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Bottom Line: Deal helps LED equipment company move into new facility in Randolph

  • John Lippman. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Business Writer
Saturday, June 22, 2019

The lights — LED, naturally — are now on at illumination company LEDdynamics’ new manufacturing plant in Randolph, the crowning of an effort to keep an important Vermont startup in the Upper Valley.

LEDdynamics, which designs and builds LED drivers, light engines, light modules, fixtures and controls that it wholesales to distributors for use in cabinet, display and shelf lighting systems, has moved into a new $5 million plant on Beanville Road.

The 28,000-square-foot facility, only 1.3 miles from the former Ethan Allen furniture factory where LEDynamics had been since 2004, will allow the approximately 65-employee company room to expand to 100 employees, company president Bill McGrath told me.

But not before Randolph almost lost one of its brightest employers.

“We were definitely on our way out of Vermont” as other municipalities, especially those in New Hampshire and New York, were trying to entice away the tech company, McGrath said.

But a plan engineered by the Green Mountain Economic Development Corp., one of the state’s 12 regional development nonprofits that serves 30 towns in Orange and Windsor counties, kept LEDdynamics from bolting the Green Mountain State.

LEDdynamics’ new facility is a feather in the cap for Bob Haynes, executive director of GMEDC, who spent 18 months running between the company and state agencies to nail down the permits, grants and financing to bring the project home.

“They’d outgrown their space and wanted to stay in Randolph, but other (places) were wooing them,” Haynes said. “There is a strong historical and practical connection between LEDdynamics and the town. They have education and training programs with the high school as well as Vermont Technical College, and a lot of employees also live there.”

Pulling up stakes would have been a blow to Randolph’s economy — not to mention pride — just as the town has been rebounding as a business hub in the center of the state.

GMEDC won a $1 million community development block grant that defrayed the construction cost and negotiated another 20-year, $3.8 million mortgage from the Vermont Economic Development Authority. LEDynamics contributed $200,000 of its own money to the effort.

As a result, GMEDC, which oversaw the purchase of the 7-acre parcel behind Freedom Foods outside of downtown Randolph, owns the property and building, which LEDdynamics leases from the nonprofit. The company retains an option to buy the asset from GMEDC if it wants.

The LEDdynamics facility is the third manufacturing property the organization owns after that of furniture maker Pompanoosuc Mills in East Thetford and Advanced Illumination in Rochester, Vt., which designs illumination and imaging systems for manufacturers.

Colorado tech executive (and Springfield, Vt., native) tapped to run tech hub project in his hometown

Trevor Barlow, a Proctorsville, Vt., resident and former tech executive who ran as an independent for Vermont governor last year, has been tapped to run a Springfield nonprofit launched to train workers in digital skills and provide technical, management and financial support for digital startup ventures.

The Black River Innovation Campus, or BRIC, is a collaboration between the Springfield Regional Development Corp. and Matt Dunne’s Hartland-based Center for Rural Innovation that aims to revitalize the once-legendary center of the tool industry into a hub for the new digital economy. The partners to date have raised more than $2.5 million in seed money from private and public sources, including a $724,000 federal grant in December, to support its innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives.

Barlow, a 1990 graduate of Springfield High School who headed a Denver software company until he returned to Vermont five years ago, will lead BRIC’s mission in computer science education, fostering entrepreneurship and managing the program to attract tech workers to work remotely from space the organization provides around town, according to Bob Flint, executive director of SRDC.

He also will be tasked with fundraising, liaising with regional and national tech employers and identifying resources and mentorships for entrepreneurs based at BRIC.

Flint, who said Barlow’s job will be “to flesh all this out,” noted “the plan wasn’t to hire someone from Springfield. We did a national search because we wanted to have a fresh perspective. The cool thing is Trevor had had that experience. He has been on the outside and seen how the tech world works.”

Since BRIC was announced last September, the organization has been steadily laying bricks to build a “digital ecosystem,” Flint said. There is a purchase and sale agreement to acquire the former Park Street School building, which will be BRIC’s base of operations. Flint said the first remote tech worker arrived this week and five or 10 more are expected by the fall.

Although the purchase of the former elementary school building has not yet closed, Flint said BRIC will be occupying some makeshift offices within the next month. The redevelopment cost for the Park Street School has been pegged at $20 million to $24 million.

BRIC also is offering a free coding camp this summer to teach middle and high school girls how to design and program video games.

Emergency pet care clinic SAVES in Lebanon cuts daytime hours

When the Lebanon emergency veterinary clinic SAVES suddenly stopped being open during the day earlier this month, pet owners were wondering what had happened. Some people bringing their pet to the walk-in critical care clinic learned from a notice posted on the door the SAVES would be open henceforth only for overnight and weekend emergencies.

The cutback in hours at the clinic, located on Evans Drive off Route 120, “was due to lack of volume in daytime clients,” said Lonna Battles, a spokeswoman for Ethos Veterinary Health, the Massachusetts-based owner of SAVES that operates 14 emergency vet clinics in the U.S., including the six-clinic IVG Hospitals chain in New England of which SAVES is a part.

“The overhead of keeping it open half the day” wasn’t justified by the number of visits, she said, adding that the reduced hours resulted in four employees in the “client care team” at SAVES being “transitioned,” including one who now works now works remotely from home to take incoming calls and two others with whom Ethos is working “to find them a place in a veterinary” clinic (Battles did not have information about the fourth employee).

SAVES also is looking to hire two emergency veterinarians at its Lebanon clinic, according to postings for open positions on the Ethos website.

The cutback in hours is actually a return to the previous overnight, weekend and holiday schedule SAVES offered before it expanded to 24/7 coverage in 2017. SAVES was acquired by IVG Hospitals in 2014, which a year later merged with three other veterinarian groups around the country to form Ethos Veterinary Health

Calls to SAVES in Lebanon are now routed to the company’s central call center in Woburn, Mass., which processes all incoming calls to Ethos hospitals.

John Lippman can be reached at jlippman@vnews.com.