VTC Randolph campus may have missed business opportunity

Business entrepreneur David Hall, a resident of Provo, Utah, offered to set up a business incubator at the Randolph campus of Vermont Technical College, but opposition from the community shut him down, and now financial troubles threaten to close the campus.

Hall’s proposals in the past few years were aimed at giving the campus a financial boost. The two projects ready to commit included a production facility for Hall’s company, Vanderhall Motor Works. The project was to be staffed by VTC students and would produce at least 1,000 sport-style, three-wheel electric cars per year.

The facility, initially proposed for Vermont, now has its home in Utah after Hall packed up and left under pressure from locals.

“It’s starting to take off pretty good,” Hall told True North in an interview. “We felt like Vermont would be a good place for that as well because it’s a really light commuter car. I was hoping just to forge some long-term relations with you know, small industry. I don’t like the great big giga-plants that are happening and I also don’t like the great big farms that are happening in the world.”

Vanderhall Motor Works

Vanderhall three-wheeled roadsters, like the one pictured here, feature a mono-aluminum chassis with up to a 1.5 liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine and a six-speed transmission.

Hall says his offer would have helped the school.

“I think, primarily, what it would have done is provided a good job for students so they could learn,” he said. “What we were going to do was put the plant right there close to the campus, and then then the students would be able to learn on the job as well as at school.”

Former Vermont State Colleges Chancellor Jeb Spaulding called for the VSC trustees to vote to close Northern Vermont University campuses in Johnson and Lyndon, and to shut down the VTC Randolph campus. The state colleges system has encountered financial difficulties compounded by Gov. Phil Scott’s economic shutdown of the state.

Hall had another project idea for the school. He proposed vertical farms, which might be ideal for Vermont’s short growing season. In vertical farming, where crops are vertically stacked in layers, plants can be grown year-round.

“It’s really what Vermont needs because it’s got such a short season,” Hall said. “I felt like Vermont was perfect for that type because, you know, we can’t continue to just clear the land and the hills and use the old-fashioned approaches, because it pollutes the streams. So we’ve got to kind of go to a new-age type of agriculture.”

Hall said the economic fallout resulting from the shutdowns was probably too much for the school to overcome, but he still believes these two projects could have made a positive financial impact.

“It might have spawned some other companies that would have come,” he said. ” … In order to save the college, we would have had to have probably 10 or 15 companies move in.”

Asher Crispe, director of the nonprofit Vermont Future Now, has extensive knowledge about the vertical farms. He describes them as extremely efficient in terms of cost, acreage and labor.

“You produce so much more,” he said. “You stack trays of these things vertically so you can have [more]. For instance, AeroFarms has a 70,000-square foot facility in New Jersey that produces 2 million pounds of produce a year, which is like almost incomprehensible.”

Crispe said the overall production cost is about 25 to 30 percent less than conventional farming methods.

Crispe also said while mainstream EVs are currently reliant on government subsidies, major breakthroughs in the technologies are happening rapidly.

“It’s very much expected that we are approaching a tipping point where the trade-offs that currently sacrifice to have electric will basically disappear,” he said.

Crispe said the niche-markets that Hall is targeting are promising because of technological advances in manufacturing.

“You can now buy for a few thousand dollars an industrial-quality 3D scanner,” he said. “… You can map any object, including any part in a three-wheeler like that.”

Hall also expressed interest in “dense green housing,” low square footage homes meant to conserve land use. This project, which was not related to the school, garnered the most negative publicity for Hall among locals and media.

“I didn’t present it properly,” he said. “It’s quite dense, so it’s not traditional Vermont. My view is people should be together densely and then the rest is wilderness. That density drives Vermonters nuts.”

Hall also purchased  land in Vermont but is now selling it off.

“I’ve still got $3 million worth of property there so I’m still there a bit,” he said. “I had $6 million in property there but I sold about half of it.”

