Member Spotlight: Building Alternative Inc.

We recently sat down with Bob Tortorice, owner of Building Alternatives to learn more about his business, its history and the green energy and green building sector. Bob had some great answers to questions we posed about the importance of this industry and how he can be a resource for Chamber members and the community. 

What is Building Alternatives? How and when did the company get started?

We started in February 1987.

I built my home in 1980 and realized that the traditional (stick built) method of building a home was antiquated and wasted time and money. After working as a civil engineer for a modular home company in Nashua, my hands-on education, formal education and my desire to build an energy efficient home with a totally different business model, I started my company when the modular company moved to Florida.

I was motivated to provide a “hand-holding experience” that specialized in understanding the client’s pros and cons of the land, budget, and their desires, with the overall commitment in building an energy efficient home. This was way before the wave of “Green Construction”. I like to say we were “green” when green was just a color.

Building Alternatives Inc. was created to service the individual home owner and light commercial market that had the desire to be involved in the planning and decision making with hands on when possible in building an energy efficient building, but had very little knowledge or experience on how to achieve their desired results.

Why do Green building practices and Energy Star certifications matter to home or commercial building owners? 

When building a “green home or business” the owner is striving to create a building that reduces or even eliminates their energy bills, while creating a place that is draft free, comfortable, and affordable to live in after they retire.

Understanding and addressing the issues of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) requires the builder to fully understand and address issues of building science. Energy Star Certifications guarantee that the home complies with the strict requirements developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Typical energy costs in a green/energy efficient building can be 40 – 60% less than a standard NH energy code-built home.

What services can you provide an existing home or business owner?

New homes are easily designed to be energy efficient in comparison to existing homes. As a certified energy auditor, we conduct energy assessments, develop a plan, and oversee all installed insulation and methods of reduction in infiltration with a goal of reducing energy cost 25-60%. Installation of renewable energy such as solar for heat or electricity or geothermal can reduce the dependency on fossil fuel even more.

Are their tax or other incentives to having a green or energy efficient home? 

Yes, all homes (new or remodeled) will qualify for some tax credits or rebates.

A great resource for current incentives is  http://www.dsireusa.org. Additionally, Eversource and New Hampshire Electric Co-Op clients are eligible for a new $4,000 cash rebate for achieving an energy start rating on the new or remodeled home.

Tell us more about being a construction manager? Is that the same role as a general contractor? 

The end result is similar but the experience in building is totally different. The construction manager works as an agent for the home owner. All building technologies are explored and completely cost out, giving the owner true comparisons of cost. Pros and cons for each segment of construction is investigated in detail. Home owner is an intricate part of the construction process.

The design and construction of an energy efficient home / building starts with the shell of the building, the location on the land and is driving by the quality of the framing and insulation. None of this cost the client any more money but makes the final product the best it can be, energy wise. All cost of every trade’s labor and material, as well as our profit and overhead, is clearly listed and all billing is based on the original cost for each construction segment, never billed for work not started.

Is there anything else that the business and community members of the Littleton Area Chamber of Commerce should know about you, your business or the work that you do? 

We are approaching our 32nd Year in Business and have achieved designing and building with over 23 energy star homes listed under the EPA website. Always moving forward, over 12 years ago we became as a certified HERS, BPI, and National Green Building Standards (NGBS) raters, thus enabling us to act as consultants and energy experts. This certifies other builders that are remodeling or building new construction to Energy Star standards.

Last year we started the national recognized NGBS certifications for multi-family apartment buildings and single family and commercial buildings which need the NGBS certification. Building Alternatives Inc. is under contract for three apartment buildings (45 apartments) which includes certifying not only the entire building, but also each apartment, lowering the operating cost for the owner and each renter.

 

Member Spotlight: North Country Climbing Center

Our Executive Director recently sat down with Rusty Talbot, Owner & Manager of North Country Climbing Center (NC3). Rusty answered some probing questions we had about his business and about rock climbing in general. Check out what Rusty had to say below:

