Vermont renewable industry sets policy agenda

first_imgVermont’s local renewable energy industry ‘ made up of manufacturers, construction contractors, installers, developers, and suppliers’ announced today “the industry is equipped to help make ‘Vermont energy strong’ in the 21st Century.”The industry, which ranges from local fabricators assembling electrical boards and contractors that specialize in hot water, solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and biomass heating installations to regional and international manufacturers of innovative renewable energy technologies, held a press conference on pending policy issues today in Montpelier.”The benefits of a strong renewable industry flow throughout the state by creating local jobs, producing energy locally, and providing energy security,” said Gabrielle Stebbins, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Vermont (REV), the state trade association representing more than 300 renewables and efficiency businesses in the state. “Growing our own renewable energy in-state is in keeping with Vermonters’ desire for self-reliance, a clean energy future that leaves a better legacy for our children, and keeping our dollars local.”‘The industry is ready, willing, and able to both kick-start Vermont’s economy and make ‘Vermont energy strong’ in the 21st Century,’ said REV Chair, Martha Staskus. ‘We are extremely grateful for the Governor’s strong support for assuring Vermont doesn’t miss out on the ‘energy revolution’ and for his commitment to expand Vermont’s innovative Standard Offer program in his recent State of the State address. The many diverse businesses and workers of our industry stand with him and we’re ready to get to work.’The industry highlighted three policies being considered by the legislature and supported by Governor Shumlin critical to the growth of the industry:1) Expanding Vermont’s Standard Offer program, which provides predictability to local, distributed renewable energy generation. The group is calling for the program to be expanded beyond its initial 50MW, yielding new jobs, producing local clean energy, and bringing private financial support to local industry. A strong Standard Offer is the most effective method for meeting strong renewable portfolio goals.2) Funding Vermont’s Clean Energy Development Fund (CEDF), which is expected to run out of money by mid-year. A 2011 report by Kavet, Rockler & Associates, LLC found that every $1 invested by the CEDF resulted in $4 in private capital investment. Since 2006 alone, it has leveraged grants, tax credits, and loans into $110 million in privately funded project expenditures. The successes of this program are threatened without a new revenue source and the industry is advocating for sustainable funding for this effective economic development tool. Proposals in both the House and Senate Natural Resource Committees, spearheaded by Chair Tony Klein and Rep. Allison Clarkson, and Chair Lyons and Senator Clarkson, would tax nuclear storage, a past-funding source for the CEDF.3) Assuring quick passage of technical corrections to Vermont’s successful net metering program, which makes minor technical changes to 2011’s Act 47. Net metering in Vermont has allowed homes, businesses, schools, farms, and non-profits to harness their own energy. Act 47 improved this successful program and H.475, which makes minor changes to that law, passed the house in late January. This bill should be fast-tracked in the Senate and signed by the Governor by Town Meeting Day.‘When we’re manufacturing or installing solar locally, we’ve activated an entire supply chain of work throughout the state. This includes electrical board fabrication in Bristol and Springfield, metal workers from Rutland County and Lyndon, and electricians and contractors from Williston. The renewable energy industry in this state is vast and it is growing. With the right policies today, we can lead a more economic and energy secure future for this state,’ said Andrew Savage, a member of AllEarth Renewables’ management team.‘The stable funding of the CEDF helps support a vibrant, cost-effective solar hot water, solar, and wind energy industry in this state. It’s leveraging dollars to give homeowners and businesses the investment in energy independence and creating good local installation and manufacturing jobs,’ said Tom Hughes, CEO of Sunward Systems.Chad Farrell, founder of Encore Redevelopment, added ‘We have built a business here in Vermont around the opportunities associated with an energy transition and Vermont’s early leadership in this burgeoning marketplace. A robust continuation of the Standard Offer program is vital for Vermont to keep pace with our neighbors in the development of additional sources of clean, distributed renewable energy generation to support our economy and in order to continue to provide jobs, tax revenue and energy security for our state.’‘By supporting in-state renewable energy, Vermont gets jobs, economic development and intellectual capital. Northern Power directly employs more than 100 people. We sell in Vermont and export to the world. We buy from more than 350 Vermont companies. They supply steel, financial services, electrical parts, engineering services, metal fabrication and machining, welding supplies, crane services, marketing and media, legal, lodging and meeting space ‘ a wide range of Vermont businesses stand behind us every day,’ added James Jennings, global director of repower business at Northern Power Systems.‘Although having had discussions with New York and New Hampshire, I was drawn to choose Rutland as the location for the WEbiomass Wood Pellet Boiler manufacturing facility, in large part due to the forward-thinking renewable policies of Vermont and the direct assistance of the Department of Commerce & Economic Development. The opportunities for job creation via a sustainable approach to the use of our forest resources for heating Vermonters homes, schools and other businesses are impressive: According to a Biomass Energy Resource Center study, if Vermont were to convert only 18.5% of its homes and businesses from heating oil to locally produced biomass fuels used in modern, efficiency boilers, it could create about 7,000 stable local energy jobs.,’ says George Robbins, President of WEbiomass Inc.In addition to traditional renewable energy companies and member-businesses of Renewable Energy Vermont, the industry representatives emphasized how broad and diverse Vermont’s renewable energy industry is. Companies like Demag Cranes, J.A. Morrissey Inc, Engineers Construction Inc. (ECI), Grennon’s Solder Works, Image-Tek, Northeast Prevision, Rennline, S.D. Ireland Concrete are among the many hundreds of businesses engaged in work and creating or sustaining jobs as a result of a strong local renewable energy economy.REV Montpelier, Vermontâ ¦February 9, 2012last_img read more

