Blurt: Seven Days Staff Blog

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20 posts categorized "Business"

July 03, 2012

Ice Factor 'Disappointed' in Mayor's Moran Decision -- Also Not Pleased With How It Was Handled

Officials with Ice Factor, the Scotland-based company that planned to build an ice-climbing wall in Burlington's abandoned Moran power plant, say they have not been kept adequately informed of Mayor Miro Weinberger's decision to kill the Moran redevelopment plan. The company adds that it is disappointed with Weinberger's move, which he announced at a press conference on Monday, and blames the city for the complex deal falling apart. 

In a statement e-mailed early on Tuesday, Ice Factor managing director Jamie Smith says, "We have yet to receive any formal update from the new mayor or his administration on the future of the Moran development." Smith adds that he has learned from "a number of reports" that Weinberger intends to review the Ice Factor plan for Moran in September.

Weinberger said at his press conference on Monday that he had spoken with Ice Factor about his decision and that the company, while disappointed, said it understood his position.

Asked for comment on Smith's subsequent assertion that he has not been updated on the mayor's decision, Weinberger said on Tuesday that he has been in regular contact with Phil McCully, a Montreal-based member of Ice Factor's board of directors. The mayor added that Smith, in Scotland, is referring only to a formal communication that he said will soon be sent to Ice Factor.

Weinberger actually gave that notification in a letter dated July 2 and addressed to Smith; the mayor's office sent a copy to Seven Days on Tuesday. Weinberger's three-paragraph "Dear Jamie" letter concludes in part by saying: "Please know that the City of Burlington would be willing to consider Ice Factor in our future development plans...."

Reached by phone on Tuesday in Montreal, McCully said it was he who had initiated contacts with Weinberger in recent weeks in an effort to learn what the new mayor intended to do in regard to the Moran plant. In a conversation last week, McCully recounted, the mayor told him the Ice Factor plan was still under review. Weinberger subsequently gave him the impression, McCully said, that Ice Factor's involvement in Moran remains on the table and is being assessed with the intention of deciding its fate in September. McCully added that Weinberger was "encouraging" in regard to Ice Factor having an ongoing role in Moran's redevelopment.

"We're a bit disappointed at how it's turned out," McCully said. He noted that the company has spent "a considerable amount of money" in trying to advance the project. Executives have flown to Vermont from Scotland on a number of occasions, while he himself has made 35 trips to Burlington from Montreal in the past four years, McCully said.

It's not Ice Factor that has stalled the project, but rather it has been the city's inability to execute its end of "an incredibly complex deal," McCully added. "The city had asked us to put a fair amount of cash in escrow for the project," he continued, "but we said we couldn't do that because we're not the Disney Corporation" — in other words, a cash-rich entity.

June 28, 2012

Church Street Merchants Aren't Digging Construction Project

Church street tear up 012Sweetwaters owner David Melincoff has been watching with trepidation as a disruptive Church Street Marketplace construction project creeps toward his restaurant's front door. And now he's fighting to delay the dig that's scheduled to rip up the pedestrian mall's City Hall block for much of August.

Melincoff collected more than 700 signatures in less than a week on a petition he's circulating — on the social action website Change.org, no less — that calls for the lower-block portion of the project to be postponed for a month.

He fears that the noise, dust and unsightliness associated with the electrical rewiring work will hit Sweetwaters hard.

"August is our busiest month of the year," Melincoff explains. It accounts for 17 percent of the restaurant's annual sales and 32 percent of its net income, he calculates. And a majority of summertime diners choose a table on the Church Street portion of Sweetwaters' sidewalk cafe, he says.

"What's happening, in effect, is that they're jackhammering our dining room," Melincoff declares.

Sweetwaters' business will be off by as much as 50 percent as a result, he warns. And that will whack the wait staff right in the wallet, with employees' combined income likely to drop by $60,000 or more, Melincoff says.

Marketplace director Ron Redmond says city officials are striving to mitigate the project's effects up and down Burlington's four-block-long retail epicenter, but suggested it was unlikely the project would be delayed. He notes that work on the Church Street trench stops each weekday at 4 p.m., and construction fencing is scaled back at that time, which means "the outdoor restaurants should be fine for the dinner hours." Construction directly in front of individual outlets on the Marketplace does not last for more than seven business days, Redmond adds.

Continue reading "Church Street Merchants Aren't Digging Construction Project" »

June 26, 2012

Say Cheese! The Cabot Labeling Saga Continues

CabotWelcome to Cheesegate: Cabot Creamery's decision to change its logo is still making waves (or should we say wheyves?) in the Green Mountain State.

