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Vermont Citizen Heroes

Rick Welcome and the Sales Team, Lamoille Valley Ford

"It’s crawl, walk, and then run," says Rick Welcome, the Sales Manager at Lamoille Valley Ford, as he describes his dealership's efforts to sell electric cars (EVs) to Vermonters. "We are just starting to walk with these vehicles, so I'd imagine in the next ten years, we will be running with them."

It is hard to imagine that Rick and the sales team at Lamoille Valley Ford in Hardwick ever spent time in the crawl phase. For a period in 2013, they had the second highest sales of Ford's plug-in hybrids of any auto dealership in the country.

Photo of Lamoille Valley Ford Team

When the first shipment of EVs and hybrids arrived in the summer of 2013 ,though, the cars just sat on the lot. Lamoille Valley Ford's owner Dan Keene had a firm belief that EVs are the future of vehicle technology, so he and his wife bought two plug-ins from that first shipment. 

The event that made the dealership into an EV hot spot came in September of 2013. Keene pledged to sell 30 electric vehicles in 30 days and  packaged together a federal tax credit with incentives from Ford to offer big reductions in price to customers. The whole sales team worked together and put their all into advertizing the benefits that Ford's plug-ins had to offer.

Within 12 days, the team had surpassed their goal of selling or leasing 30 plug-ins hybrids. By the end of the month, Vermonters and customers visiting from all over New England had purchased or leased 57 of these climate-smart cars.

Financial incentives certainly help spur demand, but conversations with members of the sales team make clear that it is their commitment to educating consumers about these cars, and their contagious enthusiasm, that makes them fly off the lot. Many of the sales people now lease EVs themselves. One member of the team joked, "At one point, my family had 12 plug-in models, but I do have a big family!" 

"It's not just about getting good fuel mileage, and it's not just about saving money for the customers," explains Welcome. "One thing we can’t buy is our environment, which is something we have helped protect by reducing the number of carbon emitting vehicles."

Today, Lamoille Valley Ford has sold so many EVs that Lamoille County has the highest per capita number of EV registrations in the entire state. Of the 700 new vehicles that drive off the lot each year, the sales team estimates 100 are plug-in electric models. This year, they have begun to sell "certified pre-owned electric and hybrid vehicles" at a great price, which helps customers who can afford to buy or lease a new EV buy a reliable used car at a lower cost.

On Earth Day 2016, the dealership is trying for 40 vehicles in 40 days. They will suceed, says Welcome, by "believing in the product."

ANR Staff Heroes

ANR's Adam Miller, Department of Fish & Wildlife 

Photo of Adam MillerAdam Miller's connection to nature started during his first fishing trip at age 7.  "I'll never forget the first trout I caught when I was a kid," said Miller. "I was hooked for life."

Miller turned his love of nature into a career. He is now the operations manager of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department's fish hatchery program, a position that lets him help Vermonters experience that same bond with nature that he loved as a kid. "If we're going to continue to protect our environment," he explains, "we’re going to have to ensure that people make and maintain a personal connection to nature."

Concern for the environment wasn't the only reason Miller pursued substantial energy upgrades to the state's hatchery system.  

"I'd love to say we did this only for the environment, but really, this was a smart business move too," said Miller. "Even if the upgrade was a wash or totally neutral for the environment – we still would have done them because it just made sense economically. We're saving money for Vermont's taxpayers." 

Miller's hatchery program received a loan from the State Resource Management Revolving Fund (or SRMRF), from the Department of Buildings and General Services. The program allows state buildings and facilities to take out interest-free loans to finance energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy projects. The hatchery program used the funds to make energy efficiency upgrades such as adding a recirculating system to reuse heated water. One of the state's five hatcheries also built a new on-site solar array to meet its power needs, and two other hatcheries are planning to add arrays in partnership with All Earth Renewables.

The Fish & Wildlife Department is able to pay off the loan through savings from the project, after which the department will save $80,000 a year. The reduction in energy demand has also been significant. 

"These upgrades save enough energy to power the entire town of Grand Isle for a year," said Miller. "The reduction in fossil fuel usage is as if we took a car off the road that was circling the world 327 times every single year."

Miller encourages private businesses to get advice on similar low-interest or interest-free loans for energy efficiency upgrades and alternative energy projects. "These upgrades don't just help combat climate change, they're also a significant boost to a business's bottom line," said Miller. 

Miller hopes these cheaper-to-power, more-efficient hatcheries will allow his staff to continue creating opportunities for people to get out on the water, catch a fish, and make a strong connection with nature. "The Agency of Natural Resources' motto is 'Respect, Protect, Enjoy' and we're providing people with that opportunity to enjoy the natural world," he said. "And hopefully, we're also rearing the next generation of conservationists."