Vermont Castings, Huntington earn top spots in Consumer Reports gas grill ratings

first_imgVermont Castings and Huntington gas grills took the top spots in the medium and large categories in Consumer Reports’ latest tests, beating out models from larger, more well-known brands such as Char-Broil and Weber. Consumer Reports’ June issue features test results for 85 large, medium and small gas grill models. Six of those models for under$350 were Recommended for their impressive cooking.   The complete report on gas grills, which highlights Ratings for almost 140 models, including some portable grills and three additional Recommended models, can be found online at www.ConsumerReports.org(link is external).Vermont Castings’ mid-sized Signature Series VCS300SSP and its similar model, the VCS322SSP,$1,000, earned the highest score overall, while Huntington’s Patriot 658184, $700, was the finest performing large grill in the Ratings. These models were excellent overall and produced nicely seared steaks and moist chicken and salmon over low heat. Other models on Consumer Reports’ Recommended list include gas grills from Char-Broil, Weber, Brinkmann and Kenmore.”These days grills are coming equipped with an abundance of features, giving consumers more opportunity to find a model in their price range that suits their cooking needs,” said Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, Deputy Home Editor at Consumer Reports. “However, we are seeing some trade-offs with these newer features such as smaller cooking areas, thinner shelves, more painted metal and less stainless steel.”For the 60 percent of Americans recently surveyed by Consumer Reports who said they always or sometimes would rather buy U.S.-made goods than those made elsewhere, Vermont Castings, Huntington Patriot, Weber’s Genesis and Summit were all made in the U.S.While some companies may claim to offer the ultimate grilling experience, Consumer Reports advises buyers not to be drawn in by sleek appearance and packaging alone. Three grills tested from Saber, Char-Broil’s upscale sister-brand, were very good performers though other models including some less expensive models from Char-Broil performed better.  Saber models did offer a more upscale appearance and are made with a premium grade of stainless steel. Choosing a Gas GrillConsumer Reports recommends taking advantage of summer holiday promotions or end-of-season sales to find the best deals available on grills. Also, keep the tips below in mind when buying.Consider the cooking area. Use Consumer Reports’ Ratings to find a cooking surface that matches the usual needs of the grill, not one for the blow-out barbecue party that only happens once or twice a season. Consumer Reports categorizes grills based on measurements of the main cooking area, but be aware that some companies might also count warming racks and searing burners in their claims.Think beyond Btu. They tell how much fuel a gas grill uses and the heat it can create, but Consumer Reports’ tests have found that more Btu’s doesn’t guarantee faster preheating or better cooking.Keep infrared claims in perspective. Infrared burners typically emit intense heat to sear and cook food, though designs differ by manufacturer. Consumer Reports has yet to find one infrared burner design that’s better than other infrared designs or better than standard burners.Put safety first.  Test a grill’s sturdiness with a gentle nudge in several places. Check for sharp corners and edges. Press down on the side shelves to see how well they support weight. And while some flaring is normal, typically the greater the distance between the grates and the burners or flavorizer bar, the fewer the sustained flair-ups.Consumer Reports’ gas grill Ratings, along with a list of features to consider when buying and more can be found online at www.ConsumerReports.org(link is external) and in June issue of the Consumer Reports.Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications.  Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.SOURCE Consumer Reports 5.15.2012last_img read more

President nominates Leahy to the congressional delegation to the UN

first_imgPresident Obama has nominated Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to be a representative of the United States with the US Mission to the United Nations, for the upcoming 67th Session of the UN’s General Assembly.  The General Assembly’s session opens September 18.    Leahy, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on the State Department and Foreign Operations, has long been a leader in the U.S. Senate on human rights and foreign policy issues.  Also nominated to the U.S. delegation is Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. Leahy and Isakson will consult leaders of the U.S. delegation in assisting with U.S. priorities before the United Nations, such as the crisis in Syria. Leahy served twice before on congressional delegations to the United Nations, appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, when Leahy worked to help lay the groundwork for the eventual international treaty to ban the production, use and export of anti-personnel landmines, and in 2004 by President George W. Bush. Leahy said, ‘The United States and the United Nations face great challenges across the globe.  We need the United Nations to succeed, and we need to be constructive in our relationship with the UN.  I want to continue to do what I can to improve our vital working relationship.’ The U.S. Congressional Delegation to the UN includes one member of each party.  Membership rotates between the Senate and the House.    Leahy’s office. 8.3.2012last_img read more

