Northern New England used to be a mecca for mill towns.
The ubiquitous rivers and streams that branched across the Northeast United States powered paper, pulp, and textile mills and catapulted America to a pre-eminent position in global manufacturing during the industrial revolution.
Two hundred years later, that vaunted seat of manufacturing might has ceded with slow but steady momentum to cheaper southern labor, demographic shifts, and global outsourcing.
A Challenge for the North Country
For decades now, in the wake of the mills’ mass exit from New England, the North Country has struggled to redefine itself.
Consequently, life in the rural North isn’t easy. In New Hampshire, for example, the shadow of the opioid epidemic looms over counties, cities, and small towns. Well-paying reliable work with healthcare coverage and solid benefits is hard to find.
This NPR study puts it in perspective:
The decades haven’t been kind to New Hampshire’s milling industries. Whether you’re looking at paper and pulp or textile mills, many of the state’s old manufacturing mainstays are continuing to decline. One of the hardest-hit areas of New Hampshire is the North Country, a region that relies heavily on its natural resources–especially forests–to maintain its economy. There, a wave of paper mill closures over the past decade or so has stripped the area of hundreds of jobs. In most cases, new industries haven’t stepped into the region to fill the void.
Supporting Local People and Economies
All this is never far from the mind of DCI President Henry Kober, who founded the sustainable furniture company in 1976. His commitment to DCI’s 160 plus employees is deep and abiding.
The sense of responsibility in part explains why, at times, there are three generations from one family working in the DCI factory.
Indeed, it would be an understatement to say that DCI is committed to supporting local people and economies.
And now, thanks to a generous $75,000 grant from the State of Vermont’s Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, DCI is positioned to even better support the local north country economy, especially in Vermont.
Doubling Output at the Sawmill
Kober applied for the grant to help offset the significant costs associated with installing a new state of the art high-efficiency band resaw at DCI’s existing sawmill in Royalton, Vermont.
The goal of adding the new machinery is to double the output of DCI’s sawmill while opening up new product opportunities and revenue streams.
Funded by the State of Vermont, the Working Lands Initiative has a variety of business grants, and this one, ranging from $25,000 to $75,000, rewards companies whose projects demonstrate a significant potential impact on Vermont’s forest products supply chain.
According to the Working Lands website:
The Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Initiative grows the economies, cultures, and communities of Vermont’s working landscape by making essential, catalytic investments in critical leverage points of the Vermont farm and forest economy and facilitating policy development to optimize the agricultural and forest use of Vermont lands.
Kober expressed gratitude when learning about the recent news, which announced the grantees.
We are grateful to the State of Vermont for awarding DCI a Vermont Working Lands Grant. DCI will use the Grant to add a band resaw to our sawmill in Royalton, Vermont. This will double our production of high quality hardwood lumber. It will also enable us to hire up to four additional employees in Vermont. And because the new machinery is highly efficient, it will double the mill output without adding to our electrical demand.
We anticipate additional benefits to the local economy. For every job we create within DCI, we generate new jobs in the logging, transportation, and service industries. We will supply more sawdust to Vermont farmers to bed their animals and more fuel chips to Vermont Schools and Hospitals to heat their buildings. Vermont forests provide us with an abundant source of high value timber. The increased mill output will equip DCI to directly supply quality kiln dried hardwood to the many talented independent wood crafters in our state at affordable prices. Strategically, we believe this will positively impact Vermont’s sustainable forest economy.”
Anson Tebbetts, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets had this today in response to the announcement.
Even during the most challenging times Vermont’s farmers, producers, and businesses are looking to the future. They are innovators and are bringing more value to their products while creating jobs and helping our rural economy.