02.16.10

Leahy Announces $1.075M. In Economic Development For Southern Windham County

...Green-Tech, Smart Growth And New Housing Highlight Visit To Omega

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. - Sen. Patrick Leahy joined leadership and staff from Omega Optical, the Brattleboro Food Coop, Windham Housing Trust and representatives of the Town of Guilford Tuesday to announce $1,075,000 in economic development and community development appropriations. The funding will continue Omega Optical’s solar research, help the Brattleboro Food Coop and Windham Housing Trust reach construction on a new downtown Brattleboro facility and encourage smart growth in Algiers. 

“Combined, these projects will put people to work – from the cutting edge of solar technology, to contractors and engineers, to stock boys and cashiers,” said Leahy, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “These projects will put in place critical infrastructure that will help Southern Windham County flourish.”

During Leahy’s Tuesday’s visit to Brattleboro’s Delta Campus, Omega Optical’s President and Technical Director Robert Johnson said a new $500,000 appropriation secured by Leahy will help the firm further develop a photovoltaic cell that captures more of the sun’s rays. By collecting more energy from the sun than other photovoltaic cells, Johnson said he believes Omega could reduce the cost of solar electricity. 

"The primary barrier to widespread adoption of solar electricity is the cost of producing solar electricity,” said Johnson. “Senator Leahy’s support will not only help Omega try and solve this decades-old problem, but it will also put people to work right here in Brattleboro.”

Leahy announced a new $375,000 appropriation for the Town of Guilford to expand municipal water service to the Village of Algiers. Leahy said the funds would help promote smart growth in the village – enabling more units of housing to be built in the compact village and offering opportunities for small businesses – especially general store and food-related businesses that need water capacity. Recently, limited well water has reduced the Village’s ability to grow or redevelop. Windham Housing Trust Executive Director Connie Snow explained that a recent redevelopment of the historic Tontine Building epitomized the problems with limited water supply in Algiers. “The site was capable of housing many more residents – except for the water supply,” Snow said. 

Leahy’s final announcement Tuesday may have the largest visible impact on the area, Snow said. A new $200,000 appropriation for Windham Housing Trust will bring 24 units of workforce housing and a new 14,600 square-foot enlarged home for the Coop’s retail space one step closer to a groundbreaking. The new building will sit on the south side of the Coop’s existing parking.

“We are looking forward to breaking ground on our new home later this year,” said Brattleboro Food Coop General Manager Alex Gyori. “We’ve brought together a great development team with Housing Vermont and the Windham Housing Trust and look forward to providing our customers with a new and improved facility in the coming year.”

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