Vermont businesses receive $ 3.6 million in downtown tax incentives

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ST. JOHNSBURY, Vermont (WCAX) – Vermont Governor Phil Scott on Thursday announced millions of dollars in tax credits to boost business development in inner cities and towns.

The governor says 28 projects across Vermont will receive a total of $ 3.6 million in tax credits designed to help offset capital costs. Scott made the announcement at St. Johnsbury Distillery, a new business that has benefited from the program.

Brendan Hughes of the distillery says investing in local businesses helps make town centers and villages more attractive to live in. “You can see in the city, for anyone looking to invest and relocate here to live, this is decisive for the number of projects and what they can do for the city. And just recruiting people, now to see that as a viable option not only to invest their money, but also to live and grow their families here as well, ”he said.

ST. JOHNSBURY HEMP PROCESSOR TO BENEFIT FROM TAX INCENTIVES

Nine projects in St. Johnsbury received almost $ 1.4 million in tax credits this fiscal year. This includes a future industrial hemp processing plant in the old Ide building in the city center, which has been empty for 30 years.

Despite the roller coaster hemp market in Vermont in recent years, Brandon McFarlane is bullish on the industry. “I see the industrial hemp industry starting here and growing from here,” he said.

And a former St. Johnsbury feed mill that has been inactive for 30 years could be the epicenter. It is bought by Zion Growers, a family business. McFarlane says the industrial hemp they’ll be dealing with is much easier to grow than the hemp used to make CBD. “It’s a cluster crop. You throw it in the ground and it grows very similar to wheat or other grain crops like corn. And then, if you can make hay, you can hemp, ”he said.

After hemp was legalized at the federal level in 2018, farmers in the region rushed to plant the crop. In 2019, nearly 1,000 farmers signed up to grow it in Vermont. Many of them intended to sell their harvest to processors to make CBD, which is used for various medicinal purposes. But the processing capacity was simply not enough and many farmers were left with fields full of plants they could not sell.

Herrick Fox has been cultivating hemp for three years. “There was so much excitement in the bubble and everyone came together and of course the farmers end up holding the bag,” Fox said.

This year, there are less than 360 hemp growers in Vermont. A drastic drop compared to two years ago. Process capacity remains an issue, but the St. Johnsbury plant is set to fill the void. Fox calls the St. Johnsbury project revolutionary for the industrial side of hemp. “It has thousands of uses, from paper and packaging to fuel pellets,” he said.

“There is no denying that this plant is sustainable and what it can do to change agriculture,” said Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts.

Officials say state tax credits are helping renovate the building, which could eventually employ up to 30 people under the $ 1.6 million project. “In anything farming, unless you have someone willing to process it, it doesn’t matter how much you grow,” Tebbetts said.

And growing the business is something Zion Growers is already focusing on. “At some point we plan to expand and acquire a bigger facility, more machines and expand, really, statewide,” McFarlane said.

If all goes according to plan, the goal is to produce industrial hemp outside the factory next September.

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