In case you missed the kerfuffle last week: Cabot dropped the state, and name, of Vermont from some of its packaging. The company says it began quietly making the change about a year ago to better comply with state rules. The rules stipulate that three-quarters of a dairy product's main ingredient must come from Vermont in order for a company to use the state in its marketing.

Now, instead of imposing Cabot's name over an outline of the state of Vermont, the new logo features the silhouette of a green barn and the words, "Owned by our farm families in New England and New York since 1919."

The change ruffled more than a few feathers. As the Burlington Free Press reports today, the logo change churned up a fair share of political debate. Gov. Peter Shumlin is bemoaning the change, saying in a news conference last week, "I believe that when we have the Vermont label on Vermont Cabot, that's a good thing for Vermont farmers and a good thing for Vermont's value-added food products." Meanwhile, challengers for the attorney general's office played the Cabot card in accusing AG Bill Sorrell of pushing too hard on one of Vermont's iconic brands — to which Sorrell responded that Cabot made the label change on its own. 

Adding to the quagmire is this latest accusation, from dairy farmer Karen Shaw of Hardwick: Shaw says the new label is still inaccurate. She claims that, contrary to popular belief, Cabot's parent company isn't really a farmer-owned cooperative. Although Cabot was originally a Vermont dairy cooperative, the beloved cheesemaker hitched its wagon to the multistate Agri-Mark cooperative in 1992. (Agri-Mark is incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in Massachusetts.)

Agri-Mark collects milk from dairy farmers throughout New England and New York. While Cabot still operates processing plants in Vermont, much of the creamery's milk crosses state lines, and some products (such as Cabot butter) are made out of state. 

Continue reading "Say Cheese! The Cabot Labeling Saga Continues" »

May 02, 2012

In Merger Lobbying Fight, Who Outgunned Whom?

During the pitched Statehouse fight over a proposed merger between Vermont’s two largest electric utilities, both sides raised the specter of the big, bad opposition quashing the just and the true with lobbying and advertising cash.

Rep. Patti Komline (R-Dorset), who opposed aspects of the merger between Green Mountain Power and Central Vermont Public Service, repeatedly accused electric company lobbyists of intimidating lawmakers who signed on to an amendment she supported. Meanwhile, Gov. Peter Shumlin, who backed the merger, said he and the electric companies were drowned out in the message war by an out-of-state advocacy group: AARP.

So who outgunned whom?

Lobbying disclosure forms recently filed with the Vermont Secretary of State’s office paint a portrait of the opposing armies — though not a complete one.

Continue reading "In Merger Lobbying Fight, Who Outgunned Whom?" »

March 28, 2012

Team Kale Hits A Speed Bump

Bhphoto_kale_CentralImage-334x200"Eat More Kale" t-shirt artist Bo-Muller Moore is having a roller coaster of a week. On Sunday night, he was thrilled to discover that the Kickstarter campaign to raise money to fund a documentary film about his legal tangle with fast-food giant Chick-fil-A had raised roughly $86,000, exceeding the original goal by $11,000.

Two days later, Muller-Moore learned his quest to register a trademark had hit a sobering speed bump: In a preliminary ruling, an attorney with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office determined that there's a "likelihood of confusion" between Muller-More's "Eat More Kale" slogan and Chick-fil-A's "Eat mor Chikin" marketing campaign.

"It makes me sick to my stomach," says Muller-Moore of the news, though he quickly recovered his signature chutzpah. "There's still a lot of fighting to be done."

Muller-Moore received a cease-and-desist letter from Chick-fil-A this fall, a few months after he filed to register his own "Eat More Kale" trademark. The company also asked him to turn over his website, the second time in six years that Chick-fil-A had tried to shut him down. Since Gov. Peter Shumlin prominently stepped in to support Muller-Moore and formed the advisory Team Kale, Muller-Moore's case has garnered widespread attention. He received thousands of orders for his t-shirts and tons of national press.  Donations for the documentary he's making with Burlington filmmaker James Lantz, A Defiant Dude, poured in from across the world.

Continue reading "Team Kale Hits A Speed Bump " »

February 15, 2012

In The Market For A Hostel? Burlington's Is For Sale.

HostelSharp-eyed readers of the Seven Days classifieds may have noticed an intriguing tidbit in the Jan. 25 and Feb. 1 listings: Two years after opening in the Queen City, the Burlington Hostel is for sale.

Former Seven Days writer Lauren Ober spent a night at the hostel in 2010, shortly after Brian and Olga Dalmer opened the 48-bed dorm at the corner of Main and South Champlain. The couple moved up from Connecticut to open the hostel, touting the city's lack of affordable hotel beds as the perfect opening for a new business. 