New consortium to make Vermont a global center of food systems education

first_imgVermont took a giant step Thursday towards becoming a global center for food systems education. The leaders of six of Vermont’s higher education institutions were at the State House to sign a groundbreaking agreement to create a premier destination for undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree students who want to learn how to advance sustainable and robust food systems.By pledging to use Vermont as a shared food systems campus, the founding members of this new consortium will offer students a rich array of cross-institutional experiences and strengthen the state’s reputation as the national educational leader in innovative food systems implementation.Green Mountain College, Sterling College, the University of Vermont, Vermont Law School, Vermont Technical College, and the Vermont State Colleges are the founding members of the Vermont Higher Education Food Systems Consortium. The Consortium will work as a team to strengthen Vermont’s place as a world-renowned center for food systems training, education, research, and outreach.Over the next few years, Consortium members will focus on sharing courses, internships, land-based learning experiences, faculty, and annual symposia across institutions. At the same time, it will develop a coordinated marketing campaign to tell the story of the diverse and creative educational opportunities available for studying food systems in Vermont.‘Vermont’s higher education institutions have graduated generations of Vermont farmers, foresters and value added entrepreneurs,’ stated Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin. ‘Today they are taking an historic step of doing this work better together, with this collaboration offering students from across the country an unprecedented set of experiences in our working landscape. This will attract new youth to rural Vermont communities, spur innovation in the food and forest economies, and help all of us who are working to conserve Vermont’s working landscape in production for the long-term future.’Chuck Ross, Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture, believes this consortium is poised to foster the next generation of food system leaders. ‘Vermont already leads the country in community-based agriculture and is renowned for its focus on sustainability. This consortium ensures the momentum will only build in the years to come. I applaud these institutions for joining forces to build this important program, which I am confident will have a tremendous impact on our local, national, and global food system.’The Food System encompasses the cultural, economic, ecological, sociological, nutritional, and health aspects of our food, including farming, value-added production, transportation, energy usage, marketing, distribution, and consumption.’  The Consortium members are united in their commitment to advance this work for Vermont and for communities throughout the region, the country, and the world. Through its collective educational resources, the Consortium will dramatically expand the innovative growth of the leadership, skill, and vision that the progress of the food system depends upon.The Consortium grew out of the Vermont Higher Education Food Systems Council which was founded and facilitated by the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD).’ ‘ Statements from the Presidents, Dean, and Chancellor follow:”We look forward to collaborating with our higher education partners in the state to strengthen Vermont’s leadership role in building community-focused food systems that promote sustainability, local engagement and economic development.”Tom Sullivan, President, University of Vermont‘At the Vermont State Colleges, we pride ourselves on our mission of serving Vermont students with access to learning experiences which will help them achieve great things for our state. This collaboration holds excellent potential to increase awareness of Vermont institutions as places with broad access to innovative experiences in the food system, where students can get their hands dirty in pursuit of knowledge and a vibrant future.’Tim Donovan, Chancellor, Vermont State Colleges’ ‘Vermont Tech is committed to being a leader in applied agriculture and food systems education in Vermont and New England. Vermont provides a unique educational landscape for the promotion of agriculture and food systems education. The establishment of the Vermont Higher Education Food Systems Consortium provides a unique opportunity for the colleges and universities to expand collaboration and educational opportunities for students across America and around the world to come to study in our unique food systems laboratory that is Vermont.’Phil Conroy, President, Vermont Technical College’ ‘Vermont is at the forefront of important changes in how we view agriculture and our global food system. With this new emphasis on collaboration in higher education, we will ensure that the state remains a pioneer and incubator by leading the way forward to a more just and healthy food system.’Matthew Derr, President, Sterling College’ ‘Green Mountain College’s graduate and undergraduate programs in sustainable food systems have seen dramatic growth in the last few years. We see tremendous promise for this new consortium to expand opportunities for students across the state and make Vermont the national leader in food systems education.’Paul Fonteyn, President, Green Mountain College’ ‘This collaboration advances an alliance between two of Vermont’s major economic drivers’education and agriculture. Each of our schools is devoted to advancing community-based agriculture. Together we can utilize Vermont’s iconic brand to attract more students from around the nation and the world, and offer them a more complete education.’Marc Mihaly, Dean, Vermont Law SchoolSource: Vermont Council on Rural Development. For information about the Consortium, contact VCRD Executive Director Paul Costello at [email protected](link sends e-mail) or (802) 223-5763. 11.7.2013‘last_img read more

Vermont Community Loan Fund lends $2.14 million

first_imgVCLF lends $2,140,200 in Q4 2013, promoting job creation, emergency affordable housing, and quality child careThe Vermont Community Loan Fund (VCLF) loaned’ $2,140,200 to Vermont’s small businesses, child care programs, community facilities and affordable housing developers in the fourth quarter of 2013, ‘ promoting’  job creation, quality child care programs, and development of emergency shelters and affordable homes.’ ‘VCLF is proud to work with Vermont’s innovative entrepreneurs, child care and social services programs, and developers of affordable housing who are creating amazing new solutions and opportunities throughout our state’ said VCLF Executive Director Will Belongia. ‘VCLF is proud to help finance these projects that are increasing opportunity, financial stability, and economic justice throughout Vermont,’ he added.Tina Conn and Van Nhum Tran, Essex JunctionWhen Tina Conn and her fiancé, Van Nhum Tran, wanted to purchase the property in which Conn’s business, Crystal Nail Salon, has been located for more than ten years, they came to VCLF to help with financing. The loan resulted in the preservation of two full-time jobs. Additionally, other businesses located in the building provide rental income for the couple.Harbor Place, ShelburneWith Chittenden County’s homeless shelters having to turn away more and more Vermonters in need of emergency housing, Champlain Housing Trust, which creates and preserves perpetually affordable housing in northwest Vermont, arrived at a groundbreaking solution. With VCLF financing, they purchased a former motel, which now provides 60 short-term, transitional homes. ‘ ‘ champlainhousingtrust.orgHollister Hill Bed & Breakfast, MarshfieldBob and Lee Light bought Hollister Hill Farm in 1983, where they milked cows there for 15 years, before converting their home to B&B. The farm raises beefalo, pigs, chickens and turkeys, supplying their farm store as well as providing an agri-touristic experience for guests. When their indispensible tractor needed a new transmission, they came to VCLF to fund its repair, resulting in the preservation of one full and one part-time job.’  www.hollisterhillfarm.com(link is external)Housing Trust of Rutland County, Watkins School, RutlandRutland’s Watkins School served as an elementary school from its construction in 1895 through the 1970s. ‘ In 2013, the Housing Trust of Rutland County, a non-profit developer of affordable housing, purchased the historically-significant property with funding from VCLF, to adapt for residential use. ‘ The renovation will create 15 perpetually affordable 1-bedroom apartments for seniors, as well as 17 construction jobs. www.housingrutland.org(link is external)’ J & M Fields, Forests and Firewood, DorsetJohn White became ill three years ago. Self-employed and without health insurance, he had no choice but to sell his log skidder to cover medical costs. Today, with help from VCLF, he has purchased a new one, and is back at work in the woods.’ Mike’s Hobbies and Raceway, RutlandMike’s Hobbies & Raceway, a fixture in Rutland for 30 years, had been financing their inventory of model railroads, boats, cars, planes and rockets, collectible coins and stamps and other specialty hobby items, via high-cost credit cards. VCLF provided owner Lee Vaillancourt with a less expensive option by refinancing the existing debt and providing a loan for inventory, preserving one full-time and one part-time job. www.mikeshobbies.com(link is external)Packard Lofts, BurlingtonHartland Group Community Developers approached VCLF to help fund their Packard Lofts project, creating 25 affordable homes for rental in downtown Burlington. The loan also led to the creation of 28 construction jobs. hartlandgroup.bizTurtles ‘n Tots, JohnsonTurtles ‘n Tots, the only licensed child care center in Johnson, has been a VCLF borrower since their opening in 2012. This year, owner Michelle Tallman came back to VCLF for another loan to help cover costs associated with expanding her program from 35 children/families served to 50.’  She’ll also employ two more Vermonters, for a total of 10.The Vermont Community Loan Fund’s mission is to create opportunities that lead to healthy communities and financial stability for all Vermonters. Since our inception we’ve lent over $80 million to small businesses, affordable housing developers and community-based organizations that has created or preserved over 3,600 jobs; built or rehabilitated more than 3,200 affordable homes for Vermont’s families, individuals and seniors;’  created or preserved quality care for over 2,800 children and their families and supported community organizations providing vital services to hundreds of thousands of Vermonters.VCLF 1.8.2014‘last_img read more

