Back in December 2016, Chroma, a local optical lens manufacturer that distributes its product all over the world, was approved by the state of Vermont for a 37,000 square foot expansion to its facilities. This project would add about 25 new jobs as well as allowing Chroma to retain its existing 113 jobs in the region. The new facility will represent a doubling in space for the company, which is based in Bellows Falls. Prior to the expansion, the growing manufacturer had been struggling to increase capacity in its existing space, with one engineer noting that they were “utilizing a trailer for meeting space and leasing offsite storage space.” The additional capacity will include new equipment, additional parking, and various site improvements.
However, this expansion was not always guaranteed to happen here in Vermont. Chroma, at one point, was considering various out-of-state options for its expansion, which prompted support from various public entities including the BDCC. Chroma is not only one of Rockingham’s largest employers but is an employee owned company, meaning that every employee is a Chroma shareholder with a generous salary and benefit package.
To support Chroma staying in Bellows Falls, the BDCC modeled the Chroma expansion after a similar project undertaken with G.S. Precision, a Brattleboro manufacturer who was considering expanding out of state before being persuaded to add 100 new jobs to its Brattleboro facility instead. For the Chroma project, the BDCC stepped into a consultant role, working with the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) and governor’s office to facilitate funds for the project. Eventually, four different local and state funding sources were utilized: a grant from the Town of Rockingham, a half million dollar loan from the Windham County Economic Development Program, a grant from the Community Development Block Grant program, and a loan from the Vermont Economic Development Authority. With the help of these funding sources, the $19 million dollar project could get off the ground and is now well on its way to be finished with an estimated completion date of October 2018.