BCIC recaps role in Putnam Block, other projects


BENNINGTON — The Bennington County Industrial Corp. has helped to facilitate a high-profile downtown project described by one state official as "the most important thing happening in economic development in the state of Vermont."

Although the nonprofit entity remains involved with the multi-phase Putnam Block redevelopment, in part through its temporary ownership of the site, which makes certain grant funding available and eliminates potential environmental liability, that effort does not represent the group's sole contribution to the area, its leaders said Thursday at the group's 61st annual meeting.

"I hope the key takeaway [from tonight] is the amount of energy, enthusiasm and partnerships that really come together to try to promote positive community and economic development efforts in the region," said the organization's director, Bill Colvin.

BCIC's efforts, according to a slide-show presentation at the meeting, held at the Bennington Museum, focus broadly on business, workforce and real-estate development.

Since 2016, the BCIC has helped to draw $8.33 million in business development-related funding to the region from federal, state, philanthropic and other sources, Colvin said.

Though the majority of those funds are associated with the Putnam Block project — no surprise, perhaps, considering the $54 million project's scope — $3.58 million of that total is unrelated to the project.

The organization has helped to secure four Vermont Training Program grants, worth $625,000, as well as multiple grants through the federal Environmental Protection Agency's Brownfields Program.

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Bennington Select Board Vice Chairwoman Jeannie Jenkins and Wendy Morse, of the Vermont Department of Labor, spoke at the meeting about the activities of BCIC's workforce and education committee, which they co-chair. The committee, which includes members from local schools, employers and other entities, promotes an array of job-related events and initiatives.

BCIC is also compiling a prospectus for investors interested in Bennington's two Opportunity Zones — census tracts associated with potential tax benefits through a federal program. Gov. Phil Scott designated more than two dozen tracts across the state as Opportunity Zones last year. Bennington's two tracts roughly correspond to its downtown and northeast areas.

In the evening's keynote address, Lindsay Kurrle, Secretary of Vermont's Agency of Commerce and Community Development, applauded BCIC's work.

"You all continue to lead the way as a rural hub in workforce and economic development," she said. "What you have here ... is so special and, honestly, a model for the rest of the state."

The BCIC board attended to several agenda items at the meeting Thursday, including the appointment for 2020 of its board of directors, which includes nearly two dozen members.

Brian Murphy, vice president for finance and administration at Bennington College, and Rob Bahny, workforce education and training coordinator at the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center, are new members of the board.

Contact Luke Nathan at lnathan@benningtonbanner.com.


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