The True Cost of Electricity

The ongoing discussion about the proposed solar farm on Cheney field seems to be coming to a head with public sentiment firmly opposed.

As a water and electric ratepayer, I support the construction of a commercial-scale solar farm.  The business side is straightforward.  Northfield Electric Department is required to meet Vermont’s Renewable Energy Standard.  If we oppose development of renewable energy in Northfield, NED will eventually pay fines and purchase Renewable Energy Credits, raising electric bills for NED customers.  A local solar farm would be the first renewable energy facility completely owned by NED, and it’s what we need to do.

An alternative to Cheney Farm?  If residents are opposed to one solution, we should take responsibility in finding another, feasible, apples-to-apples solution.  The Wellfield lies on a floodplain — so that’s not going to work.  Maybe we can use our parks at Memorial Field and Northfield Falls.  (Yea, not happening.)  Perhaps we can find 5 acres of rooftops to generate an equivalent 1.2 MW of electricity — but that’s a lot of rooftops, a lot of insurance liability, and a lot of public-private partnerships.  Who knows, maybe it can work.  It won’t work as efficiently as a single-site solar farm.  But a conversation about an alternative is much better than just saying, “We don’t want it here.”

We need to become responsible for our own renewable energy and bear the true costs of electricity.  It’s really easy to flick a light switch without appreciating immense environmental damage done elsewhere.  But let’s be clear:  when you flick a switch, someone pays the environmental price.

For example, a significant percentage of your electricity comes from Hydro-Quebec.  The James Bay Project is a series of dams impacting rivers, people, and natural habitats across an area the size of New York State.  And this is just one of Hydro-Quebec’s projects.

The environmental impact we offset to others by purchasing Canadian hydro is massive.  In northern Quebec, these costs have included, besides what you might ordinarily imagine,  the drowning of 7,100 to 22,000 caribou and decades of continuous political struggles for the James Bay Cree and Inuit peoples to protect their land and way of life.

In 1984, Hydro-Quebec released 1500 cubic meters of water per second from a dam upstream of an annual caribou migration path.  7,100 carcasses were counted, with an estimate of total losses between 10,000 and 22,000.  Quoting the New York Times:

The accident was called ‘‘a major environmental catastrophe” by the Audubon Society. Leaders of the Inuit, or Eskimos, termed the event ”an environmental disaster of unprecedented proportions.” The animals were trying to cross the Caniapiscau and Koksoak Rivers about 60 miles upriver from Kuujjiaq, a town on Ungava Bay.  The caribous, which were making an annual migration, were swept over waterfalls or carried away in the rapids of the two swollen rivers.  Witnesses said carcasses were piled five or six deep in some places on the river banks. 

This isn’t a sad anecdote from long-forgotten history.  It’s an ongoing reality directly related to electricity consumption.  In April of this year, Hydro-Quebec proposed releasing 750 cubic meters of water per second, which would raise river levels 12 inches, causing renewed concerns about what happened in 1984, along with questions about immediate impacts to fishing, hunting, and gathering.  As recently as May, Hydro-Quebec was still mulling the decision, reportedly saying,that, “if it doesn’t spill the excess water in the reservoir, it could result in a big, uncontrolled release.”

This is just one dam of many massive, massive dams in Northern Quebec.  Native and non-native people alike fight to preserve and protect some of the most pristine environments on the planet.  We need to think about this when we turn on our lights.  

I support a commercial-scale solar farm because it seems that, too often, Vermont wants to pass the buck on energy production responsibility.  We’re masters at energy efficiency — and we’re pretty good at energy hypocrisy, too.  See the Times Argus’ “State of renewables not what you might think:

“What is extremely troubling to me as a Vermonter whose family roots are deep in this state is that we’ve had a lack of transparency and a big focus on the perception of Vermont being green when it comes to renewables, without that largely being the case in reality,” said Kevin Jones, director of the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School and an author of the report.

and VTDigger’s Vermont not meeting renewable energy goals, report says.”

The report suggests that despite the state’s progress on renewable electricity, in-state production of renewable electricity is not “flourishing in Vermont,” as shown in a Public Utility Commission report last year. The majority of Vermont’s renewable electricity comes from imported hydropower rather than from in-state renewables, according to the Energy Action Network report.

When I think about opposition to the solar farm on Cheney Field, I can’t help but wonder:  What sacrifice has Northfield  made?  How are we part of a renewable energy solution?

