Couple Finds the Perfect Mix in Bennington

Couple Finds the Perfect Mix in Bennington

John Fisher and his wife had taken a quick trip to Vermont to purchase an Airstream camper. They lived and traveled in the camper full time for a year before settling in San Francisco where his wife works. Despite the opportunity, Fisher remembers “we had a little spot in our heart back in Vermont.” Originally from western Massachusetts, he had loved living in – and exploring – rural areas before the couple became residents of a big city for the first time.

When San Francisco started to lock down early in the pandemic, the Fishers’ perspective about the quality of life they were seeking quickly shifted and their daydreams about living in Vermont became more tangible. “We loved hiking and being outdoors, I wanted to be closer to my parents as they get older, and I wanted to reconnect to the rich history in the region,” he recalled. “When we asked ourselves ‘Where can we afford to live?’ Vermont felt like the right choice.”

His wife’s job became fully remote, and they suddenly had the flexibility and security to “find the perfect mix” of affordability, career opportunities for Fisher, and proximity to family and recreation opportunities, which they discovered in southwestern Vermont’s Bennington.

As an early childhood and elementary school educator, Fisher secured a teaching position in the local school system. To navigate the transition, he worked closely with his new supervisor who also supported his application for the Worker Relocation Grant Program.

The grant helped the couple pay their first heating bills this winter. “After draining our savings to move across the country, we are grateful for this program,” he said, “We weren’t eligible for the first round of incentives for remote workers back before my wife started working from home, but we kept checking back until the Worker Relocation incentive was announced. It made moving to Vermont a more affordable choice.”

“We’ve had a good start in Vermont, a good foundation of career, place to live, and community,” Fisher reflected.

Coming from a notably walkable city, Fisher is pleasantly surprised he can live in town and still walk places. “It’s the best of both worlds experience for me; I walk to local restaurants and businesses, the rec center is accessible and has a full-sized pool, and the Appalachian and Long trails are right in my backyard. I look forward to spending a lot of time hiking on them this summer.”

Until then, he’s quickly building ties in the community and connecting to local history. “I met someone while shopping at the farmers market who connected me with the local community theater. I joined a production right away called ‘Voices from the Grave’ which brings to life community members who have passed away. I got to know people quickly and got a crash course in Vermont history.

One Family’s Northeast Kingdom Dream Comes True

One Family’s Northeast Kingdom Dream Comes True

After years of vacationing in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, John Serlis and his family made the recreation haven their permanent home.

“Settling into the area was a dream of ours for a long time,” he said. Serlis recalls enjoying the open spaces, rolling farms and hospitable people on trips from his childhood home in Montreal, Canada.

As an adult, he sought to escape the congestion of Massachusetts’ north shore and, in the peak of summer, the family of four traded in city life for cool mountain air. “Moving was a great choice for me and my family because of all the outdoor activities we can enjoy here. We fish the nearby lakes, mountain bike, and enjoy our powersports toys right on our property,” he said, but the journey wasn’t without its challenges.

While establishing his residence in Vermont and securing a new sales position at a local farm equipment dealer, Serlis applied for the Worker Relocation Grant Program to assist with some of the costs and make the family’s move a little easier. He said, “the program definitely helped us with the expense so we could make it work.”

Serlis’s family is enjoying their peaceful new environment and making connections in their community. Not only is he even closer to family members still across the border in Montreal, but he also feels “blessed with the great people we’ve met over the years who are helping us move forward up here in the NEK.”

Serlis plans to give back to the community, too. “As an outdoor family with a powersports background, we’re hoping to set up a training facility for off-road bikes for the younger kids in the region.”

But for now, “it’s wintertime up here and we’re indoors staying warm.”

Autumn Engagement Leads to Long Term Love for Vermont

Autumn Engagement Leads to Long Term Love for Vermont

The Green Mountains will forever serve as the picturesque backdrop to Joe Viets’ engagement memories. Over Easter weekend, the couple made their first trip to Montpelier together to visit his soon-to-be in-laws. They stayed downtown at the Capital Plaza and were engaged during a family meal at J. Morgan’s Steakhouse, all according to plan. What Viets hadn’t planned on was falling in love with his partner’s home state.

Having grown up in a small farming town in rural Ohio, Viets felt “immediately at home and comfortable” touring amongst the trees that cover central Vermont’s hills and valleys – elevation being the only difference.

A few short months after their engagement, the couple closed on a home in nearby Bethel and are enjoying the process of fixing it up. “We adore this little town,” Viets said. “We try to do all our shopping locally – the little greenhouse, the hardware store, the lumber store – when we go in, they know us by name.”

As two registered nurses, the couple had no problem relocating their positions at the VA Hospital from Colorado Springs to White River Junction, where they learned they were eligible for the Worker Relocation Grant Program.

“When we decided to move to Vermont, I had known about the Remote Worker Grant Program, but we didn’t qualify for that program given our line of work,” Viets explains, “but it ultimately drew our attention to the Relocated Worker program when it was announced later.” The extra funding proved invaluable when it came time for some of their more costly home renovations.

