Part 1 of the series looked back at my tour of Revision, a military-grade safety-glass company. It is expanding into helmets and batteries, and is proud to be a successful Vermont company. In Part 2, I recounted my tour of BioTek, a company that is disrupting the life sciences by offering high-tech testing equipment at a fraction of the cost of its competition. The companies have displayed the culture of a small, scrappy, blue-collar state that, like most of the world, needs talented people.
The following is a trip into the heart of Vermont, and shows the state has much more to offer than snowboarding and maple syrup.
Liquid Measurement Systems
Started in 1991, Liquid Measurement Systems (LMS) now has 43 employees working toward improving the accuracy and measurement capability in liquid measurement systems. Specializing in fuel probes, indicators, and conditioners, the company has found advantages in material science.
The LMS composite fuel quantity probes with AC systems are made with lightweight, durable graphite composite. CEO George Lamphere said LMS’s probes are the lightest ones on the market. For example, the LMS composite fuel probe weighs approximately half that of a similar metal probe. A 38-in.-long LMS composite probe now in production (with cable) weighs less than 10 ounces.
The AC fuel probes made from this graphite composite will crush before puncturing the fuel tank. This ensures containment in a crash, or at least containment from the fuel probe.
Beyond being lightweight, the probe is resistant to corrosion, cracking, dents, and other field maltreatments. So far, LMS has delivered over 6,200 graphite composite fuel quantity probes to the field—with no field failures—in a wide variety of commercial and military aircraft.
One of the benefits of doing business in Vermont is that “it’s the center of the universe,” said Lamphere. While Vermont might seem like it’s far north and east, it’s relatively central to LMS’s international business. Vermont is very close to a large hub in Canada; about as close as you can get to Europe while still being in the U.S. In addition, LMS has taken part in the State Trade Expansion Program Grant (STEP).
STEP was awarded to Vermont by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to support the state’s businesses in an effort to engage internationally through trade missions, trade shows, and export education. The SBA and STEP’s objective is to increase the overall number of U.S. small business exporters as well as increase export sales. The STEP program’s focus in Vermont is on relationship development and export planning—helping businesses diversify to include global markets that benefit companies and their employees.
Vermont Precision Tools
The last tech part of the tour was spent at Vermont Precision Tools (VPT). CEO Monica Greene said, “If it has a hole or thread, we’ve got a gage for it.” Since 1968, Vermont Precision Tools Inc. has built its business by providing our customers with the highest-quality products and services in the industry. It prides itself on the ability to achieve total customer satisfaction while working in a business environment created of mutual respect and appreciation. VPT services multiple metalworking industries.
VPT has the same Vermont culturalism as the other companies: listening to its employees and long-term, continuous growth. Like most of the companies I saw, it is family-owned. Family-owned company executives aren’t looking at rapid expansion in order to sell out and ride off on a boat of money. They’re in it for the long haul.
In addition, the culture of transparency and treating people equally was present here, too. Employees were given praise and highlighted for accomplishing tasks, or honored for their ideas. Greene proudly showed off a board indicating how many employee ideas the company integrated into the production floor that year—297! In fact, thousands of employee ideas have been integrated into the company since the start of this program.
VPT manufactures a wide variety of precision round and ground products to meet today’s demands for superior-performance tools, while providing quality and dependability. The company offers a full range of grinding capabilities, in-house heat treat, and state-of-the-art inspection.
The company was growing rapidly, and VPT worked closely with government officials to find the best way to expand using the Brownfields Initiative. The Brownfields Initiative promotes the productive reuse of sites that are currently abandoned or not fully utilized due to contamination or the perception of contamination on the site. Financial assistance for cleanup provides economic growth, housing, and open space that strengthens the communities.
The Brownfields Revitalization Fund (BRF) offers grants and loans for remediation of brownfield sites with viable redevelopment potential. The fund is administered by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, with funds made available to Vermont from the Environmental Protection Agency. Company representatives mentioned how easy it was to work with and access government officials.
VPT also has an extensive training program that was working on adding 40 students as of this writing. This helps ensure it gets the best employees, and with the growing international STEM gap, internal training is a big benefit. Training and promoting employees internally means that many of the employees at VPT, as was the case with employees for other companies I saw in Vermont, have been with these companies for many years, and maintain company loyalty. Moreover, in Vermont, 50% of the cost of training might be covered by the state.
The Vermont Training Program (VTP) is a flexible, nimble, and strategic workforce development program to enhance the skills of the Vermont workforce and increase productivity of Vermont employers. VTP leverages its grant budget to serve Vermonters across a broad range of industry sectors while putting a focus on new and innovative training projects or initiatives. VTP can fund pre-employment, new hires, and/or incumbent employee training. Up to 50% of wages for each employee in training (on-site training) or up to 50% of the trainer expenses (classroom/vendor fees) can be funded. Grants are paid out on a reimbursement basis upon completion of employee training. Costs associated with travel, materials, equipment, consulting/ coaching, and course development will not be considered.
These are just a few of the benefits featured in my tour around Vermont. There’s plenty more on how these policies are helping to expand the booming brewery business in the state, which is coming in part 4. Stay tuned!