sponsorships.”The first page of results showed Mascoma’s support of the Hartland Farmers’ Market, the Upper Valley Haven, the Upper Valley Music Center, and the Vermont Housing Finance Agency. This is our local bank supporting our local causes. Not national organizations, but the small ones that are close to home.

As a Local First Alliance member, Mascoma Savings Bank has made a commitment to support our region’s economy. All of our members have. So, the next time you are thinking of a place to shop, or eat, OR bank, we ask that you take moment and “Think Local First.” Keep your money hard at work in the Upper Valley.

Local First Alliance

John Ring (CPA)

Local First Alliance is a coalition of independent business owners that have made a commitment to support each other and strengthen our region’s economy. We look for members who ‘walk the walk’ when it comes to reinvesting in our Upper Valley economy.

John Ring, Certified Public Accountant (CPA), is the definition of a vested Local First Alliance member. What sets John apart from others in his field are his devotion to the Upper Valley and his connection to its heritage. He has lived in the Upper Valley for more than 40 years and is proud to be an 11th generation Northern New Englander hailing from such trail blazers as Daniel Webster and the Vermont poet/abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier. Born and raised in Claremont, N.H., John now works out of his home in Norwich, Vt., and has been a CPA since 1971.

“Local First Alliance matches my personal beliefs as a local”, says John. “I only represent local clients and I’m happy when they’re successful. Having grown up in Claremont, I’ve experienced first-hand what happens when we lose our local businesses and only focus on price and convenience.”

Aside from calling this area home, John makes a concerted effort to shop at, and do business with, other Local First Alliance members and locally based businesses. A huge advocate of recycling and environmental sustainability, John also has a personal goal to free himself of the use of any internal combustion engines.

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