Vermont Wood Pellet Company was among 16 companies and organizations to share more than $750,000 in grants from the Working Lands Enterprise Fund.
The North Clarendon pellet mill received a $38,153 infrastructure grant that will allow the company to upgrade its equipment and as a result increase efficiency and production.
By ramping up production to capacity, that eventually could lead the company to open another mill, said Chris Brooks, co-owner of Vermont Wood Pellet.
Last season, the mill turned out 15,500 tons of hardwood pellets.
With the upgrade in equipment, Brooks said capacity should reach 16,000 tons this season and more next season.
Given the demand, the company needs all the capacity it can muster for its distributors.
“(The upgrade) satisfies our stove stores because we are sold out for the coming year with the contracts that I’ve signed,” said company president Katie Adams. “So, they like our brand and they want more.”
The company also sets aside pellets for local customers who want to stop by the plant in the Airport Business Park.
Brooks said the grant will purchase a piece of equipment that will increase efficiency by eliminating the amount of wood waste, thereby increasing the amount of wood that’s turned into pellets.
“It really makes us far more efficient,” he said.
Increasing production will also free up space at the plant to store more logs. That in turn will allow the mill to potentially buy more wood, Brooks said.
The mill has 24 employees and helps support 100 local loggers who deliver to the plant.
Gov. Peter Shumlin, Agriculture, Food & Markets Secretary Chuck Ross, Commerce and Community Development Secretary Lawrence Miller, Forests, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Michael Snyder and the Working Lands Enterprise Board awarded the grants last week at Beaver Brook Tree Farm in Marshfield.
The awards include funding for statewide support services to provide technical assistance in the areas of business, market, workforce, infrastructure, and professional development for agricultural, forestry and forest products businesses. Funds to support infrastructure projects cover the state and multiple industry sectors.
The 16 grants awarded were selected from nearly 200 applications.
- The $400,000 in Capital and Infrastructure Investment Area grants were awarded to the following:
- Vermont Wood Pellet Company, Chris Brooks and Katie Adams, Rutland County, $38,153.
- A. McGovern Logging and Sawmilling, Andrew McGovern, Orange County, $20,000.
- Black River Produce/ Black River Meats, Jean Hamilton, Windsor County, $50,000.
- Champlain Orchards, Bill Suhr, Addison County, $75,000.
- Jasper Hill Farm, Andy and Mateo Kehler, Orleans County, $50,000.
- Vermont Refrigerated Storage, Barney Hodges, Addison County, $43,369.
- Vermont Wood Studios, Peggy and Ken Farabaugh, Windham County, $100,000.
- Vermont Woodworking School, Carina Driscoll, Franklin County, $50,000.
- The $350,000 in Service Provider Grant Area grants were awarded to the following:
- The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, Erin Buckwalter, Richmond, $20,000.
- Patricia A. Hannaford Regional Technical School District, Lynn Coale, Middlebury, $55,000.
- University of Vermont Extension Service, Mark Cannella, Berlin, $39,302.
- University of Vermont Extension Service, Vern Grubinger and Chris Callahan, Brattleboro, $40,000.
- Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Ela Chapin, Montpelier, $100,000.
- Vermont Meat and Poultry Processors’ Association, $15,000.
- Vermont Solid Waste District Managers Association, Teresa Kuczynski, Middlebury, $55,000.
- Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association, Erin Sheridan Lorentz, Rutland, $48,000.
The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative is administered by the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, in partnership with the Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
The Working Lands Enterprise Board is responsible for allocating almost $1 million in grant funds.
Information regarding the Working Lands Initiative (Working Lands Service Provider Grants and Capital and Infrastructure Investments), can be found at VermontWorkingLands.com.
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