$500K grant aims to help the Bristol economy

BRISTOL — U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., this past Wednesday announced that Bristol will get a half-million dollars in federal funds to advance a plan to build a business park in town. 

It was one of two Vermont economic development projects to be awarded significant infusions of federal funds; the other is in Gilman on the Connecticut River. 

In the Fiscal Year 2019 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, Leahy — the vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee — authored a unique partnership between the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) and the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) that will result in the agencies awarding $500,000 to the town of Bristol, and $390,130 to the Northeast Kingdom Development Corp. 

The award to Bristol will help advance development plans for a commercial park as part of a public-private partnership between the town and local developers Kevin Harper and David Blittersdorf, who are partners in Stoney Hill Properties LLC. Bristol has a solid track record of incubating successful business that ultimately choose to expand in other communities because of a lack of commercial space in town. The federal funds can support the construction of infrastructure such as a roadway, communication and storm drainage. 

Harper explained that the town of Bristol purchased the property that has come to be known as Stoney Hill from the state of Vermont some 20 years ago in the hopes of developing a business park there. 

“The recent purchase of lands adjacent to that property brought new life to the original vision by providing viable access to the Stoney Hill site,” Harper said. “With the NBRC/ EDA grant funds, Stoney Hill Properties and the town of Bristol can, at long last, build out the necessary infrastructure and site work so our successful startups can continue to grow in their home town and keep our jobs in the very village they live in.” 

Bristol Town Administrator Valerie Capels expressed excitement on behalf of the municipality 

“This project is a great example of various public and private organizations working together to achieve the shared goal of incubating, growing, and retaining businesses and jobs in Bristol and Addison County,” Capels said. “Despite its strong entrepreneurial environment, Bristol has lost such companies as Bee’s Wrap, Vermont Coffee Company, Autumn Harp and Aqua Vitea over the years due to the lack of adequate manufacturing space and related infrastructure and we are at risk of losing another. The ribbon-cutting for this new facility will be a long-awaited celebration.” 

The award to the Northeast Kingdom Development Corporation will provide funding to build out electrical infrastructure and power distribution at the former Gillman Paper Mill site. The infrastructure will allow commercial entities to develop on the site, creating jobs regionally in Vermont and New Hampshire. 

Leahy said: “Some development projects take years to come to fruition. This partnership between the NBRC and EDA leverages national and regional expertise to bring federal funds to bear for local Vermont communities. I’m pleased that with these funds Bristol and Gilman will be one step closer to achieving their respective economic visions.” 

Created in the 2008 Farm Bill, NBRC is a federal-state partnership with a mission to help alleviate economic distress and encourage private-sector job creation throughout the northern counties of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. Since its inception, the Commission has granted more than $56 million, which has leveraged more than $100 million to support 248 grants across the four states. In Vermont, including this year’s grantees, it has funded 74 projects totaling more than $16.3 million. 

Under the current draft appropriations bills marked up by the Senate Appropriations Committee, Leahy has secured $31 million for the NBRC. This includes a follow on partnership with the EDA and a partnership with the USDA. Once finalized by Congress, the NBRC will announce plans for future funding rounds. More information is available on NBRC’s website, www.nbrc. gov, including announcements about future funding opportunities. 

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Addison County Independent

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