MIDDLEBURY — As he closes in on one year as Middlebury’s first-ever business development director, Jamie Gaucher is pursuing some promising leads that he hopes will culminate in a substantial new manufacturing facility in the town’s industrial park and an incubator space at the local airport for emerging new companies developing value-added agricultural products.
Gaucher heads up Middlebury’s Office of Business Development & Innovation, a five-year effort jointly funded by the town, Middlebury College and local businesses. Gaucher’s mission is to attract new enterprises and jobs to Addison County’s shire town and help existing businesses grow. His most promising prospect right now is Vermont Livestock, a Ferrisburgh-based slaughterhouse and meat processing facility that is seeking to relocate into a bigger spot in Middlebury’s industrial park off Exchange Street. Gaucher is working with a prospective investor and state officials to put together financing for Vermont Livestock’s move.
Along with advanced proposals like Vermont Livestock’s, Gaucher also fields a plethora of inquiries from entrepreneurs eyeing Middlebury as a potential place to operate. Some of those inquiries dead-end with a single phone call. But others lead to follow-up discussions with true potential, according to Gaucher. He is particularly enthused about two such prospects.
The first calls for a 50,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Middlebury’s industrial park that would use recycled products to make a high-density plastic strong enough to use in the fabrication of manhole covers and other durable items. Two of the individuals with whom Gaucher is speaking about this plan — which he termed as being in the “exploratory phase” — are Middlebury College alums.
It would be a timely enterprise, given Vermont’s Act 148, which calls upon communities to significantly ramp up their recycling efforts, according to Gaucher. The leaders of the potential venture — who aren’t yet ready to be publicly identified — like the proximity of rail to the Middlebury industrial park.
If the plan comes to fruition, it could bring 100 jobs to the county, according to Gaucher.
The second promising lead that Gaucher is cultivating relates to the concept of a structure built on Middlebury State Airport property that could accommodate four small business specializing in value-added agricultural products — such as organic oil and specialty spirits.
“It would be a multi-tenant facility,” Gaucher said. “The idea is to create some efficiencies among like-minded companies.”
Gaucher has targeted the airport as a logical hub for starting new ventures. Along with being a nexus for travel, the airport land (owned by the state) is under-used and is available at a lease rate of 14 cents per square foot.
If the building plan advances to an actual application, Gaucher acknowledged there will have to be conversations with surrounding neighbors to get their feedback. If built, the project could bring 30 to 40 new jobs to Middlebury, according to Gaucher.
The Better Middlebury Partnership and the Office of Business Development & Innovation are working together to elicit more inquiries from folks interested in laying down entrepreneurial roots in the area. To that end, they recently established experiencemiddlebury.com. The new website provides an overview of various local amenities, quality of life assets, schools, business groups and recreational opportunities that might encourage business leaders to choose Middlebury as a place to set up shop.
“The town’s website was not built for this; it was never intended as a marketing tool,” Gaucher explained. He said experiencemiddlebury.com provides that outreach function and will offer job creators connections to local officials who can help get their plans off then ground.
Gaucher is optimistic that Middlebury will soon see a big payoff for the investment it has made in its Office of Business Development & Innovation.
“I feel like I have the best job in the world,” Gaucher said. “I feel very positive about the prospects for this community.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]