VSAC takes the gold for worksite wellness

first_imgVermont Student Assistance Corporation,Vermont Student Assistance Corp is being honored with a gold level award for its employee wellness program from the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness & Sports and Vermont Department of Health. Awards will be presented at the Worksite Wellness Conference, March 27, at the Sheraton Hotel & Conference Center in South Burlington. VSAC is one of 99 businesses that applied for the 2013 awards. This is the second year the company is being honored after receiving a bronze recognition last year.  ‘I thank the Governor and Department of Health for this award. We place a high value on our employees’ health and wellbeing. It is a cornerstone of how VSAC operates and, in turn, how we take care of Vermont students and their families as they pursue studies after high school,’ said Scott Giles, president and CEO. The VSAC Wellness Program is administered by the human resources department with the goal to encourage employees to maximize their health, take advantage of preventive care, and continue to make positive choices for a healthy lifestyle.   The department plans wellness classes, such as fitness boot camp, Y-Fit, Zumba and yoga. Employees are offered flu shots annually, and given fun wellness ideas, such as how to turn a kitchen into a gym with easy exercises while cooking meals. The VSAC café also offers healthy meal choices every day. The department also offers financial wellness classes, ergonomic evaluations, a dedicated private room for nursing mothers, fitness DVDs to take home and discount memberships to the YMCA. ‘Worksites that promote healthy eating, physical activity, tobacco use cessation, and breastfeeding, contribute to the overall health and wellness of all Vermonters, and they are one of the key reasons we are routinely rated the nation’s healthiest state,’ said Health Commissioner Harry Chen, MD. About VSACVermont Student Assistance Corporation is a public, nonprofit corporation created by the Vermont Legislature in 1965 to help Vermonters plan and pay for education or training beyond high school.  VSAC administers Vermont’s 529 college savings plan; outreach services to encourage low-income students to aspire to and complete college; college and career planning services for all Vermonters; need-based state grants for full-time, part-time and non-degree study; public and private scholarship programs; and private education loans. Find us at www.vsac.org(link is external) or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/VermontStudentAssistanceCorporation(link is external).WINOOSKI (February 6, 2014) ‘ Vermont Student Assistance Corplast_img read more

