Harper wants to build sustainable economy at business park

BRISTOL — “It’s not just going to be another business park,” said Stoney Hill Properties developer Kevin Harper. “We want something unique.”
Harper introduced a preliminary plan for his proposed business park at Monday’s Bristol selectboard meeting.
While Harper wants to attract a range of businesses and is open to all comers, part of his vision for the business park is to make it an anchor for sustainable economic development, focusing on two of the county’s most important sectors — agriculture and wood products — and emphasizing value-added products.
“What sustainability means is that we tap the resources in our community — agricultural products, wood products — and we add value to those raw materials. That means unlimited things, like we make furniture out of trees, not logs that we put on a boat and ship to wherever.”
Harper gives the example of top-quality hardwoods sold to Germany as raw materials to be made into veneer, rather than employing local skill and craftsmanship to create our own kind of end product.
“Why aren’t we getting furniture from those logs or cabinets or whatever?” he asked. “We have a rich heritage of craftsmanship and fine woordworking skills, if you look around, all over the place.”
For agriculture, Harper envisions the same range of possibilities — companies that would use local produce and make applesauce or crackers or soup or jellies or process and package vegetables.
“You’re putting it into a form someone can eat,” said Harper.
Alongside agriculture and wood products, Harper would like to attract companies that design or build components for renewable energy.
“Those three areas would be ideal tenants. Wouldn’t it be great if you were sawing up logs, making furniture, making apple pies and creating alternative energy that makes us less dependent on fossil fuels?” he said. All three would also be relatively “clean” manufacturing processes, said Harper, which would make them good neighbors.
Sustainable to Harper also means companies that provide good jobs at livable wages and have fair and humane policies towards employees.
“I want companies that have a heart, that have a social mission, that care about the community that they’re in, who live and work in this community.”

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