Grant provides stability for Ferrisburgh slaughterhouse

FERRISBURGH — A recently awarded state grant will help a Ferrisburgh slaughterhouse stay in business and preserve its dozen jobs while it seeks to expand into a new, larger plant in Middlebury, said Middlebury Business Development Director Jamie Gaucher.
The Ferrisburgh selectboard this summer agreed at Gaucher’s suggestion to apply for a $25,000 Regional Economic Development Grant from the Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services. Those economic development grants are intended to improve infrastructure to help a business in a town.
In late November Ferrisburgh was awarded that grant, which will help pay for a badly needed $100,000 septic system for the Depot Road building that houses Vermont Livestock Slaughter and Processing LLC.
Gaucher said Vermont Livestock and building owner The Castanea Foundation would each chip more than $25,000, and the Middlebury Business Development Fund would pay the remaining “10 or 15 thousand” dollars to complete a septic system project requested by state officials.  
The Middlebury Business Development Fund is fed in part by Middlebury taxes, and Gaucher is involved because he has been working for two years to help Vermont Livestock and owner Carl Cushing move to Middlebury. Cushing hopes to build a new facility in Middlebury and increase the company’s capacity to meet high demand for its services and increase its workforce from a dozen to 20 or 25.
“My understanding is that Mr. Cushing is turning away business now,” Gaucher said. “He has business lined up in excess of 12 months.”
Cushing worked with Middlebury businessman Tony Neri in 2013 on a plan that would have filled two-thirds of a roughly 31,000-square-foot building on Industrial Avenue in Middlebury, but that deal fell through. Before then, Cushing had eyed a roughly 11,000-square-foot building on a parcel in Middlebury’s Industrial Park, off Exchange Street.
Now, Gaucher said, Vermont Livestock has signed a letter of intent to buy a parcel in the Industrial Park owned by Middlebury College and build a larger plant. 
Gaucher is hopeful this time the financing can be arranged.
“I remain optimistic about the company’s interest in moving here. It makes sense for them,” he said. “And from my perspective it’s sustainable agriculture, and that makes sense in Middlebury.”
This past summer, the Ferrisburgh selectboard agreed it made sense for them to support the grant application. Board members debated the issue, but ultimately decided it was important to preserve in Ferrisburgh, at least for the short term, Vermont Livestock’s dozen jobs. All agreed that existing septic problems, if unsolved, posed a threat to the business.
Gaucher and some others at a selectboard meeting said that a functional septic system would also allow the Castanea Foundation to find a new business tenant if Vermont Livestock does move to Middlebury, maybe even another slaughterhouse to take advantage of the existing setup.
“It makes sense for the building that they are in,” said Gaucher, who wrote the grant and assured the Ferrisburgh selectboard it would require no town funds or time to administer.
With the grant awarded, groundwork for the septic system is under way.
“Some of the preparation has already begun,” Gaucher said. “It is moving forward.”
Now the question is whether Vermont Livestock’s hopes for Middlebury also advance.
Gaucher said he and Cushing would know within a month or two if the latest financing package passes muster. If so, a project could break ground this spring.  
“We’ve been awful close on two different occasions,” Gaucher said. “Maybe the third time is the key.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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