Cyber security, whether you like it or not

first_imgTwinstate Technologies,by Timothy McQuiston Vermont Business Magazine Most cyber security requirements are self-evident and obvious. But they can be annoying chores that are easily put off, like car maintenance. Getting your car worked on can be expensive and time-consuming. And as with car repairs, cyber security is a hassle, can be expensive and is also necessary, despite the opportunity to procrastinate. But cyber security measures ultimately can save a business much money and a lot of heartache. John Burton of NPI at a cyber security seminar in June. VBM photo“It is a bit like going to your dentist or tax accountant… but in the end you have to face it,” said John Burton of NPI in South Burlington.Cyber security experts beat the drum of staying ahead of the problem, which can cost a small company dearly if its Web site is compromised or its credit card processing system is hacked. New rules coming in October will place much of the cost of stolen credit card information onto the retailers themselves, if they don’t get card chip readers.Cyber security professionals in Vermont use analogies which invoke your mother because while the technology can be mind-boggling, the consequences of not being diligent with cyber security can result in disaster.The good news, according to professionals, is that most cyber problems are preventable. But it’s still going to require vigilance and certain level of suspicion by business owners and managers (even of employees and co-workers), especially for those many small businesses in Vermont which do not have in-house IT.“You don’t have to spend a lot of money to solve 80 percent of your problems,” Burton said.It will not require the $100 million that Target has set aside for technical upgrades after its credit card data was famously hacked (the 2013 pre-Christmas cyber theft cost banks $200 million and Target paid another $10 million directly to customers). But it will cost you something for security and peace of mind.To put the cyber threat in Vermont in perspective, an AARP Vermont study released in June found that 34 percent of adult Vermont residents say they received notification of a security breach at an organization with which they’ve done business in the 12 months prior to taking the AARP survey. One out of eight (12%) of these respondents say they believe the breach resulted in someone using their identity to purchase products or services without their authorization. When asked by AARP Vermont what action they took as a result of the notification, one in five (19%) say they did nothing, while two out of three increased the monitoring of their bank and credit (61%), nearly half changed their online password with that company (46%), and about one-quarter put a credit alert on their credit file (27%).Overall, AARP Vermont said that 14 percent of Vermont adults in the last two years have had someone actually rip them off financially, typically through a credit or debit card.For the most part, it isn’t a software or hardware problem, Burton said, “It’s a people problem,” often with employees who might be poorly trained or, alas, out to rob you.Misconfigured security systems are the most common problem, Burton said. End-user error, like clicking on a malicious attachment, is second. Only 20 percent of breaches are from someone specifically targeting you.Burton said that encryption and backups and passwording your computer and mobile devices and changing out strong passwords regularly and keeping them secure is a chore and necessary and should be your first line of defense. “A lot of people use lousy passwords. Use very simple things. Why? Because we can remember lousy passwords! We all remember our dog’s name or our kid’s name,” Burton said.“Don’t share your passwords.” Maybe you call into work. “I’m sick today! Can you log into my computer and run the payroll? Not a good idea.” Have a second login for that kind of contingency that has limited access to exactly what you need done. People have 10 or 20 passwords now. You may opt to get a “vault” to store passwords with access from a single master password.And that goes for mobile too. Mobile devices, especially, require diligent encryption and security, Burton said.“Encrypting mobile data is a good thing. Anything that is a mobile device needs to be encrypted,” Burton said, “everything from personal to business.”  Despite the commonsense nature of all of this, we can all be duped. “Lost” USBs are a common trick among hackers, Burton said. They leave a USB, as if it were accidently dropped where someone can find it, you pick it up and, what do you do? Plug it into your own computer to see what it is. Then you’re hacked.Updating software with the latest versions, Burton said, is vital. Vulnerabilities include outdated software patches, and using an old OS, such as Windows XP which is not longer supported by Microsoft. “The newer are more secure.” But perhaps wait to install the newest version, Burton said, until the first big service pack comes out that fixes the bugs. “Browsing is a lot of what happens with people in terms of security problems,” Burton said.“My browser got hijacked once at home,” he said. “It was very frustrating.” “Call a pro,” said Rubin Bennett of rbTechnologies in East Montpelier. While most of us Vermonters, even without an IT staff, can be pretty sophisticated with electronic devices, the level of the technology and the ultimate risk are too high to rely only on your own street smarts.And these systems need to be maintained.“They require care and feeding, just like anything else,” Bennett said.Burton offered these bullet points for business:Overall Security Action PlanTake stock – Analyze your security needsScale down – Remove unneeded dataLock it – Implement network and device policies & controlsPlan ahead – Review your data protection plan yearlyTrain often– Discuss security tips at each staff meetingKey Security BehaviorsAlways Login with your own account, don’t browse using an Admin loginDon’t download/install from untrusted sourcesDon’t respond to pop-up windowsUse secure connections for sensitive work like bankingDon’t click on links & attachments or reply to unsolicited emailUse complex passwords, keep protected, don’t share them and change them oftenLock your screen or logoff when leavingDon’t plug in unknown USB devicesEncrypt sensitive transfers & stored dataProtect systems from malware and virusesUse a commercial grade, professionally installed firewall and Wi-FiDownload & install software updates weeklyBackup important data and securely store it offsite dailyControl physical access to computers and networksLimit employee access to only data and software needed for their workTrain employees about your security policiesWebsite“You’ve been breached. You have to contact your customers. That’s the low,” Burton said.Website protection is difficult in part because the nefarious characters are really out to be jerks and are happy to bring down a Website or infect it because they can. It’s sort of cyber vandalism. But of course this can be disastrous to a business that loses its Website even for a short period of time. Businesses are wondering what they must do and can do, given limited staff and limited funds. And what are the priorities?“First, start by using strong passwords and two-factor authentication where possible on login pages,” recommends Chris Maulding, Information Security Administrator for Twinstate Technologies in Colchester. “Having these in place is a must. Outsourcing to a company that specializes in security and updating services can help keep costs down and allow for you to focus on other IT needs and business processes.”After beginning with this basic information, Maulding suggests that the next step is to be constantly updating the CMS (Content Management System), Operating system or other systems running a Website. “Doing so will keep you from being exploited by a piece of software that is out of date and vulnerable,” said Maulding. “There are other measures that can be taken, implementing a Web application firewall that has an Intrusion Prevention System/Intrusion Detection System (IPS/IDS) to protect from malicious attacks. Vulnerability scanning and penetration testing are other steps that require a specialization, as not every IT person knows what they are looking for.”  “Typically a website becomes unavailable due to some sort of attack known as a denial of service,” said Twinstate Technologies CEO, Devi Momot, CISSP, GSLC, GISP. “Basically, this means that the adversary has flooded the site with so much noise and network traffic that legitimate traffic cannot get in or out. The regular, run-of-the-mill denial of service is able to be guarded against by blocking the address that it is being sent from. However, the more difficult denial of service attacks are using multiple places to attack from; and, it is tricky to guard against the numbers that adversaries are able to muster with current technology, as well as the ability of wrong-doers to create nasty malware today. For instance, those wanting to create a hassle for a Website can distribute their malware – the pieces of code that create the “flood” of traffic to many computers on the Internet.” “These computers could be owned by my grandmother, aunt, uncle, friends and foes; it does not matter,” Momot said. “The wrong-doers can “seed” those computers through a number of methods, and then, their computers start sending traffic to the targeted website.”  Note: If readers are interested in learning more about this topic, it is recommended they do some reading about Botnets. Rubin Bennett of rbTechnologies said a Web attack “is usually not somebody. It’s usually a ‘bot’ that finds a vulnerability and exploits it.”The robot is looking for a site to host malicious content. They’re often just developed by kids showing off (the Target breach apparently was designed by a Russian teenager) and seeing how much damage they can do.“Why they do it? I don’t know,” Bennett said. He said the attacks generally fit the stereotype of someone young from Eastern Europe or Asia.“A question I am often asked is: Why are we hearing so much about cybercrimes today? What is happening? The truth is that it is easy to be a cybercriminal, very easy, and it is difficult to catch them,” said Momot. “Pair that with nation states that like to cause harm, and whether for a reason of belief or economics, you end up with the situation that we have today. Some countries have formal education to teach criminal techniques of hacking and code writing. Many of these techies are available for hire, with guarantees and technical support to help someone practice cybercrime. The lay person no longer requires any technical skill to enter into the business of cybercrime.”  