Entrepreneurs rejoice — millions made available in Vermont venture capital

Observer staff report

Startup and emerging companies in Vermont will have access to nearly $60 million in low-interest loans and venture capital through funds approved this week by the U.S. Treasury Department. 

The money was included in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to revive Vermont’s Small Business Credit Initiative (SBCI), which was established in 2010.

“Never before have we had such an opportunity to fund startups and early-stage capital for Vermont companies,” Vermont Department of Economic Development Commissioner Joan Goldstein said. “These investments present an enormous opportunity for venture capital in the state.” 

Vermont will operate three different programs with the funds: two venture capital programs focused on rural, early-stage companies and technology companies and a new loan program focused on small businesses and climate change initiatives. 

“There is a desperate need for venture capital in Vermont to give small businesses and entrepreneurs the opportunity to be able to start and grow a business in our great state,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, who, as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, made reviving the SBCI program a top priority during passage of the American Rescue Plan Act. “Rural states, like Vermont, lack professionally invested early stage equity and near equity investors to prepare and launch new companies and research commercialization. These funds will give Vermont the tools necessary to support business development and emerging companies statewide that currently lack access to venture capital and critical lending programs.”

Nationwide, $10 billion in SBCI funding will be distributed.

“This is an historic investment in entrepreneurship, small business growth and innovation … that will help reduce barriers to capital access for traditionally underserved communities,” said Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen. “I’m excited to see how SBCI funds will promote equitable economic growth across the country.”

The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development and the Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA) will help administer the program.

“The Covid-19 pandemic devastated many of our businesses, farmers and entrepreneurs,” VEDA Chief Executive Officer Cassie Polhemus said. “Receiving this federal funding will go a very long way in supporting VEDA’s mission of strengthening Vermont’s economic vitality by leveraging private funds to catalyze innovation in key sectors, creating high-quality jobs, diversifying the economy and helping businesses continue to recover from the pandemic.” 

Gov. Phil Scott added: ”My administration remains focused on retaining and creating jobs and supporting businesses in every region of the state. This program will support our innovative employers, helping them to grow and become national leaders while strengthening our communities here at home.”

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