Monday, April 5, 2010

Vermont Wood Pellet stays afloat in tough times

By: Jim Sabataso Times Argus

Chris Brooks opened the Vermont Wood Pellet Company in North Clarendon a little over a year ago with the goal of providing a product that is harvested responsibly from local timber, and sold to customers in the Rutland area. Hailing from Minnesota, where his family had worked in the timber industry for five generations, Brooks used his background in marketing and business development to start the company with local business partner, Katie Adams. Operating three shifts a day, five days a week, the Vermont Wood Pellet Company is the state's first and only wood pellet production facility.

Where do you see your business going in the next year?

In our second year, we'll be expanding as we see marginal increase in sales.

What are the major trends and/or obstacles your industry is dealing with?

While wood pellets are always less expensive than oil, pellets become more attractive as the price of oil increases.

One obstacle is outside competition - foreign and domestic wood pellet producers shipping their product into our market.

Do you foresee any hiring this year in your business and industry sector?

We're pretty much at capacity for production. But we will do a little bit of hiring, mostly based on attrition.

Why did you choose Vermont for your business?

It made sense. We also looked at Georgia, but chose Vermont because of its local flavor. We receive our wood from a 30-mile radius, and sell in a 50-miles radius.

How have you been able to capitalize on recent consumer preferences for local/organic/environmentally friendly products?

Our production offsets 1.2 million gallons of fuel oil. The wood we harvest is local and sustainable. We're operating on a local scale. The support has been amazing. People want to buy from Vermont. Vermont wants local.

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