On Sunday I took a walk up to Cheney Field and imagined what a solar farm would look like there.  Cheney Field can be seen only from the highest residences on Dole Hill, Tracy Hill, and a short section of West Hill.  A solar farm there would not disturb anyone’s viewshed.  Neither would it imperil wildlife — at least, not any more so than the multitude of single-family homes popping up like rural sprawl in our woods and fields.  It would not contaminate our water supply, which is stored in two quarter-million gallon concrete tanks.  It would not bar people from hiking, biking, or running on the trail which runs through it.  As I looked around, I could see a solar farm which, even one year after its construction, very few people would worry about.  In that sense, I could accept Cheney Field as the true cost of electricity in Northfield.

I say all of this knowing how many friends disagree with me.  I’ve seen the petitions.  Many of you are more than neighbors.  You are people I admire, love and respect.  Over the last few weeks our face-to-face conversations have been civil, understanding, genuine.  This is the part I appreciate most about Northfield.   The true cost of friendship is the effort we put forward in being honest with each other.

 

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Heat Pumps and Tesla PowerWalls: How Vermont follows New Jersey’s Lead

On May 18th, 2015, I attended an invitation-only forum in Washington DC, “Driving Energy Efficiency with IT.” C2ES Driving Energy Efficiency with IT

The CEO of New Jersey’s largest electric utility was a featured speaker. The utility is PSE&G, and the CEO’s name is Ralph Izzo. One of his most important jobs at the time was to figure out how to change PSE&G’s business model and create new revenue streams.

Izzo, like utility CEO’s across America, was under pressure.  Electric utilities were losing money to the onslaught of the solar revolution.  The century-old business model — selling electricity — wasn’t working anymore.  

Net metering offers tidy savings for homeowners, but one person’s gain is another person’s loss.  Utilities were on the losing side of net-metering.

Appliances as Revenue Streams

Izzo had come up with a solution.  From the small podium on the 9th floor of the Capitol View Conference Center, the CEO of New Jersey’s largest utility leaned forward and said, “Do you remember Ma Bell?”

Ralph Izzo

Izzo’s vision for the future meant going back in time more than 30 years.  Before 1983, Bell Telephone/AT&T owned almost every phone in America, attaching a rental fee to customers’ monthly bills.  Few people knew it, but that’s how it worked.  PSE&G sees this as a good thing.   Izzo’s “new” business model positions electric utilities as home appliance sales and leasing dealers. It’s a new take on the old Ma Bell model.

“I want to own every appliance in every house we serve,” Izzo said. “I want our customers to lease their heating and cooling systems, their refrigerators, and their dishwashers from PSE&G.  The customer pays a small monthly lease and we’ll take care of everything else.”

Vermont follows New Jersey

So what does this mean for Vermont?  Well, Green Mountain Power has adopted New Jersey’s appliance sales and lease business model.  GMP is in the appliance business, selling or leasing heat pumps, Tesla PowerWalls, and a suite of eControl and eWater smart products.

Leasing is convenient for those of us who can’t plop down $5,000 for a whole-house heat pump.  But it’s important to read sales/lease contracts, know who owns what, and who controls the on/off switch.  The feel-good, save-the-environment sales pitch should be just one of several factors in your energy decisions now that you have a plethora of environment-saving options.  You can be green and at the same time, become a smart energy shopper. 

Smart Meters & “eControl”

smart-meter

Taking the appliance model another step, Ralph Izzo said he wanted to control appliance energy usage through smart meters.  PSE&G could generate a lot of savings if they could control customer usage. Demand Response creates efficiencies throughout the system, balancing supply and demand across the entire grid.

So what is Demand Response?  Do you remember when utilities would ask customers to turn down air conditioners in sweltering temperatures to help prevent a blackout?  Now utilities don’t have to ask for your help.  With your consent, outlined in a sales/lease contract, they can turn down your heat pump when you’re not home by way of your smart meter.

The question is, are customers given full disclosure before the contract is signed?  Do customers clearly understand what they are agreeing to?

For example, Green Mountain Power sells or leases Tesla PowerWalls — basically a big, lithium battery which can store electricity produced by your solar panels.  Through a Demand Response agreement, GMP can “borrow” energy from your Tesla PowerWall when it needs it — most likely in the evening when solar panels stop producing energy and demand increases.  They recharge your PowerWall when demand is less.  How can you tell if GMP is proposing a Demand Response program?  Well,  you’ll need to read the fine print of every contract you sign, and ask a whole lot of questions.

