How three high-tech companies have found room to grow in Vermont
Leaders of some of Vermont's cutting-edge technology manufacturing companies joined Vermont Edition on Tuesday to talk about why they've chosen to remain in Vermont and how they've overcome challenges to growth.
Dave Bradbury, president of the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies, said recruiting in a small state like Vermont does pose a challenge to some growing tech manufacturing companies, but it isn't always their main concern. The availability of specialized manufacturing space is another element that can enable or impede growth.
"Unlike things that are purely digital, you need to be on the factory floor. You need to touch these things, right?" Bradbury said. "Specialized spaces around Vermont's communities I think will give us an advantage and really help us differentiate for the next decades ahead."
Here are highlights of the conversation with three Vermont companies.
Beta Technologies, South Burlington
Beta Technologies recently unveiled a new 188,000-square-foot facility in South Burlington — larger than three football fields put together.
Speaking on Vermont Edition, Beta founder and CEO Kyle Clark said the new facility will produce up to 300 electric aircraft a year.
"It's about a 7,000-pound aircraft, that would would host six people in the fuselage, or three shipping pallets and a pilot," Clark said. "And of course, they're all electric, so they're totally fuel-free. And the aircraft flies about 150 miles an hour. And right now it flies about 300 miles."
Clark said Beta also has plans to eventually double the size of the manufacturing facility, and build a child care center for its employees.
Beta has chosen to grow in the state, recruiting people who have some connection to Vermont. The most important thing, Clark said, is having highly-motivated, smart and dedicated people who are committed to the values of the company.
"We could take financial incentives to go elsewhere to build this thing," Clark said. "But the people here are the right people to launch a revolution in aerospace."
Rigorousis an industrial robotics company that does research and development for manufacturers, solving problems that are too repetitive or too dangerous for humans, said Diane Abruzzini Riggs, the company's co-founder and chief operating officer.
"My husband Colin and I, we chose to build our company here because this is where our life is," she said. "And this is where our networks are. It's where he got his start in robotics. And it's where I've built my career on the business side as well."
While she feels a strong connection to Vermont, she said the state's lack of commercial space did prove to be a challenge in Rigorous's early days.
"We needed, you know, at least 2,000 square feet of space, but we were young and didn't want to expand too quickly," she said. "And so our first space was at Vermont Cranberry Company [in Fletcher] because a dear friend of mine, Bob Lesnikoski, saw the struggle we were having finding commercial space for our business and said, 'You know what? you can rent our machine shop until you find that next step.' And without those really deep connections and relationships, we might not have even gotten the company off the ground, let alone gotten it to where we are today."
The company, now based in Williston, has 10 employees.
TenFold Engineering, Springfield
TenFold Engineering in Springfield makes housing that can be relocated to meet a need. The product looks similar to a shipping container, said President David Jaacks.
"Once it's on location, it unfolds and legs deploy, and it lifts itself off the truck," Jaacks said. "And then the truck can drive out from underneath and then you can set it down so you can occupy your home, or your commercial building, in within two hours of delivery."
TenFold purchased a 48,000-square-foot building to manufacture their units.
"Big, open spaces are really important when your product is the size of a shipping container," said of TenFold Engineering. "In Vermont, opposed to other parts of the country, you can go to some industrial areas and there might be 300, 400 buildings of that size. And there's a much smaller selection available in Vermont."
Broadcast at noon Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.