Some things that readers should be aware of are that the biggest element in the favor of criminals is society’s complacency. “I attended a Roundtable conference last month in which we were divided into groups,” said Momot. “There were approximately six or eight groups of six or so individuals. The professional backgrounds of the attendees consisted of business, academia, government and cyber security experts, such as with our team. We were asked a number of questions and were all asked to address each question without involvement of the other tables and then report on it. One of the top items that we identified as a major issue facing us, when it comes to cybercrime, is people doing nothing. We believe that individuals are aware they should do something but may not be doing anything at this point. I believe that media, such as VBM, can help to change that. We have encouraged the government members we have come in contact with so far to develop some PSAs around the subject, as well. We all need to work together to protect our privacy, economy and freedom to access resources when and where we want.”Ted Casassa, Chief Information Officer, Secured Network Services Littleton, NH, with clients in the St Johnsbury area, offered his expertise on protecting your Website for businesses without in-house security expertsIf your website looks old and out-of-date, you’re going to be a greater target because the assumption is that the site is less secure and easier to shut down. Keep the software upgraded so the site looks modern. The site can still be simple, but it needs to be updated. Adding fresh content or changing content from time to time helps, too. “If you ignore your site and it looks out of date, it’s likely to be more of a target,” Casassa said. “If it looks like it’s from 1995, that’s not good.”When you’re hiring a website service provider, make sure they have some type of security certification. Ask for written proof that they’re keeping it up to date. Make sure they test the site for vulnerabilities on a regular basis. “The buzz word is penetration testing,” Casassa said. “Is the site tested for security vulnerabilities on a regular basis? You can also hire a third party to do this.”Overall, he said, “There is no silver bullet for security. So a big part of it is being aware. The more often you do updates, the more apt you are to notice something.“Always pay to keep everything updated as far as security goes. Make sure everything is up-to-date and everything’s backed up. Everything else is a variable.”  Credit CardsRecently a dry cleaner and a medium-sized grocer in Vermont were hit by cyber thieves who gained credit card information. This makes sense as the large retailers have bolstered their security after some notable hits. But these smaller entities don’t have the means or perhaps don’t think they’ll be targets. But the thieves probably see them as low-hanging fruit. These are retailers who have a lot of foot traffic and a lot of transactions. Even if they are relatively small transactions, the credit cards can be maxed out if stolen. How can these retailers protect themselves?According to Devi Momot, these are a few things that Twinstate Technologies recommends, keeping in mind that the team has many more suggestions. Don’t ever click on a link in your email that is not verified as legitimate. Pick up the phone, call the person that sent it, and make sure it is REAL. Many hackers are “planting” malware in perfectly innocent owners’ computers and networks using what is called phishing. Today, there are ways to take a legitimate website, such as for a bank, retailer, hospital, or any other, and in a matter of minutes make a replica of that website.  The difference is that instead of the information you type into the site for your account, such as account numbers, going to the place you think it is going, it is going into the hands of a criminal.    Strengthen passwords. Computers today can crack a short eight-character password very easily. Passwords need not be difficult to remember, but they should be difficult for a computer to guess. Passphrases are generally recommended more often, and that should be at least 12 characters in length and with a mix of numbers and special characters. For example: br0wntux3d0m3 can be easily related to “brown tuxedo me”. Also, try to keep your banking, social media, email and business passwords different from each other. It is also commonly recommended that you not use your corporate email address for social media accounts. If we estimate how long it takes to guess an eight-number password, it is under 30 seconds. By adding letters and a character, and making it 12 in length as compared to 8, the time estimated to crack the passcode can increase into years and years with today’s average computers.Third-party connections. Another area that is often overlooked is what third parties have access to in your systems, your employee’s information or other confidential company information. Are they secure in how they are handling the access to that information or the connection to your business? It should become quite standard to request that those who have connections to your systems or have custody of information from your business are asked to provide verification of the privacy and security that you expect for the handling of the assets.“Statistically, the majority of breaches today are rated as low difficulty,” adds Momot. “From our observation, many businesses are not taking some of the most basic protective measures. Those that we find to be inconsistent in most every business are: (1) Patching of software. A business will generally believe that their patching is kept current so that “holes” in their security are kept to a minimum. With the assessments we have done over the past several years, only one customer has actually done these in a safe and consistent manner.  (2) Antivirus / Antimalware on continuous scan. There are so many new pieces of malware thrown at us every day that these systems will not catch all of the threats. However, AV/AM is still a necessary piece of your defensive measures. If your computer cannot handle to process this continuously, then it is likely time to get a new computer. (3) Replace your dated firewall technology. Many of the firewalls in use today are dated technology. Since our environments are not one-hundred percent protected from viruses and other malware, we have to assume that, someday, we will be breached. We recommend that customers use technology that can recognize if an external connection is attempting to be made to a bad actor; this may be an attempt to extract information from your business, or something similar. Having services that provide enhanced functions at the perimeter is increasingly important, as is having a service partner actively watching your alerts for intrusions – indeed, a worthwhile measure, as well.”  “Pointing again to statistics, it is likely we will all be breached at some point,” said Momot. “Therefore, we need to have systems in place to detect when that has occurred and management to act on the detection. Detection without a corrective response is just worthless noise. If you react to the incident quickly and effectively there is a great likelihood that you will minimize the negative impact from the breach.”Ted Casassa had these tips for small retailers:Make sure your network is secure to prevent credit card information from being easily accessible by thieves. “Always make sure your point-of-sale systems aren’t on a publicly accessible wireless network. That’s usually the biggest mistake,” Casassa said. “Some people don’t even think of that.”Every credit card machine you add multiplies your risk. Keep the number as low as possible. “The fewer machines you have, the less you are at risk,” he said. Sometimes credit card theft or fraud is an internal issue, not the work of outside hackers. Know which employees are taking credit card information over the phone and on site, and limit that to just a few trusted people – as few as possible. “Limit that to a couple folks internally, and have cameras. Knowing who these employees are, that’s the biggest thing.”Make sure you always know who is accessing the network at a given time. They key to this is never sharing usernames and passwords. You always want to be able to look back and find out who was accessing the network, and when.  Know that any business accepting credit cards needs to be compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Standards are more lax for small businesses that have fewer credit card transactions, but many small businesses still do not have the resources to become compliant. “Small businesses struggle with PCI,” Casassa said. “If you’re unsure what to do, hire an expert. PCI compliance is also a lot of work. If you’re a business owner, do you really want to be an expert in PCI?” Another point on PCI: As businesses grow, the standards change and become stricter. Companies need to be aware of that threshold and prepare to make changes. “These (small Vermont) retailers can protect themselves by making sure they are following compliance standards that are in place for the credit card industry and having separate networks for processing credit card data versus day-to-day traffic,” said Twinstate’s Maulding. “This can help greatly. Also, using firewalls and other on-premise security can be helpful.”Rubin Bennett supports the new card reader requirements for credit and debit cards.“We’re finally catching up with the rest of the world,” he said. The PCI self-assessment questionnaire alone will help retailers understand their own security needs.He said retailers should outsource their payment systems completely, including having payments go directly from the card reader to a third party vendor. “If you’re doing it yourself, you’re crazy,” Bennett said.While the vendor has often been the source of credit card breaches in the past, using them and the new card readers absolves the retailer of much of the liability. All the professionals insisted that documents, statements, financial and personal information and especially pieces of paper with credit card information should be destroyed as soon as possible. Some companies still write down customer credit card numbers.Jon Burton recommends using a professional service to destroy sensitive documents and electronic data. If you’re shredding documents yourself, use a cross-cut shredder so a “dumpster-diver” can’t just piece them back together. One cannot start too early to learn about cyber security. Young children have been found to have clicked on a nefarious link or Website while sitting at a parent’s computer. In June, Norwich University held a week-long pre-college cyber security program for 20 high school students called [email protected] (link is external)(link is external). Funded by the National Security Agency and the National Science Foundation, participants learned and applied basic concepts of programming, forensics and cryptography, through a series of gaming, modeling, and simulation activities with peers and faculty mentors in a university setting.“I believe if we all work together we can improve the security of the Vermont small business community,” John Burton said.last_img read more