Tesla-Powerwall

Some folks get creeped-out by the thought of a utility remote-controlling their thermostat, as if there’s a home invader entering through the electrical panel.  But there’s no conspiracy theory here.  A utility can respond to electricity demand more efficiently if it can turn off air conditioners in houses during the day.  This type of Demand Response program helps everyone — and the entire grid.  You get a notification via a smart phone, and all’s good.  However, if you don’t like the idea, don’t agree to the terms.  Just ask, “What’s in it for me?” and request an answer in dollars.

Transparency and Full Disclosure

As I mentioned in a recent Front Porch Forum post, “Know what you own, and why you own it.” GMP, SunCommon, and other energy product/service providers don’t have an obligation to teach you the ins-and-outs of the renewable energy business.  In fact, Vermont’s new REC policy puts the average solar panel buyer/leaser at a huge disadvantage because it doesn’t include any type of consumer protection clause.  If you don’t ask the right questions, you may not get what you really think you get.

And therein lies the problem.  A company comes along and sells you on the idea that you’re going solar and helping save the environment.  The first part is not true at all if you don’t ask to keep your RECs.  The second part is somewhere in the middle of a truth-o-meter.

If you have solar panels on your roof, or if you are a “partner” in a Demand Response program, it helps if you understand the following:

  • You are a solar power producer if you buy solar panels.
  • You are not a solar power consumer if you don’t own your RECs.
  • You are letting a utility “borrow” electricity if you have a Telsa PowerWall and participate in a Demand Response program.
  • You are helping a utility if you let it control your appliances via a smart meter.

Then ask yourself, “What do I get in return?”  Maybe you get something, maybe you don’t.  It all depends on what is written in the sales/lease contract.

If a sales rep talks a rosy talk but doesn’t clarify the details, or if the contract is written almost entirely in small print, then it’s time to learn more and become a smart energy shopper.

Ultimately, here’s what you should understand:  The energy business is complicated, from solar panels to smart thermostats.  You have a lot of opportunities to go green and save money.  Just make sure you read any sales contract before you sign it.  Make sure it’s a good fit for you.

And beware of a sales rep dismissing anyone who suggests folks who advocate for transparency and disclosure are naysayers who don’t want to help the environment.  We’re just folks who want consumer-friendly renewable energy policies in Vermont.

Economic Development: From Planning to Action

NCDN has been super-busy with a lot of behind-the-scenes work since our January 19th meeting one year ago.  Meetings, phone calls, reports, registrations, more meetings — you know, all the stuff required to create an organization, build partnerships and get buy-in from our community.  So now it’s time to meet again.

So Save the Date!   The next NCDN public meeting will be January 20th at the Brown Public Library Community Room.  To help you remember, just click the Add to Calendar link below:

Here’s what you can expect to hear!

  1.  NCDN accomplishments in 2016.   Not surprisingly, economic development work involves meetings, phone calls, emails and site visits.  You may recall the Night on the Common we coordinated in July.  Or you may have participated in our “New Look for Northfield” survey.  But our work has been much more extensive than these two activities.  We’ll take a few minutes to let you know what we’ve been up to.
  2. What’s next!  NCDN has defined our goals and vision.  We’ve crafted specific strategies to achieve concrete objectives.  And we’ve written it all down in the NCDN Executive Summary.   You’ll get a copy of this important document at the January 20th meeting.  We’d also like to hear your ideas and feedback in the days following the meeting.  Special thanks to Ro Pelletier for providing a draft review back in June!
  3. A whole lot of Thank Yous!
  4. And the question, What do you want to do? 

cvrpc-6

NCDN has helped set the table.   Now it’s time to apply for grants and implement strategies.  We’ll give you a run-down on project areas.   Is there a specific project you want to help tackle?  Do you have time or expertise you’d like to contribute?  If you can’t participate, do you have some bucks to throw into the kitty?  Economic development requires coordinated, behind-the-scenes commitment.  Northfield needs Tiger Teams to roll up the sleeves and get down to work.

Who do we need?  Everyone.  This is just a short list.

