Wednesday October 10, 2012

BELLOWS FALLS -- The culmination of two years of work and planning to help strengthen the local economy will kick off on Island Street this Saturday with a groundbreaking ceremony involving project directors and state politicians.

Sustainable Valley Group Director Gary Fox, State Rep. Matthew Trieber, D-Windham, and State Sen. Vince Illuzzi, R/D-Essex/Orleans, are a few of the individuals slated to be on hand at 30 Island St. from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in a celebration of the Green Island Project, a renovation venture designed to bring green businesses into the village.

The 6,000-square-foot building is on a 0.30-acre island parcel between the Connecticut River and the Bellows Falls Canal. It is across from the train station and expected to be fully leased once the renovations are completed. RReal Warm, a solar furnace manufacturer, along with Southeastern Vermont Community Action’s textile recycling business will be the first tenants.

Dave Bonta, an original SVG board member and RReal Warm start-up director, and Steve Geller, executive director of SEVCA and SVG Executive Committee non-board appointee since 2011, are also expected to be present.

The ceremony will include the signing of the two anchor tenants and a $226,000 financing commitment from the Vermont Economic Development Authority.

"This will be a photo op and a chance to talk about the project, what it will look like and recognize the people who helped it happen," Fox said.


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Bonta said RReal will take up 2,000 square feet while SEVCA occupies at least 2,500. He said SVG will rent the rest to a host business at a subsidized rate in an effort to start a strong business in the space. Bonta said several companies are vying for the spot.

"It’s a great entrepreneurial opportunity," he said.

Bonta said the real estate closing is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 17, and he plans to move RReal into the building as soon as it can be properly outfitted.

Fox said the idea for the Green Island Project -- one of several for SVG -- started in September 2010 and he joined the following month. Fox told the Reformer he had been working at Destination Bellows Falls for about six months when he decided to attend a meeting regarding the project and then became heavily involved. He said the original group consisted of stakeholders who devised an action plan to deal with the environmental and economic crises that had struck the area and the nation.

"The stakeholders saw this vision as a solution," Fox said.

Illuzzi, chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs, said he first threw his support behind the project following a post-Irene recovery hearing the committee held in Brattleboro on March 30. Fox testified at the hearing and Illuzzi decided he liked what he heard about the project.

"The opportunity that this project presents reflects Vermont values, including reducing our carbon footprint and creating jobs in Vermont," he told the Reformer on Wednesday. "I’m very pleased with the whole thing."

Trieber was unavailable for comment.

The Sustainable Valley Group worked in conjunction with high school students, parents and faculty in a Compass School Winterm project last winter, starting the demolition on the facility, which included damage from a burst sprinkler system.

SVG, a 501c3 nonprofit, is now working with Creative Workforce Solutions, which will work with trainees and contractors to provide hands-on training in the process of renovation and re-purposing this historic industrial facility.

According to Fox, passive solar furnaces will be manufactured in the facility, thus opening up job opportunities and sustainable business development. Workers will be trained in the installation of these units.

SVG will work with the manufacturer tenant to develop local sales, creating more job expansion for the installation of the units.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.