Vt. Community Loan Fund aids Irene-damaged businesses
The Vermont Community Loan Fund approved $1.4 million in financing during the first quarter for several projects, including two businesses damaged during Tropical Storm Irene.
In Northfield, Wall/Goldfinger, a maker of high-end office furniture, will use a loan to replace and repair equipment that was damaged during Irene.
The company is in the process of relocating to a new facility in Randolph.
Vermont Community Loan Fund Executive Director Will Belongia said when Irene hit the ensuing floodwaters swept through the first floor of the Wall/Goldfinger plant.
Belongia said the company (www.wallgoldfinger.com) was able to save a lot of equipment but when it came time to rebuild the decision was made not to chance another flood and to relocate.
“You know through the whole process they didn’t miss an order, which was amazing, even though they had kind of lost their first-floor production facility,” he said. Another business impacted by Irene was Bella Farm, an organic herb farm.
Bella Farm (bellapesto.com) relocated from Burlington’s flood-damaged Intervale Center to a 20-acre plot in Monkton. The farm produces organic, dairy- and nut-free pesto, and herb-infused olive oils, along with several varieties of garlic and herbs.
Bella Farm owner Rachel Schattman said the $5,000 loan helped augment her own savings to buy critical pieces of equipment, that included a walk-in cooler and a “brush hog” tractor attachment.
Schattman closed last week on the purchase of the Monkton property from her mother.
“The flooding last year sealed the deal but we had really made the decision to move before the Irene flood,” she said.
Of the 20 acres, she said four or five acres are suitable for farming.
Started in 1986 to promote affordable housing, the Vermont Community Loan Fund (www.investinvermont.org) has grown from $309,000 to $30 million under management. While affordable housing projects remain the fund’s primary focus, it has expanded to include financing for small businesses, community projects, and child care.
Last year, VCLF made $7.2 million in loans and expects to match that total this year, Belongia said.
Other projects that also received financing during the first quarter include:
Vermont Wood Pellet (www.vermontwoodpellet .com) in North Clarendon received a line of credit to purchase raw materials to meet demand for next season.
“Actually, last year demand exceeded production,” said Chris Brooks of Vermont Wood Pellet.
Brooks said the mill produced 11,000 tons of wood pellets last year. This year, he said the plant expects to produce 14,000 tons.
“The new drying system that we’re going to implement is part of this year’s increased production,” he said.
Champlain Housing Trust in Burlington (www .champlainhousingtrust .org) will purchase nearly an acre of land and two homes at 47 and 35-39 Bright St. in Burlington.
The affordable housing group also owns property on nearby Archibald Street that includes 10 apartments leased to clients of Howard Center.
The neighborhood redevelopment project could comprise as many as 25 to 30 new units of housing, including affordable, mixed-income, and market-rate apartments and possibly a few affordable home ownership units.
Housing Trust of Rutland County (housingrutland.org) was approved for a loan to cover initial costs associated with 18 apartments at Park Village, site of the former Brandon Training School. The project will serve 25 very low income households, and include three handicap-accessible units. Also participating in the project is the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which will provide rental subsidies for 17 of the 18 units.
In addition, nine additional units at the Erastus Thayer House on Route 7 in Brandon will be preserved as affordable housing.
Saxtons River Housing, an affordable housing project with 17 apartments, will make energy improvements to its buildings. The general partners involved in this project are Housing Vermont and Windham-Windsor Housing Trust.
The backbone of the Vermont Community Loan Fund are 350 investors, most of them Vermonters, Belongia said.
“It allows them to feel good that their money is being used in Vermont, in their local communities, in their state, for things that they care about,” he said.
He said the current rate of return is between 1 percent and 3 percent, which is comparable to a certificate of deposit while the interest rate on a loan ranges between 5 percent and 7 percent.
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