  • Benefactors.  Northfield needs to demonstrate financial commitment as we seek corporate and institutional donors.  We also need to raise funds for a matching grant application by February 15th.  
  • Real Estate Agents.   There’s a new demographic of homebuyers in Northfield.  Let’s talk!
  • Local Business Owners.  Define your needs.  Are you interested in tax incentives?  Foot traffic?  Marketing?  What’s on your short-term and long-term wish-list?
  • Mountain Bikers.  You’re part of a huge growth opportunity.
  • Grant writers.  You know how much you’re needed.
  • Are you connected to Developers?  We need you to tap into your networks and help close deals on new construction projects.
  • How about Website Developers?  Northfield needs a vibrant, interactive, content-driven site.
  • Photographers.  We need a portfolio of images to highlight Northfield’s beauty and vitality.
  • Policy Wonks.  You know who you are.  Northfield desperately needs your expertise.  We need a sophisticated, innovative local government and committees.  We need people who can match local planning with state and federal programs.

So save the date and attend the meeting January 20th!  In the meantime, think about how you can contribute to economic development.  Share your expertise!  Write a check!  Spread the word!  Get involved!

And as always, thanks for your help!

2016ncdn-recap-v2

Tuesday Night: Farmer’s Market, East St., and Frieghtyard Way.

Six weeks ago I promised ice cream in the post, “EcDev:  What’s new behind the scenes!”  Well, it’s time for ice cream!  But first, a few really intriguing questions:

What if there were walk-in shops on both sides of the East Street Block? 

East St   Google Maps
Current view of East Street Block, South SideWhat if someone built a across the Dog River?

What if someone built a 4-story micro-apartment complex on Freightyard Way, overlooking the proposed Water Street Park across the Dog River?

IMG_2109

What if Northfield’s downtown housed more people who could support local businesses without the need to create more parking spaces?  What if we had a bigger tax base without having to clear forests or parcel out farmland along our dirt roads?

And finally, what if someone asked you to share what you think about all this?

Well, on Tuesday you can share your thoughts and think more deeply about opportunities for Northfield’s future and economic recovery.  The Northfield Community Development Network (NCDN) is hosting “Night on the Common” in partnership with the Planning Commission and Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission.

As you may know, the Farmer’s Market runs from 3-6pm, so there will be plenty of time to socialize and buy local.

From 6-7pm there will be a presentation by consultants who have drafted a conceptual plan regarding economic development on Freightyard Way and the East Street Block — two prime locations in Northfield’s downtown.  Their purpose:  to find out what you think!

You can also provide input on the NCDN’s proposed brand for Northfield at one table under the tent.  Advocates for the proposed Water Street Park will also be present at a table of their own.  And of course, there will be ice cream!

So take a break from the usual routine and come on down to the Farmer’s Market this week (July 19th)!  Share your input on Northfield’s economic development and future developments. East Street Block.

You probably know the East Street Block from NSB to the Dog River.  If you don’t happen to know the Freightyard Way area, here’s a picture slideshow.  It’s probably one of the easiest places to build new structures, with power, water, and sewer all set to go.   And lots of space in the back next to the scenic Dog River.

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EcDev: What’s new behind the scenes!

This involves Ice Cream.

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Area Wide Plan Timeline

The Economic Development Committee kicked it old-school on June 1st, marking up the whiteboard in the municipal building conference room.  The subject:  creating a plan for two commercial/industrial “brownfield” properties

A brownfield is an industrial or commercial site “where future use is affected by real or perceived environmental contamination.”   Property owners have to think about these things before they buy, sell or develop land which may — or may not — be contaminated.

At stake is the difference between a property being developed — or not.  Let’s say you want to build office space on a location where, once upon a time, someone buried an oil tank or dumped antifreeze all over the place.  If you want to build, you might have to go through quite a few expensive hurdles.  And if you wanted to sell the property, it may look less attractive for development to a potential buyer.  They would have to go through the same expensive hurdles as you.  The end result:  development is delayed or doesn’t happen at all.

So how can an Economic Development Committee help a developer when a question of potential environmental issues arise?

With an EPA-funded grant of $43,000. 

EPA BF AWP fact sheet.png

If we want to stimulate our local economy by attracting new businesses, we need to help property owners jump through regulatory hurdles in a positive, helpful way.  Creating a plan to help assess and, if necessary, clean up the site is much more helpful than it sounds.  If you’re not a developer, all this stuff may sound boring.  If you are a developer, all this stuff sounds expensive.  This is why the EPA provides Brownfields Area Wide Planning grants to communities.  It’s essentially a revitalization instrument that catalyzes the reuse of property which might otherwise not be cleaned up or developed.

Are you still with me?  Because there’s ice cream coming up!