Cathedral Square wins annual TD Charitable Foundation Housing for Everyone grant of $100,000 for Elm Place

first_imgTD Bank,Vermont Business Magazine Cathedral Square was recently awarded a $100,000 affordable housing grant through the TD Charitable Foundation’s Housing for Everyone grant competition. The grant will be used to help fund the construction of Elm Place, a new affordable housing community in Milton, Vermont. Cathedral Square’s Elm Place will be a service-enriched senior housing community located on a smart growth site in the heart of Milton’s downtown.   This thoughtfully positioned property will sit adjacent to UVM Medical Center’s Milton Family Practice and near the senior center, pharmacy, grocery store, churches, and library, with sidewalks providing walking access to all of these services.  Features will include a community room with kitchen, lounge, elevators, laundry facilities, storage, underbuilding parking, and an outdoor courtyard for social gatherings. The building will be energy efficient and the first certified Passive House multifamily building in Vermont.  Of the 30-units in this property, 28 will be tax credit units for seniors earning less than 60% of area median income (AMI) and two will be market rate. Elm Place will offer SASHSM (Support And Services at Home) at no cost for residents. “There is a significant need for service- enriched, safe, affordable senior housing in Milton,” states Kim Fitzgerald, CEO, Cathedral Square.  “TD Charitable Foundation’s generous grant will help to ensure Elm Place is completed in early 2017  to  provide comfortable, secure homes to many of Milton’s deserving elderly residents.” This year’s “Housing for Everyone” theme was Affordable Housing for Seniors, focusing on initiatives that support the development of safe, affordable, accessible housing for older adults, aged 55 and over. The Housing for Everyone grant competition is one of the TD Charitable Foundation’s most widely known signature programs. The competition invites local non-profit organizations from Maine to Florida to submit proposals outlining their plans and initiatives to support and provide affordable housing initiatives in their communities. Twenty-five organizations throughout TD Bank’s footprint from Maine to Florida were awarded a $100,000 grant for a total grant donation of $2.5 million in 2015.About Cathedral SquareCathedral Square (CS) is a non-profit organization created in 1977.  CS develops and operates communities for seniors and individuals with special needs.  For over 38 years, Cathedral Square has fulfilled its mission of “healthy homes, caring communities and positive aging”, providing housing with supportive services to over 1,127 residents.  Today, CS owns and/or manages 29 housing communities, each uniquely designed to provide safe and secure apartments at an affordable price, to learn more visit www.cathedralsquare.org(link is external).  As an advocate for a system that better serves the long term care needs of Vermonters, Cathedral Square administers the SASH model statewide as part of Vermont’s Blueprint for Health.  SASH provides an on-site Coordinator and a part-time Wellness Nurse who work as part of the SASH Team made up of staff from the Visiting Nurse Association of Chittenden and Grand Isle Counties, CVAA, Howard Center and the participating resident or community member.  SASH currently serves over 4,800 Vermonters.  To learn more about SASH visit www.sashvt.org(link is external)                  About the TD Charitable FoundationThe TD Charitable Foundation is the charitable giving arm of TD Bank N.A., which operates as TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank®, and is one of the 10 largest commercial banking organizations in the United States. The Foundation’s mission is to serve the individuals, families and businesses in all the communities where TD Bank operates, having made more than $148.1 million in charitable donations since its inception in 2002. The Foundation’s areas of focus are affordable housing, financial literacy and education, and the environment. More information on the TD Charitable Foundation, including an online grant application, is available at www.TDBank.com(link is external).  About TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank® TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank, is one of the 10 largest banks in the U.S., providing more than 8 million customers with a full range of retail, small business and commercial banking products and services at approximately 1,300 convenient locations throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Metro D.C., the Carolinas and Florida. In addition, TD Bank and its subsidiaries offer customized private banking and wealth management services through TD Wealth®, and vehicle financing and dealer commercial services through TD Auto Finance. TD Bank is headquartered in Cherry Hill, N.J. To learn more, visit www.tdbank.com(link is external). Find TD Bank on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TDBank(link is external) and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TDBank_US(link is external). TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank, is a member of TD Bank Group and a subsidiary of The Toronto-Dominion Bank of Toronto, Canada, a top 10 financial services company in North America. The Toronto-Dominion Bank trades on the New York and Toronto stock exchanges under the ticker symbol “TD”. To learn more, visit www.td.com(link is external).November 30, 2015 – South Burlington, VT – Cathedral Squarelast_img read more

