Contact: Tim Traver
Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, Inc.

For more information:
email: tim@vsjf.org
phone: 802.828.1260
fax: 802.223.2336

Date: 03/12/04

Norwich University pledges local purchasing

Montpelier: Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont, recently joined a growing number of Vermont colleges and institutions pledging their commitment to purchasing arrangements that benefit Vermont businesses, communities and the natural environment. Substituting imports with local purchases benefits small Vermont businesses, generates additional wealth for the Vermont economy, and can enhance Vermont's natural resource base. As a new partner in the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund's Cornerstone Project, Norwich University will collaborate with other institutions to seek out products sustainably grown and manufactured in Vermont.

"Norwich is always interested in supporting Vermont businesses and is eager to work with Cornerstone to identify additional sources of quality wood products as well as other products needed to support our academic mission. In addition, the University is interested in working with Cornerstone in its efforts to use environmentally-friendly building materials and in supporting sustainable forestry practices," said chief administrative officer Dave Magida. Norwich has many building projects in the works, including renovations to dormitories and a new museum.

Cornerstone began in April 2000 following a meeting of economic development, environmental and business leaders convened by Senator Patrick Leahy to discuss options for revitalizing the forest products industry in Vermont. Participants agreed that Vermont's largest institutions --colleges, state agencies, and municipalities -- have a profound impact on local wood manufacturing businesses. With a startup grant from the USDA Rural Development and state funding, VSJF founded Cornerstone. Cornerstone focused initially on wood products, providing a brokering service that helped institutions link to local manufacturers of hardwood flooring, moldings and specialty turning stock, solid wood framing materials and hardwood furniture. It's expanding now to include a range of goods and services offered by Vermont companies.

"Wood products are only the tip of the iceberg," said Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund operations director Ed Delhagen. "Cornerstone intends to work with a broad range of import substitutions and Vermont products, including food, and, someday soon, renewable energy."

The economic issues being addressed by the Cornerstone Project are symptomatic of broad changes in northeastern rural manufacturing and natural resource-based economies brought about by the global economy. Vermont communities have lost more than 600 jobs in the forest products industry alone in the past three years. Furniture imports from Asia now account for 34 percent of furniture into the U.S., up from 23 percent in 1995. Cornerstone is helping the industry retool and reposition itself towards new certified products and local markets. The goal is to spur the growth of niche-oriented enterprises and sustainable jobs in the emerging certified forest products manufacturing sector that can compete favorably in the global market place. High-skilled manufacturing jobs benefit rural economies directly.

Other members of Cornerstone include: Fletcher Allen Health Care, Saint Michael's College, Middlebury, UVM, Vermont Buildings and General Services, and Vermont State Colleges. Cornerstone has helped broker over two million dollars in local sales since its founding.

The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund is a not-for-profit corporation that works in partnership with state development agencies to create jobs by helping small natural resource-based businesses innovate and grow. For more information, find VSJF on the web at www.vsjf.org.

March 2004

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