Here’s the official explanation from the EPA’s brownfield grant funding page:

Brownfields area-wide planning (BF AWP) is a grant program which provides funding to conduct activities that will enable the recipient to develop an area-wide plan (including plan implementation strategies) for assessing, cleaning up and reusing catalyst/high priority brownfield sites. Funding is directed to a specific project area, such as a neighborhood, downtown district, local commercial corridor, old industrial corridor, community waterfront or city block, affected by a single large or multiple brownfield sites.

So what properties in Northfield are we talking about?  On June 1st, the Economic Development Committee  selected two site locations to receive planning support.  Six potential sites were identified a few months ago.

  • Former Bean Chevrolet
  • Former Nantanna Mill
  • Former Comfort Colors Property
  • 108 N. Main Street (next to Dollar General)
  • Mayo-NSB-East Street Block
  • Freightyard properties (former Northfield Wood Products area)

Site selection was based on a list of weighted criteria with a baseline of environmental uncertainty.  The results were pretty straightforward.

IMG_20160602_113401238
Nate’s Brownfield Selection Notes
  • What is the size of property?
  • Does the potential use of the property align with the Town Plan and V-DAT report?
  • Does the landowner want to participate, and is the landowner interested in developing the property?
  • Will a development on the property encourage additional improvements in the community?
  • What is the potential level of environmental assessment and cleanup?

After assessing these criteria, the Freightyard lot and Mayo-NSB-East Street Block were chosen.  (The outlined areas in the map below are approximate.)
AWP Sites

The next step is “community engagement.”  This is where the ice cream comes in!

On July 19th the Northfield Community Development Network, in partnership with the Planning Commission and Economic Development Committee, will host a fun event including bountiful mounds of ice cream (and perhaps healthier alternatives).

Some good folks from Stone Environmental will be there seeking your input for the Area Wide Plan.  They’ve already starting mapping things out.  Literally.  Here’s a link to a really cool “story map” they put together:

https://cvrpc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=9828ff061a0b4f399c8fc009b6493063

Go ahead, click the link and scroll down.  You’ll see a bit of history along the way.

You’ll also notice that the story isn’t quite done.  This is because you’re part of the story.  Your thoughts and ideas are relevant to the planning process.  Stone Environmental has been hired to talk with you, listen to your ideas and gather input as they create our Area Wide Plan.  And it’s all happening this summer.  The plan will be complete by September 31st.  When it’s done, then perhaps we’ll see some new developments in town — on the Freightyard and along the Mayo-East Street Block.

So please put July 19th in your calendar.  And remember:  Ice Cream.

Northfield Area Wide Plan

Darn Tough: A Comfort Colors Future?

Note:  This is Part 3 in a 3-Part series, “Darn Tough Vermont:  Success can be a Double-Edged Sword.”


Success can be a double-edged sword.  Comfort Colors has been acquired by Gildan Activewear Kurt Salmon

Everyone in Northfield should consider what Darn Tough Vermont  might look like ten years from now.Simply put, the same fate of Chouinard’s Comfort Colors may be waiting for Darn Tough Vermont.  As you may recall, Comfort Colors was purchased by the global clothing company Gildan in 2015, resulting in the loss of many jobs in Northfield.

Could the same thing happen to Darn Tough Vermont?  Sure.

If we look at one of Darn Tough’s leading competitors, we can get a glimpse of one possible future for Darn Tough Vermont.  SmartWool, another provider of premier outdoor sports socks, was founded in 1995 by ski instructors Peter and Patty Duke.  The company was purchased by Timberland in 2005, and which was then  acquired by VF Corporation in 2011.   Today, SmartWool is  a brand for a publicly traded company.

Smartwool to VF Brand

When SmartWool was purchased by VF Corporation,  residents in Steamboat Springs were uncertain about their future.   But SmartWool remains in the Colorado ski town and even expanded its headquarters in 2013.  SmartWool shows off remodeled headquarters in Steamboat Steamboat Pilot Today

This didn’t happen by accident.  The City of Steamboat Springs wanted to keep SmartWool around.  When SmartWool needed to build its new headquarters in a former airport terminal, the city loaned the company $450,000 toward the $2 million project.  It was a great economic development initiative.  The city continues to earn 3.5% interest on the loan and SmartWool continues to hire new employees.

The Smartwool story is very common.  The original owners may have a strong commitment to their community, but they also deserve the fruits of their labors when their brand becomes more valuable than their company’s operations.  When a small company creates a high-value brand and demonstrates consistent growth, it’s a cherry ready to be picked by a larger company.