Now, says Brian Dalmer when reached by telephone in Arkansas, the couple is looking into selling because they may not be in Burlington much longer. Dalmer wouldn't say more on the subject, but says the possible sale boils down to personal circumstance and not the business itself.

Continue reading "In The Market For A Hostel? Burlington's Is For Sale." »

February 08, 2012

Fracking Aside, Vermont Eyes Natural Gas Expansion

Lm-frackingAs reported in today’s issue of Seven Days, a possible moratorium on hydraulic fracturing is wending its way through the Statehouse. In a preemptive strike, lawmakers are considering putting the brakes on the controversial method of drilling for natural gas more commonly known as fracking.

But despite the state’s apparent squeamishness over fracking, Vermont is moving ahead with plans to expand its natural gas network.

Right now, Vermont gets about 6 percent of its energy from natural gas. There's only one gas utility in the state: Vermont Gas Systems, a subsidiary of Montreal-based Gaz Métro, which since 1965 has piped natural gas from the Canadian border to customers in Chittenden and Franklin counties.

Now Vermont Gas Systems is looking to expand. The utility won approval last fall from the Vermont Public Service Board to funnel $4.4 million annually into an expansion fund, with an eye toward extending its reach into Addison and Rutland counties as early as 2015.

Natural gas “doesn’t do sprawl well,” says Steve Wark, Vermont Gas director of communications. That means the utility is looking for places with a population density to support new pipelines. And that population — especially when it comes to local business — is hungry for natural gas. Cheaper fuel means bigger profits.

“Right now our focus is on helping businesses and residential consumers save money by using natural gas,” Wark says.

Continue reading "Fracking Aside, Vermont Eyes Natural Gas Expansion" »

February 07, 2012

EatingWell Media Group to Move to Shelburne

= EatingwellThe 6000 block of Shelburne's Route 7 is on its way to becoming an epicenter of food culture.

On the west side side of the road is Shelburne Vineyard; across the street is the brand-new Fiddlehead Brewing Company, as well as Folino's, a flatbread eatery due to open this spring. On the hill behind the brewery, a group of visionary architects and builders have been renovating the 73,000-square-foot former home of Shelburne Industries, with the eventual intention of turning it into a food hub under the loose name of the Vermont Food Project. Eventual tenants will include a bakery and café, and possibly a miller, distiller, creamery and chocolate maker.

There's also tons of office space inside, too. And after more than a year of construction, the complex is about to take its first significant step forward. The ever-growing EatingWell Media Group will relocate its offices here by the end of the month, along with its 30 or so employees.

Over the last decade, EatingWell has grown from an adless quarterly to a thriving media giant, all from its offices in rural Charlotte. It lures four million unique visitors to its website each month, racks up James Beard awards for its cookbooks and articles, and recently increased print circulation from 350,000 last year to 500,000.

Some of that growth has been buoyed by Meredith Corporation, who snapped up EatingWell last summer. At the time, some speculated (and worried) that the very local EatingWell would be moved out of state. Their worries were for naught.

Continue reading "EatingWell Media Group to Move to Shelburne" »

December 20, 2011

Center for Cartoon Studies Gets a New Home

CCSxmasIt's been a big year for the Center for Cartoon Studies. The nation's only cartoon school, based in White River Junction, kicked off 2011 with the announcement of Vermont's first, official cartoonist laureate, James Kochalka of Burlington.

In August, CCS did battle with Tropical Storm Irene when the White River poured into the building housing the school's Charles Schultz Library (they saved all the books).

This week, CCS announces a very happy culmination to the year: a new building.

Well, a new old building. CCS closed yesterday on its purchase of the historic post office on South Main Street, which was constructed in 1934. The Colonial Revival-style brick structure has also been a Vermont District Court and a private office building.

It's about to become the school's HQ, housing classrooms, much-needed faculty space, and the library. Existing tenants in the upper floor offices will remain and their rent will help to pay the mortgage on CCS' first fully-owned building.

Continue reading "Center for Cartoon Studies Gets a New Home" »

December 19, 2011

Fletcher Allen and Fresenius Pull Plug on Sale of Dialysis Clinics

Fletcher_AllenA for-profit company that wanted to buy Fletcher Allen Health Care's five outpatient dialysis clinics announced today it's pulling the plug on the $28-million sale.

FAHC announced last year it wanted to sell off the clinics because they were losing about $1.8 million annually. Fresenius Medical Care proposed to buy them and run them through its subsidiary, Bio-Medical Care Holdings, based in New Hampshire.

State regulators panned the proposed sale earlier this month.

Continue reading "Fletcher Allen and Fresenius Pull Plug on Sale of Dialysis Clinics" »

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