Innovative Green Business Financing in Vermont; Sustainable Maryland Certified Launches; Interstate Bike Highway Resumes; NC Takes Cleantech Census; Texas Passes TV-Takeback Law

Green Companies Get Financing Assistance in Vermont

The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF) announced it’s developed a program to specifically support green businesses in the state.  

It provides small green businesses in Vermont with access to the flexible risk capital they need to grow – without having to give up their ownership stake in the company.

The TVSJF Flexible Capital Fund, L3C will provide royalty financing for growth stage businesses in value-added agricultural, forest products, and clean technology sectors.

It’s the first program of its kind in Vermont and one of only two similar programs in New England.

"Business owners who can’t find the right match of capital to grow their businesses now have one more option available to them – a flexible, higher-risk debt instrument that won’t force an exit strategy in order to pay back the investor," says VSJF Flexible Capital Fund President Janice St. Onge. "The Flex Fund provides them with the flexible and patient capital they need, and also offers investors a tangible way to support the growth of Vermont’s green business sectors."

"This isn’t your average low-cost loan, but we’re cheaper than equity," she says. "Until now, flexible risk capital at a Vermont scale has been out of reach for many of our small businesses – specifically those in our natural resource and clean technology sectors."

Businesses receiving capital through the Flex Fund also have the added advantage of instant access to the networks, expertise, mentoring services and technical assistance programs of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.

"We nurture the businesses we lend to every step of the way to ensure a positive outcome – providing the strategic counsel, mentoring and critical infrastructure support that entrepreneurs really need as they grow their businesses."

"When we were looking for growth capital a few years ago there was nothing like the Flex Fund available," says Tom Stearns, founder of High Mowing Seeds in Wolcott, VT. "We had to go out ourselves and find the right kind of patient investor that didn’t require us to sell out. It was hard work and took a lot of time and education on our part. The Flex Fund offers another way to link into flexible capital without having to make raising money a full time job!"

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (I-VT) secured $500,000 from the federal government in 2010. Vermont Sustainable was able to leverage those funds, raising $1.2 million from private accredited investors, and is looking to raise another $2.3 million. When fully capitalized, the VSJF Flexible Capital Fund will have $4 million to invest.

St. Onge says the VSJF Flexible Capital Fund is now ready to accept green companies in Vermont that need flexible risk capital, as well as accredited investors who want to see their investments working directly in Vermont communities.

Maryland Launches Sustainable Certification Program

An innovative program, Sustainable Maryland Certified, awards sustainability certification to cities and towns when they adopt green policies.

40 of Maryland’s 157 towns and cities have already expressed interest in participating.

Program officials expect participating communities to benefit from increased public and private funding.

The free program was designed by University of Maryland’s Environmental Finance Center. It’s designed to help communities find cost-effective, strategic ways to protect their natural assets and revitalize their communities.

Using best practices in resource areas like water, renewable energy, land use, health, food, and economy, a municipality can earn points toward sustainability certification. Examples of potential initiatives include renewable energy installations/ incentives, green transportation and community gardens.

Communities can get help in choosing a direction for their greening efforts and access training, case studies and tools to implement them, and then get recognized for their accomplishments.

Sustainable Maryland Certified offers a menu of actions, allowing communities to choose activities specific to their needs and plan across community priorities to achieve multiple benefits.

Work Resumes on US Interstate Highway System For Bikes

More than 30 years ago, the Association of American State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) identified corridors across the US for an interstate bicycle highway, but construction tapered off in the 1980s after completing only two sections.

Now AASHTO has approved six new routes, according to a blog post from the US Department of Transportation.

The new routes – four in Alaska, one across Michigan’s lower peninsula, and one from Maine to New Hampshire – will add to completed routes from North Carolina to Virginia and from Virginia to Illinois.

The Adventure Cycling Association website features an interactive map with details about plans for each state in the US.

North Carolina Completes Census of Cleantech Industry

North Carolina is home to 1,792 renewable energy companies and 1,829 renewable energy generation systems, according to a census taken by the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association.

The Association credits passage of the Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) signed into law in 2007 with creating a welcoming environment for the industry.

The "Clean Energy Data Book" is the Association’s first attempt to track the state’s clean energy projects. Previously, the information was scattered across numerous state agencies, found in over a 1000 regulatory filings at the NC Utilities Commission, on various websites, or not cataloged online at all.

Renewable energy projects in North Carolina include: 

  • 33 biomass projects: 551 MW
  • 836 geothermal projects
  • 67 hydroelectric projects: 1,900 MW
  • 829 solar projects: 59 MW 
  • 64 wind projects: 300 MW 

Furthermore, the industry employs some 12,000 people in clean energy jobs – a number that has increased from 10,000 in 2009.

Texas Finally Recycles Televisions

Environmentalists, local government leaders and recycling businesses praised Texas legislators for passing a bill that requires TV manufacturers to take back and recycle obsolete televisions, keeping toxic materials such as lead and mercury out of Texas landfills and water sources.

Governor Rick Perry signed Senate Bill 329 into law after vetoing a similar law in 2009. Advocates count this as one of the rare environmental victories during the 2011 Texas Legislative Session.

An estimated 25 million televisions are disposed each year in the US. Old-style cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions contain several pounds of lead and most new flat-screen TVs contain mercury bulbs.

Typically, less than 20% televisions are recycled, forcing many communities across Texas to routinely clean up illegal electronics dumps. 

24 other states have electronics recycling laws, and 20 of those cover computers and TVs.

"We applaud Governor Perry for signing the TV TakeBack Recycling bill into law," says Robin Schneider, Executive Director of Texas Campaign for the Environment. "This bill is the long-awaited companion to the Computer Takeback Law he signed in 2007."

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