Who and what is North Country Climbing Center?
The North Country Climbing Center (N3C) is the only full-service climbing business in the North Country. We have the only commercial indoor rock climbing gym in the region and also offer outdoor guiding year-round from our AMGA-certified instructors (the AMGA is the American Mountain Guide Association). Our state-of-the-art climbing gym has over 6,000 square feet of varied rock climbing terrain for all ages and abilities, including both roped routes (up to four stories tall with top roping, lead climbing, and auto belays) and boulder problems.
We offer a wide range of climbing programming for individuals, families, and groups. These range from lessons and one-time events (birthday parties, corporate team-building, bachelor/bachelorette adventures, etc.) to ongoing programs (after-school youth climbing teams for kindergarten through high school students, an adult training team, and more). We partner with the Wounded Warrior Project, the Appalachian Mountain Club, Adaptive Sports Partners of the North Country, and the Boys and Girls Club of the North Country, as well as provide 4, 5, and 6-week-long winter programs for various local schools.
Guests can climb at the gym for a single day by purchasing a day pass or can get a membership for unlimited access. We have climbing gear rentals (climbing shoes, harnesses, belay devices, and chalk) for those who don’t have their own equipment. Our shop carries a great selection of climbing shoes, local climbing guidebooks, other climbing gear, and N3C branded apparel (t-shirts, hoodies, tank tops, and more). Our members receive discounts at our shop and at partners (including Lahout’s Summit Shop on Main Street).

How did the dream of a climbing center become a reality?
There’s much more to this than could possibly be answered briefly! The short answer is that we saw an opportunity both from a business standpoint (indoor rock climbing is one of the fastest growing activities with approximately 1,000 people trying out climbing for the first time each day in the US alone) as well as from a community standpoint (even though the region is home to world-class climbing and draws visitors from all over, the local climbing community was very small). Seeing this, we developed a business plan, secured funding, found a great location (complete with a tall ceiling!), put out an RFP to all the major climbing wall builders, chose a fantastic partner to construct the walls, and made it happen!

What if I’ve never rock climbed before? Can I learn from you?
Absolutely! Our Open Climb Package provides everything that you need for an awesome climbing experience and is ideal for first-time climbers. The package includes a day pass to N3C, all the rental gear you need (climbing shoes, harness, and chalk bag), and the assistance of our knowledgeable staff to give you an orientation to the gym and to provide belays (belaying is controlling the rope so that if the climber falls or needs a rest, they don’t drop far). If you know you love climbing and want to learn how to become self-sufficient, we offer Intro-to-Climbing lessons to teach the basics of how to tie in, how to belay, and all the necessary commands, as well as movement coaching.

Where is the best climbing in the White Mountains? (in your opinion of course)
Littleton is truly in an ideal location when it comes to climbing. Franconia Notch, which is home to Cannon Cliff (at over 900 feet tall and over a mile wide, the largest wall in the Northeast!) as well as a whole series of smaller crags, is barely 15 minutes from Main Street. Just slightly farther away are the many crags of Kinsman Notch, the Zealand Valley, Crawford Notch, and the climbing in the North Conway area. Rumney Rocks, less than an hour away, is a global sport climbing destination that offers nearly 1,000 climbs. Much of the best ice climbing east of the Canadian Rockies is all within a short drive as well, with amazing routes in many of the same places listed above as well as up at Lake Willoughby in Vermont. With so much world-class climbing in such close proximity, there’s really no need to choose one favorite location, but if I had to choose, I would say Cannon Cliff, because it has the longest, most serious, alpine routes in the East.

How can a local business benefit from the North Country Climbing Center?
Climbing is an important and growing part of the recreation economy in New Hampshire. Many people are visiting the region – and others are moving to the region – specifically to take advantage of the amazing recreational opportunities the area has to offer. Climbing is one of those great activities that draws people by the thousands to our beautiful mountains. In a broad sense, the more that climbing grows, the more that the rest of the economy benefits as these same people need places to stay (both short-term and long-term), eat (both groceries and dining out), buy supplies, and more.
There are four primary ways that N3C has had symbiotic relationships with other local organizations:
1. We find partnerships with lodging establishments to be mutually beneficial because we provide visitors to the region with an activity that is great for the whole family, that has a direct connection to the mountains of the region, and that is not weather-dependent. If visitors have a great time, they are more likely to turn into return visitors, and we can help your visitors have a great time. This is true with our outdoor guiding as well as our indoor climbing. Weather in the White Mountains is famously fickle and there are not many other active indoor options when it’s miserable to be outside. Indoor climbing is a great option when it is bitterly cold, or rainy, or just when the skiing or hiking isn’t in great shape, or if the kids (or adults!) need something active after it gets dark outside (we are open 7 days-a-week and are open late!). We are looking to expand the number of lodging businesses that we work with going forward.
2. We provide corporate team-building adventures for staff. Great employers know how important it is for staff to trust each other and have fun together. N3C can craft a team-building adventure for your employees to build camaraderie and enhance morale, while getting staff together in a new environment.
3. N3C has referral arrangements with several local retail businesses whereby our referrals (or members) get a discount with the partner business and vice-versa.
4. Lastly, N3C has sponsored climbing and outdoor films and programs that draw a broader audience for the host as well as expanding our marketing reach. A great example of this has been the successful REEL Outdoors Series we have sponsored and promoted for The Colonial Theatre in Bethlehem this summer.
While these are the ways that we have worked with businesses to date, we are open to other great ideas. Please reach out to us with any request or question.

