Vermont Wood Pellet Company was among 16 companies and organizations to share more than $750,000 in grants from the Working Lands Enterprise Fund.
The North Clarendon pellet mill received a $38,153 infrastructure grant that will allow the company to upgrade its equipment and as a result increase efficiency and production.
By ramping up production to capacity, that eventually could lead the company to open another mill, said Chris Brooks, co-owner of Vermont Wood Pellet.
Last season, the mill turned out 15,500 tons of hardwood pellets.
With the upgrade in equipment, Brooks said capacity should reach 16,000 tons this season and more next season.
Given the demand, the company needs all the capacity it can muster for its distributors.
“(The upgrade) satisfies our stove stores because we are sold out for the coming year with the contracts that I’ve signed,” said company president Katie Adams. “So, they like our brand and they want more.”
The company also sets aside pellets for local customers who want to stop by the plant in the Airport Business Park.
Brooks said the grant will purchase a piece of equipment that will increase efficiency by eliminating the amount of wood waste, thereby increasing the amount of wood that’s turned into pellets.
“It really makes us far more efficient,” he said.
Increasing production will also free up space at the plant to store more logs. That in turn will allow the mill to potentially buy more wood, Brooks said.
The mill has 24 employees and helps support 100 local loggers who deliver to the plant.
Gov. Peter Shumlin, Agriculture, Food & Markets Secretary Chuck Ross, Commerce and Community Development Secretary Lawrence Miller, Forests, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Michael Snyder and the Working Lands Enterprise Board awarded the grants last week at Beaver Brook Tree Farm in Marshfield.