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Beta Technologies receives state incentive for possible expansion in St. Albans

Aircraft with multiple rotors on a tarmac
Courtesy
/
Beta Technologies
Beta Technologies prototype electric aircraft, called Alia, sits on a tarmac. The South Burlington company is eyeing the shuttered Energizer plant in St. Albans for a new battery testing facility.

A South Burlington company making electric aircraft received approval on Thursday for up to $557,000 from the state’s primary business incentive program for a potential project in St. Albans.

Beta Technologies, which has built a prototype electric plane intended to primarily carry cargo, will earn the funds from the Vermont Economic Growth Incentive (VEGI) program if it meets targets to expand its workforce and make capital investments.

A Beta spokesperson declined to comment on the company’s plans in St. Albans. But during a Senate Transportation Committee hearing on Feb. 10, Blain Newton, the company’s chief operating officer, floated the possibility that Beta may set up shop in the shuttered Energizer plant in St. Albans to build a battery testing facility.

Newton said the company has been courted by New York officials to do battery testing at the Plattsburgh International Airport, but he indicated a preference to grow that part of the business in Vermont.

“Man, if we can leverage that existing Energizer facility for what it was intended to be built for in the first place, that’s awesome, because there’s probably a talent pool that wants to work with batteries again,” Newton told lawmakers.

More from VPR: Electric Aircraft From Burlington Startup Begins Flight Tests In Plattsburgh

On Thursday, Newton was at the meeting of the Vermont Economic Progress Council, where members unanimously approved Beta’s application for a VEGI award for its potential St. Albans project.

“Thank you all for your continued support,” he said. “We’re excited to get to work.”

Beta’s potential expansion to St. Albans Town would be welcomed by Tim Smith, the executive director of the Franklin County Industrial Development Corporation. Smith is also the mayor of St. Albans City. In an interview with VPR, he said the move would better utilize the Energizer space, where the company once made lithium batteries. And, Beta could add up to 200 to 300 jobs, which he said would be “huge” for Franklin County.

“We currently have about 10,000 people who get on the interstate and travel south to go to work,” Smith said. “If we can entice a portion of those to stay in the county and work, it makes for a better environment for everyone."

VEGI payments are received over a five-year period, but only if a company meets agreed-upon targets to expand its workforce and make new capital investments. VEGI applications, and the precise amounts that companies ultimately earn from the program, are not publicly available.

More from VPR: Can You Prove That Vermont’s Main Business Incentive Creates Jobs? It’s Debatable

Beta has grown rapidly in recent years as it seeks to build both electric aircraft and a national network of charging stations. The company says it currently employs 350 people, most of whom are in Vermont. This is not the first time the company has used the VEGI program. In 2020, Beta received approval for up to $2.78 million from the program for its operations in South Burlington.

Beta is also planning a major expansion at the Burlington International Airport, where it already has one facility. It’s proposed a $122 million, 344,000 square foot facility at the southeast end of the airport grounds, where it would manufacture its aircraft. That plan is awaiting an Act 250 permit. The company has estimated it would add another 800 workers for its manufacturing operations.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Henry Epp:

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