Outside of work and working on their house, Viets and his fiancé are busy planning an October wedding ceremony in the little church just two doors down the street from their new home. They also plan to spend much of their first Vermont winter together outside on the new snowshoes they bought to explore nearby trails and to meet up with other local enthusiasts for group excursions.

“We’re hoping for more snowfall this winter!”

Get to Know Bennington, Vermont

Get to Know Bennington, Vermont

Nestled in southern Vermont, Bennington is an ideal home for those seeking more space in a bustling historic downtown.

Among the most populous towns in Vermont, Bennington is home to an eclectic mosaic of people including artists, musicians, brewers, farmers, and business professionals. The Shires Young Professionals, an active group for all adults offering mixers, networking opportunities, and family events, seeks to engage and welcome new residents and help them find their place within the Bennington community. Annual events like Garlic Town, USA and a summer and winter homebrew festival fill the town’s calendar and amenities like parks, team sports, and a renovated recreation center help families find their niche. Local food is plentiful in the Bennington area, with CSAs from area farms supplementing grocery lists, farmers markets county-wide, and restaurants offering farm-to-table fare. Nearby Manchester is home to a plethora of shopping and dining options, including the Silver Fork, voted the most romantic date-night restaurant in the U.S. by TripAdvisor reviewers in 2021.

Job opportunities in Bennington await for those who work in healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing, education, and the public sector. The region’s largest employer is Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, a five-time Magnet award-winning hospital with strong support for nursing and medical staff. The Vermont Veterans’ Home, Bennington College, the Southwestern Vermont Supervisory Union, comprising a collection of area schools including Mount Anthony Union High School, a slew of manufacturing companies, and local government round out Bennington’s industries. Bennington also has many hospitality employers, including restaurants, lodging properties, and retail. Remote workers can benefit from the region’s proximity to major metropolitan areas.

Further reading: You Moved to Southern Vermont… Now What?

Housing in Bennington ranges from striking old-style buildings dating from the town’s founding years to modern condos and apartments. According to Matt Harrington, executive director of the Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce, three new housing projects will wrap up in 2023, and another handful are planned for the coming five years. Harrington recommends those considering relocating to Bennington contact local real estate agents and keep up with the market online and by checking out the local newspaper, the Bennington Banner.

Surrounding historic downtown Bennington, Bennington County is home to almost 36,000 people and is enveloped by the lush Green Mountain Forest, its skyline punctuated by the Taconic Mountain Range. When Bennington was originally settled in 1749, its residents came together to build a community gristmill powered by the rushing Walloomsac River, which runs through and around the historic downtown. Bennington is home to the Bennington Battle Monument, Vermont’s tallest man-made structure. Spearing the sky at 306 feet, it commemorates the 1777 Battle of Bennington, when militia from Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts notched a pivotal Revolutionary War victory against the British. The region is home to the Bennington Museum, collecting and exhibiting American historic art with miles of trails on its grounds. Three covered bridges crisscross Bennington’s downtown with more region-wide. The Oldcastle Theatre Company, among the longest-running professional theatre groups in the country, also calls the town home. The Long Trail, a 272-mile hiking trail that runs the length of Vermont, begins in the Bennington region; state parks and trail networks, like the Bennington Area Trail System, also welcome hikers and mountain bikers. Downtown Bennington is served by the Green Mountain Express bus system, connecting it to Burlington, Rutland, and Albany, N.Y., as well as other destinations within Vermont.

The prospect of relocation includes a lot of decision-making. Programs both statewide and region-specific can help potential new Vermonters find information, answers to their questions, and planning resources for a move. Connect with a Vermonter to get answers in your inbox, as well as an introduction to a regional partner who can help build relationships with real estate agents, employers, and community members in your region. Kick off a job search by browsing positions currently open in Vermont. Tools, incentives, and special programs can help those looking to expand or relocate their businesses to Vermont.

Acquisition Boosts Clean Energy and Tech Sector Jobs in Vermont

Acquisition Boosts Clean Energy and Tech Sector Jobs in Vermont

Home to more than 2,000 technology businesses, Vermont’s tech sector employs over 22,000 workers – 6.8% of the state’s total workforce and a segment that earns about 70% more than the median statewide wage, according to a 2021 CompTIA’s Cyberstates report. The tech sector has a direct impact of $2.6 billion on the state’s economy or 8.3% of the total.

“You can’t judge a book by its cover,” said Jay Bellows, president of KORE Power. “The technology market here is impressive and a lot of people don’t realize how many emerging technologies are coming from Vermont or how rapidly the sector is expanding here.”

Bellows can personally attest to this growth, having recently led Waterbury, Vt.-based energy storage company Northern Reliability through an acquisition by KORE Power, a battery manufacturer headquartered in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The companies partnered on battery energy storage projects and through the new formation as KORE Solutions will accelerate the deployment of their systems while continuing to innovate as the demand for clean energy surges.