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of Vanderhall USA

14 thoughts on “VTC Randolph campus may have missed business opportunity

  1. Vermont is under the control of people who claim they want peace and quiet but then vote for every project that builds up more government . Most towns are run by a small group and usually are anti business until they decide they might need something. Zoning and act 250 have cost the people of Vermont tens of millions in revenue, even churches and stores have to spend tens of thousands for a permit and likely will not get one. A very sad state of affairs and Montpelier coulkd care less as they are at this moment preparing a lot more taxes on everyone without reducing overhead one cent. A huge number of Vermonters go to New Hampshire to do their weekly shopping and it appears the legislature doesn’t care.

    • You really said a lot there, we have a serious local problem frequently to line their own pockets or worse agenda. The regional planning commissions are using our local governments as pawns to fill out and agenda most people are unaware of. Very sad.

      When you speak out about it, they blow you off.

  2. The folks in Randolph ought to be ashamed of themselves. They were given an opportunity to keep their precious Tech College open and when given that opportunity to do so, they screamed so frequently and loudly, the opportunity evaporated. If the college is unsustainable for lack of funds, CLOSE IT!!!! It’s not complecated.

    • The people in Randolph never heard of this “offer” until now…and I guarantee neither did the people at VTC. This article is half assed and doesn’t talk about the real reason this guy was not welcomed

  3. Want to make a million dollars in Vermont? Bring two.

    Vermont is not interested in doing anything green or making a positive difference, we are self absorbed in our wonderousness and pride of Vermont Strong and becoming the first socialist state in the nation to be bothered with facts, science, and love of our neighbor.

    Nah we’ve gone for the root cause of power politics at all costs. Power and money. Creating an all powerful, all knowing, all seeing and all taxing oligarchy know as Montpelier at all costs. ALL COSTS.

  4. Our state is run by a bunch of idealistic losers. To pass up on opportunity like this for our children and without taking in the consideration of the greater good, (which our elected officials profess to care about) our officials have nailed the coffin on our future economy and schools. Vermont Tech could be one of the best schools in the country but because of the constant bleating of non working trust funders and old,not dead yet hippies, The State of Vermont is destined to be a welfare state with no jobs to keep our generations employed. Nice job listening to the vocal minority once again Vermont officials!(and that is not praise but sarcasm for you feckless)

    • New Vistas was the real reason people pushed him out of the state, not the proposal mentioned in this article. The author is doing a very good job of painting Hall as a saviour.

  5. Yup, Vermont’s take your business elsewhere mindset, more Liberal thinkers
    at VTC…………….So stop crying for funding, you had you’re chance….

    Idiots in charge !!

    • That’s not at all why people resisted Hall. Look into his “New Vistas” plan. This article carefully left out the fact that he wanted to usurp Vermont’s town and state resources for his exclusive community, and not pay for any of it. All while buying up land from under Vermonters, forcing them to leave by not allowing them to be in his planned community, and ruining the historical nature of Vermont. This journalist should have done more research, or if they did, they should have provided the whole truth of Hall’s devious plans.

      • Well, there’s more. Vermonters willingly and knowingly sold all their land to him. And then changed all the rules.

        And Vermont being so friendly and pious, are quick to point out any faults should they not conform to the Vermont Socialist Religion and then any other possible good things you may have done are completely overlooked or turned down. You must have complete agreement with the borg…..do not think.

        Hall was pretty open, Vermont is the devious one. Just ask those who tried to move here and start a new business.

        • You clearly didn’t do your research or look into New Vistas. He approached people without telling them why he wanted to buy their land, just offered obscene amounts of money. His plans were only outed *after* people sold land to him. Vermonters did not “knowingly” sell their land to him. Not “borg”, just facts. The proposal in this article was not the problem. His community plan of wanting all the state’s services (road maintenance, ambulance services, etc) without paying for any of it was the problem.

          • Last I knew we pay property taxes to cover those expenses?

            I’ve lived in these small towns all my life. If you think I’m going to believe every one didn’t know his plan after he told one person in town, I was born but not yesterday.

            How did they inkowingly sell their land? Nobody asked any questions when somebody was buying the whole town? And it was his to use he owned it!

            That is unless you live Ina socialist state. You’ll notice the state is trying to take all mineral rights for free no too.

            Everybody in the state knew what was going on because word travels fast around here but you’re telling me nobody in town knew? When every small town of Vermont I’ve ever lived in, people know what you had for breakfast yesterday? How dumb do you take me for?

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