Vt. chambers check their value to local businesses

Since losing the ability to offer health care insurance, chambers of commerce in Vermont have seen more financial strain due to losing members who had joined solely for the coverage. At the same time, chambers have had a renewed focus on strengthening other programs — and trying new ones — which add value for local businesses. That value is even more important now, given key changes at two local chambers. Recently, the Manchester and the Mountains Chamber of Commerce announced it was closing, only to announce its reopening days later. Manchester chamber officials and local partners are taking a hard look at the organization’s future, and efforts are underway to get the chamber on firm financial footing.

Specialty coffee roasters thrive in Vermont economy

Local coffee roasters have seen solid growth in the Vermont market in the past decade, boosted in part by the growing popularity of local food products and the regional draw of the Vermont brand. Paul Ralston, founder and CEO of Vermont Coffee Company in Middlebury, said his company is part of two recent trends: the growth in specialty coffee and organic coffee. His company’s coffee is certified organic. Ralston said the overall Vermont brand, with its message of hard work, high quality and natural products, has indeed helped his business. “It is important to us,” Ralston said.

Gluten-free food popularity grows throughout Vermont

The past decade has brought a surge of gluten-free items into the food industry, and the trend remains strong in Vermont. The demand is tied to not only those with Celiac disease, but also people who have simply decided to cut gluten out of their regular diet. Donald Billings, the owner of Roots the Restaurant in Rutland, said he’s had gluten-free foods on the restaurant’s menu “from day one,” and he said those items have been fairly popular over the five years he’s owned the business. “You have to provide for everyone,” he said. Billings changes the menu seasonally, and sometimes the gluten-free items change, sometimes they don’t.

Alliance focusing on tech jobs

On Nov. 10, Jeff Couture, executive director of the Vermont Technology Alliance (vtTA), was prepping for a two-day jaunt through southern Vermont.

‘Green’ degrees gain momentum

“Going green” in academia extends beyond the desire to make campuses more energy efficient and sustainable. Growth has been in the form of new courses on sustainability and greater attention to changing the status quo on campus, whether that’s reducing emissions or educating people. Some colleges, like Green Mountain College (GMC) in Poultney, Vermont, have undergraduate curriculum built around environmental sustainability. The college also infuses sustainability into every major — from business to biology, from art to agriculture. The University of Vermont (UVM) and GMC are two colleges in the vanguard offering a masters in business administration (MBA) in sustainability.