Lucas Comstock [right] and Nick Meerburg work on an energy storage unit in Northern Reliability’s Waterbury, Vermont workshop. KORE Power has acquired Northern Reliability and launched KORE Solutions, the first US-based vertically integrated energy storage solution provider. Photo courtesy KORE Power.

Innovations in Energy Storage

Bellows said that KORE is dedicated to solving the challenges that are standing in the way of electrification – replacing fossil fuels with clean energy sources like wind and solar. Electric transportation – which is poised for rapid growth – creates one such challenge. “The United States has lofty goals of taking 290 million combustion engines off the road and replacing them with energy consumers,” he said, “Where does all that energy come from?”

He looks to EV growth as the biggest opportunity for energy storage and considers how solar power, paired with energy storage, can support the increased pressure on the electric grid driven by the transition to electric vehicles.

While making energy more accessible for transportation applications, Bellows’ team is also focused on ensuring energy storage is transportable. This spring, the Waterbury facility plans to roll out the first mobile energy storage systems of its kind, through a joint venture previously established with KORE Power called NOMAD.

“These are market changing,” said Bellows. “They allow utilities and other customers to share a singular asset instead of building infrastructure that’s locked in place. Reducing the costs associated with fixed energy storage lowers the barrier to entry and makes the technology more readily available for applications such as disaster relief.”

The company already helped install a battery backup system at the Vermont State House, the first in the nation with such a system. “We have been able to work closely with the Governor,” said Bellows. “It’s been great to work with the State and we enjoy doing so as much as possible.”

Building a Business Support Network

In prior decades, Northern Reliability focused on growing its reputation in the international market while strengthening its community ties. Bellows first met Governor Scott in 2018 while on a trade mission to Montreal, organized by the Vermont Department of Economic Development.

Governor Phil Scott (left) signs the cabinet housing for a battery power storage unit in production for the Vermont State House while touring Northern Reliability’s Waterbury, Vermont facility. Vermont’s State House is the first in the nation to install battery backup power. Photo courtesy Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

The mission was financed through the department’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP), which also provided support for Northern Reliability’s sales team to attend international trade shows, build a foreign language website, and produce digital marketing assets. “State opportunities like STEP grants helped to open more doors, expand our markets, and bring valued international partners to our team,” said Gregg Noble, vice president of sales and development.

Bellows also credits the accessibility of business mentorship and funding opportunities available through a network of State partnerships for Vermont’s ability to support growth-stage companies. The Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies assisted Northern Reliability in securing investment financing through its Seed Capital Fund, which was established by the Vermont Legislature in 2010. Northern Reliability also worked with the Flexible Capital Fund, which provides financing and technical assistance for growing companies in Vermont’s green economy.

“The Flex Fund hit the middle road unlike the options you’d find in the bigger cities with high returns and high percentages. The type of financing available to us here feels specific to Vermont that I don’t think you get in other places,” said Bellows, “The support we got went well beyond the funding, too. We felt like we had a partner we could lean on in challenging times to help get us to the next level.”

Looking to the Future

KORE Power agreed to not only maintain but to expand the Vermont facility with additional space and staff planned for the Waterbury operation. Bellows attributes the decision to keep the company local to the very attributes he appreciates about living and doing business in the Green Mountains.

“This state is an amazing place,” Bellows said. “When people move here, they move here for a reason. When people ask if we’re going to stay in Vermont I say ‘yes, why would we ever leave?’ I am the president of the company and I live here and I don’t want to leave.”

He views his community as a tech and energy hub and promotes it as such to prospective employees. Job opportunities in the clean energy sector are becoming increasingly available as his and other tech companies choose to grow in Waterbury. “I think our industry is very helpful with recruiting. Vermont, in general, has a very green mindset and the talent here is impressive, especially for a state with a population less than 650,000,” Bellows said, “If you think about our company’s roots, Northern Power Systems had well over 100 employees and a lot of those employees never left so there is some pretty good experience to pull from.”

A focus on retaining emerging talent is also a top priority for the Johnson State College (now Northern Vermont University) graduate. “We want that talent to stay so we focus quite a bit on keeping some of our younger talent here as best we can by working with the local colleges.” Northern Reliability developed an internship program and several current employees, who started as interns, have worked their way up through that program.

As he works to fill 25 newly created positions and continues expanding KORE Solutions’ footprint in Waterbury, Bellows may turn to additional State programs such as the Worker Relocation Grant Program to assist with recruitment efforts, the Vermont Employment Growth Incentive for expansion support, or the Vermont Training Program for help with upskilling personnel.

“It’s all been beneficial to us. It’s all helpful,” said Bellows reflecting on his experience growing a Vermont company, “When there are hurdles, these resources help us to overcome and succeed.”

Top Image: Gregg Noble (left) and Jay Bellows in the Northern Reliability Network Operations Center. Northern Reliability was acquired by KORE Power and re-launched as KORE Solutions. Bellows has been named President at KORE Power, and Noble has been named VP of Sales & Business Development for KORE Solutions. Photo courtesy KORE Power.