Darn Tough Vermont shows all the signs of growing ripe for the picking, especially if the company achieves its goal of $100 million in annual revenue.  By then,  Ric Cabot may very likely get an offer no one would refuse, no matter how much commitment one might have to Northfield employees.Transaction

This is just a fact of life in a free economy.

So what would happen to local employees if VFC, Gildan or another global clothing company purchases Darn Tough Vermont?  Ordinarily, global companies might close up the local operation and transition to cheap, outsource labor.  But sometimes the “Made in the USA” slogan is worth the price of keeping operations in the US.  The question might be, would a hypothetical buyer keep the overhead of a manufacturing facility and employees, or would the hypothetical buyer contract  manufacturers in North Carolina or Tennessee? 

 

Northfield leaders should keep this story in the back of their minds while we celebrate Darn Tough Vermont’s current success.  Ric Cabot has been and will always be a model employer in Northfield, no matter what happens in the future.  If he gets an offer he can’t refuse — like a $100 million — we should applaud his amazing business turnaround story. Cabot rebuilt his family legacy and will have proven the kind of  darn tough company  resilience worthy of a case study in future business school classrooms.

esop-sq

There are various future directions for Darn Tough Vermont.  If we take the time to consider a potential Comfort Colors scenario, we can then take positive actions to make other scenarios more attractive.

For example, one of the most effective ways to keep a business local is to have the employees purchase the company.  An Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) is one way for an owner to retire very lucratively, selling the company to its workers.  An ESOP can even be as enticing as a $100 million carrot that may never come with its huge tax benefits, owner rewards, and worker stability.  Vermont happens to have quite a bit of expertise in forming successful ESOP owner succession plans, and in fact the Vemont Empoloyee Ownership Center is hosting its annual conference on June 2nd.

The bottom line is, there are many different ways to help facilitate a successful transition if we anticipate Darn Tough’s possible future.   On the other hand, if we choose to not think about the future with candor, Northfield may be caught by surprise like it was with the loss of Comfort Colors in 2015.

There are no judgments of good or bad to be made about any business in Northfield. The process we need to think about in economic development is strategic planning.  It’s possible to be very, very proud of Darn Tough Vermont and also imagine things being very, very  different ten years from now.

Thanks for reading this three part series and please feel free to leave a comment or send a note with your thoughts.

DarnToughVermontMountaineeringSocks_hickorees.com_ad

 

Darn Tough: Sophistication and Commitment

Note:  This is Part 2 in a 3-Part series, “Darn Tough Vermont:  Success can be a Double-Edged Sword.”


We Really Know SocksThe high-value Darn Tough brand has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York TimesFortune MagazineEsquire, Industry Week, as well as outdoor specialty media like Bicycle Retailer, Snowshoe Magazine, and GearJunkie.com.  Gearist.com went out of their way, coming to Northfield to create a video of the production process

There are many elements to the Darn Tough Vermont success story.   The down-home Vermont mystique for quality products and Yankee perseverance belies the level of sophistication behind the scenes.  Darn Tough was built on a top-flight branding strategy hatched in 2004.  It employs a  long-term public relations campaign helmed by Momentum Media PR .  It hires expert consultants to improve efficiency, cost-savings and supply chain management.  From Industry Week, March 9, 2015: How an American Sock Manufacturer Battled Its Way Back from Bankruptcy to Growth

“We begin with projections from the territories. We look at pre-season orders, and then set targets by sku of what we want to knit,” Cabot explained. “We can make real-time adjustments based on real-time demand, so the system is pretty robust, and it allows us to modify the schedule. If we think Glacier Socks are going to be a huge hit, we can adjust our orders because we do manufacturing right here.”

Darn Tough Vermont is pretty sophisticated on the business analytics side of things.  You don’t have to be an MBA student to understand the language and machinations of the global economy, but it helps.  Cabot is describing concepts like demand management, strategic sourcing, and responsive planning.  Let’s just say that behind every successful manufacturing enterprise, there’s some darn serious software solution.

Darn Tough’s business sophistication meets social commitment when we talk about Ric Cabot’s regard for family legacy and the livelihood of his employees.  Cabot has a bit of an old school sense of responsibility to the families he supports by way of employment.

“We know our employees are punching the clock for their spouse, their boyfriend, their kids, their elderly parents,” Cabot says in the Boston Globe piece.

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This feels almost as warm and fuzzy – in a good way –  as a pair of his Merino wool and nylon socks in the middle of winter.