ST. JOHNSBURY — Development and business leaders joined Gov. Phil Scott here Wednesday as he announced $2.8 million in tax credits for downtown and village center projects and took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at a new manufacturing plant.
The governor, Deputy Commerce Secretary Ted Brady and a handful of people gathered on the hillside stairwell across from St. Johnsbury’s town offices for the announcement.
“The major tool that fuels downtown rehabilitation is the tax credit program,” Scott said before a crowd of a few dozen. “These tax credits support new housing, attract new businesses, foster business expansions and help create good jobs.”
The credits announced Wednesday go toward 24 projects across the state, including several in St. Johnsbury and elsewhere in the Northeast Kingdom.
The largest credit — totalling nearly $572,500 — went to a project across the street from the event: a $15.5 million effort to convert the upper floors of the historic brick Depot Square Apartments building into a space for just under 40 affordable housing units. Developers are also expected to bring businesses into the ground floor of the building, which sits at the intersection of Railroad Street and Eastern Avenue.
Scott said that award would help developers renovate the “long-blighted” building and create more opportunities for people to live and work downtown.
He praised the three other projects in town, which received more $650,750 total.
“These strategic investments in St. Johnsbury’s walkable downtown enhance its strengths — a focus on arts and culture, a mix of small businesses and recreation attractions,” he said.
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Several representatives for projects statewide described the benefit of the tax credits.
Eric Paris, who owns the Freighthouse Market and Cafe in Lyndonville, talked about his family’s project to continue renovating the former Bag Balm factory in the village. The building, which is next door to the Freighthouse, now houses the Mosaic restaurant.
“We plan to use our tax credits to maybe do some further improvements to our building,” Paris said, “and hopefully to further enhance the economic viability and vitality of downtown Lyndonville.”
The project received a credit of more than $75,500 for facade, sprinkler and other code improvements, according to a press release.
The tax-credit program began in 2000, and one of its chief advocates was preservationist Paul Bruhn, who died Sept. 19. Many speakers Wednesday praised Bruhn and honored his contributions to downtown redevelopment statewide.
“He will be deeply missed, but his legacy — this legacy — will live on,” Scott said.
After the event outside the St. Johnsbury offices, Scott and other officials drove across town to the site of MITI Manufacturing, which is owned by a Quebec-based company and produces wheel-immobilizer devices and other products.
The company announced in May that it was moving its Colorado manufacturing line to a leased space in the Fairbanks Scales building on Portland Street. Wednesday’s event inside the industrial building was the official ribbon-cutting.
“It has always been our objective to establish our American head office here in Vermont,” company owner Jean-Patrick Lariviere said during the ceremony.
“Right away,” he said, “we’ve seen the benefit.”
David Snedeker, executive director of the Northeastern Vermont Development Association, said he believed MITI is the fifth company from Quebec that has set up a location in the Kingdom region.
He and Scott highlighted the benefit of Vermont’s — and especially the three-county area’s — proximity to the Canadian province.
“This is exactly why we’re working so hard to connect with businesses in Canada, in Quebec in particular,” the governor said.
Before the ceremony, Lariviere led Scott on a brief tour of the plant. As they stood and chatted, sparks shot into the air from a machine in the background.
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