Life saving organ donations celebrated at Vermont State House

first_imgVermont Business Magazine On Wednesday April 6 at 11:15 am, Governor Peter Shumlin will join Health Commissioner Harry Chen, DMV Commissioner Robert Ide, a Vermont man who is alive today because of a heart transplant, Donate Life Vermont, and other individuals personally touched by organ donation, to celebrate organ and tissue donation and announce April as Donate Life Month in Vermont, encouraging citizens to register as organ and tissue donors. What: April as Donate Life Month in Vermont – Lives saved because of organ and tissue donation-          Heart recipient shares his story-          Governor awarded the Donate Life AwardWho:   Governor Shumlin                        Commissioner Harry Chen – VT Department of Health                        Commissioner Robert Ide – VT DMV                        Heart recipient                        UVM Medical Center                        Individuals personal touched by donation – organ recipients & donor families                        DMV Staff                        Donate Life Vermont                           Where: Vermont State House – Governor’s ChambersWhen:  Wednesday, April 6th at 11:15 AMIn 2015, 719 lives were saved here in New England because of the generosity of individuals who became organ donors.  Thousands more lives were enhanced through the gift of tissue donation.  With the need for life-saving transplants growing every day – over 121,000 patients are now on the US transplant wait list – it is crucial to educate our communities about taking action to register as donors. The celebration commemorates those who have received or continue to wait for lifesaving transplants as well as the families of individuals who chose to be donors. The vast majority of individuals in Vermont (95%) register to be an organ and tissue donor at the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). There are now 120 million registered donors in the United States; still, the number of people in need of transplants continues to rise.  The solution to this problem is to continue educating the public about the lifesaving effects of donation and transplantation and encouraging them to sign up through their state donor registry. About Donate Life Vermont: Donate Life Vermont is a joint project of two federally designated organ procurement organizations that serve New England – New England Organ Bank and Center for Donation and Transplant. They have come together to create a fast and easy way for citizens of Vermont and New England to register as organ and tissue donors in a secure and confidential manner.  For more information, visit www.DonateLifeVT.org(link is external).last_img read more

Markowitz: Earth Day heroes

first_imgby Deb Markowitz Every Earth Day, I take time to reflect on the importance of the work we do at the Agency of Natural Resources and how much I appreciate the passion and commitment of our over 600 employees. At ANR, our work to protect the environment is not just a job — it also provides a life of meaning and purpose. We love Vermont and its great outdoors, so we work together to make sure we protect Vermont’s beauty, health and heritage. We conserve state lands. We ensure our soil, air and water are clean. We make it easier for Vermonters to get outside to hunt, fish and recreate. And we plan carefully for a future that reduces our contributions to climate change and prepares us for its impacts.Whenever I meet with other environmental leaders from across the country, I am reminded of how lucky I am to be working on environmental issues in a state that defines itself, in part, by our connection to nature.  A recent public opinion survey confirms that the Green Mountain State is filled with people who care about the environment. Nine out of ten surveyed Vermonters believe that open space is essential to their quality of life. The vast majority are active outdoors, viewing wildlife (81%), birdwatching (55%), hiking (61%), camping (36%), fishing (37%), visiting state or national parks (63%), biking (37%), paddling (40%), boating (27%) and hunting (24%).This love of the outdoors translates into broad support for environmental protection. 85% of Vermonters strongly agree (and 13% moderately agree) with the statement that “knowing that Vermont’s native fish and wildlife populations are healthy and surviving well is very important to me even if I don’t get to see them.” 81% of Vermonters strongly agree (and 15% moderately agree) that “threatened and endangered species must be protected.” Vermonters also recognize the significant environmental challenges we face, including global climate change (64%), the spread of invasive species (71%), forest and habitat fragmentation (46%) and the loss of Vermont’s scenic landscape (41%).Vermonters also support reasonable regulation that protects our natural resources. 83% agree that it is okay to limit the right to develop property in order to protect fish and wildlife habitat. Similarly, 75% disagree with the statement that “economic development is more important than wildlife”.  ANR’s list of successes continues to grow with this strong backbone of public support. Significant new laws now protect our groundwater, lakes and ponds, preserve wildlife as a public trust, make recycling simple and convenient, guard communities against flooding, and encourage investments in renewable energy alternatives. We have added thousands of acres of land to our state portfolio, prevented and managed invasive species, grown our wood products industry, and carefully planned how we manage our natural resources so that they are protected for future generations.  Despite our progress, we still face significant challenges. PFOA pollution in Bennington County drinking water has underscored the need to better understand and regulate the many chemicals in our environment, as well as invest in our environmental cleanup funds. The toxic algae blooms in Lake Champlain remind us that polluted stormwater still hurts our waterways. And, as climate change continues, we are learning how to be resilient in the face of its impacts. We are up for these challenges.This Earth Day (Friday, April 22) I want to acknowledge the diligence of the many Vermonters, especially those at ANR, whose work to protect our environment ensures that Vermont remains a great place to live, work and raise a family. These are our Earth Day heroes!Deb Markowitz – Secretary, Agency of Natural Resourceslast_img read more