DEREK CARSON, Staff Writer
BENNINGTON -- The new production facility for Timberline Panel Co. and Vermont Timber Frames was officially opened on Thursday with a ribbon cutting ceremony and barbecue.
The facility at 458 Morse Road, which until about two years ago was home to Bennington Ironworks, opened a day before the 2nd annual National Manufacturing Day, which celebrates and highlights the importance of manufacturing to U.S. and local economies. Among those in attendance were Thomas R. Harrison, president and co-owner, Paul Martin, co-owner, Michael A. Harrington, Bennington's economic and community development director, and Peter Odierna, executive director of the Bennington County Industrial Corporation.
Harrison and Martin founded Vermont Timber Frames in 1993. According to the Timberline Panels website, that company was born after VTF spent years working with top producers of Structural Insulated Panels "to provide their clients with strong, beautiful, and energy-efficient building envelopes." Eventually, after fine-tuning the integration of SIPs into their timber frames, Harrison founded Timberline Panels, an SIP company of his own.
"We can build homes that require very little energy," said Harrison. "If homes required less energy, think of how much money this country could save." The company works very hard to make sure the homes it builds meet the stringent codes for passive house certification, which the Passive House Institute describes as "today's highest energy standard." VTF uses its own install team, North Timber Associates, based in Wilmington, but is also willing to send supervisors out to work with local construction companies.
Recently, VTF worked with Metsa Wood, a wood products company from Finland, to create more energy efficient headers for windows and doors. "When we did thermal imaging of our houses, we found that they were super energy efficient, except for one place," said Harrison, "Some heat was escaping from the top frame of doors and windows. That was the only place that there was contact with the air outside." Six months ago, they released a new header that solved that problem.
"In business today, you have to look to create as many manufacturing opportunities as possible," said Harrison. One such opportunity was when the company realized it could produce timber frames and SIPs for their competitors in the energy-efficient housing market. "It helps us pay our overheads, and they pay like clockwork," said Harrison. He said it's an easy relationship to get into because, "we don't ask for any credit, any publicity" from the other companies.
Harrington, the town's economic development director, in honor of National Manufacturing Day, praised local manufacturers and the role they play in Bennington's economy, "Manufacturing in Bennington is a vital component to our local economy. Beyond the impact on the grand list, most of the employees at each of our local companies live, shop, eat and send their kids to school in our community, contributing to the overall strength of the county."
He also pointed out that we need to keep in mind manufacturing companies as we discuss the economic development of our region. "We must not lose sight of the role manufacturing has played in Vermont's history; with that, it is critical that we continue to listen to the needs of our local companies and assist them in any way possible to overcome the challenges that lay before them," Harrington said.
Speaking further to the benefits of having a healthy manufacturing sector in town, Harrington continued, "Industry offers more jobs, and at a much higher rate, than retail, at least at the entry level. If you're working entry level retail, you might not be able to afford a home, start a family, send your kids to school, and contribute to the community in ways like that. We have a healthy industrial sector here, and that allows the economy to grow and thrive." Noting that having both a healthy retail and industrial sector is important for the town, Harrington added that both contribute to the town's economy in different, but equally important, ways.
Manufacturing Day is an effort co-produced by the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International; the National Association of Manufacturers; the Manufacturing Institute; and the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
Vermont Manufacturing Extension Center Director and CEO Bob Zider said in a press release, "The facts clearly underscore that a thriving manufacturing sector is still the greatest wealth-creating tool that any state or nation can have, and it remains the single most essential driver of new innovation." He went on to estimate that for every dollar of final sales of manufactured goods, the community was benefiting by $1.48.
Today at 1 p.m., WBTN-AM 1370 is hosting a one-hour live talk show in commemoration of Manufacturing Day, featuring interviews with four area manufacturers; Abacus Automation of Bennington, William E. Dailey Precast LLC of Shaftsbury, National Hanger Co. Inc. of North Bennington, and K&E Plastics of Arlington.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB