After going through a VCRD Community Visit process in 2016, and following up on the goals in the NEK Regional Food System plan, the need for more infrastructure in our area became very clear, both for farm and food businesses, and other economic sectors.
In 2016, local businesses in Hardwick began to meet regularly, discussing the need for warehouse space, shared resources and more. After the successful construction and operation of the Vt Food Venture Center by the Center for an Agricultural Economy, many small food and farm enterpreneurs get technical assistance in Hardwick, or scale up their home recipes, but they aren't able to graduate to the next stage locally. Other mature businesses in the area, whether in the local food sector or not, also have expressed that the infrastructure to grow in the region's small towns can be limited. Distribution, storage, inventory management - all these and other resources must be aligned for any business to grow.
Hardwick Announces Plans for New Manufacturing and Value-Added Business Center
The Town of Hardwick, working with the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE) and Northeastern Vermont Development Association (NVDA) are announcing the release of the Hardwick Business Accelerator Feasibility Study. The study, conducted by Kitchen Table Consultants and released this spring, gathered testimony and assessment from dozens of one-on-one interviews with area businesses and market research. In developing this project, alignment with NEK economic development priorities and regional planning goals, was also very important. The study is available here: hardwickvt.org.
“This work helps to set the direction for the next phase of business growth for our area,” said Sarah Waring, Executive Director at the CAE. “We’ve been working with many partners to get to this stage, and we are so excited.”
The feasibility study assessed the need to create local jobs, support existing businesses, and create a draw for entrepreneurs, while identifying specific clustered growth with highest potential growth opportunities: cheese aging and distribution capacity, heirloom wood and production space, local food production and snack bar, and manufacturing innovation and prototyping. Additionally, an artisan incubator space which would be a shared space for clean industry needs could be a good fit. The study also evaluated three potential locations for the business accelerator and ultimately selected the former Greensboro Garage site, whose historic “yellow barn” functions as an iconic gateway to Hardwick’s downtown business core.
“Hardwick is a good place for businesses to grow,” says Jon Jewett, Town Manager, “and this project presents the opportunity to build a facility that meets the needs of multiple anchor tenants. The potential business partners will have a commitment to Vermont and our region and be supportive of our local economy and community.”
The initial feasibility study was funded by a Municipal Planning Grant awarded to the Town of Hardwick by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. As the project now enters the critical business planning, design, and permitting phases, the three partnered entities are working to leverage funds from state and federal partners, such as USDA Rural Development, the Economic Development Administration and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development as well as private investors. The group has already been awarded a Northern Borders Regional Commission Grant to purchase the site and plans to start construction in 2019.
“In the past years, these collaborative projects have been successful in many parts of the state, and especially in this part of the NEK, which is the home of the Vermont Food Venture Center., says David Snedeker of NVDA. “Hardwick has the drive to make this project work for our community.”
The CAE is a non profit organization, focusing on advancing the local food system through economic and community development projects. NVDA is the regional planning commission and economic development corporation serving the three counties of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom: Caledonia, Essex, and Orleans.