What are some ideas for the future of N3C?
We are constantly changing and expanding our programming, both indoors at the climbing gym itself as well as outdoors with our guiding. This winter we are planning on increasing our outdoor ice climbing as well as expanding our adult training league and offering more non-climbing programming for our members and guests (movie nights, etc). Sign up for our email newsletter on our website northcountryclimbing.com or just follow us on Facebook and Instagram for all of our latest events and programs.

What is your favorite type of rock to climb? (no pressure being in the granite state)
This is a no-brainer: granite. While I love traveling to climb amazing granite in Yosemite or the High Sierras in California, or Squamish or the Bugaboos in Western Canada, I always find myself coming back to the amazing granite right here in the Granite State!
That said, it should also be noted that New Hampshire has just as much schist as granite, and some of the great climbing in the state is on schist, so it wouldn’t be wrong to consider New Hampshire to be the Schist State just as much as the Granite State… but that doesn’t roll off the tongue as well, does it?

Anything else you would like to add?
I have noticed two very strong – and seemingly contradictory – misconceptions about rock climbing.
Misconception #1: Rock climbing is inherently very extreme and only for thrill seekers and/or people who are naturally unafraid of heights.

“You’ll never see me climbing because I don’t like heights” is a common thing to hear from someone who has never tried climbing. For one thing, climbing is not inherently high off the ground. Bouldering, probably the fastest growing discipline in climbing as well as one of the most challenging and gymnastic types of climbing, is – as its name implies – focused on climbing boulders. Bouldering climbs (referred to as boulder “problems”) are rarely more than 15 feet high. The primary focus in all climbing, but most obvious in bouldering, is the athletic problem-solving movement toward a goal.

For those climbs that are tall, comfort at height is more commonly learned through practice than an innate part of one’s character. Avoiding climbing due to a fear of heights is, therefore, akin to never going on a jog because you cannot run a 4-minute mile: just as you can’t expect to run incredibly fast without proper training and preparation, you can’t expect to be comfortable trusting ropes when you’re high off the ground without some degree of practice.

Along these same lines, many people have seen photos or videos of Alex Honnold or others scaling huge rock faces without a rope and therefore assume that all climbing is extremely risky and offers no margin for error. The reality is that relatively few climbers free solo (climb high walls without a rope) and even Alex Honnold spends most of his time climbing with a rope to catch him in case he falls. Whether climbing at our indoor gym or outdoors in the White Mountains, we at N3C place significant focus on mitigating and minimizing risks. For example, the seamless, padded flooring in our bouldering area is over a foot thick and uses three different densities of foam to absorb and distribute the force of landings when bouldering. While climbing, like most worthwhile activities, has inherent risks, a recent study of indoor climbing found only 0.02 injuries per 1,000 climbing hours, making climbing less likely to lead to injury than most other sports, including badminton.

Misconception #2: Rock climbing is a kid’s activity to pass some time occasionally.

Possibly because of the popularity of small climbing towers at fairs and amusement parks, a surprising number of parents seem to view climbing as an “amusement” – an activity that really is only for kids and doesn’t involve specialized skills or training. This would be like believing that because children can enjoy mini golf, the US Open should be easy for them.

Climbing is a true life-long activity, which provides constant challenges for new and experienced practitioners alike. It is three dimensional problem-solving. Improvement takes time and effort. People dedicate their lives to it. Some people travel the world climbing professionally. There are easy climbs, but there are also very difficult climbs.

We are therefore rather surprised by the number of parents who ask us to put their child, who has never climbed before, on the hardest climb in the gym, which is usually a climb most of our staff cannot ascend. We certainly never want to dissuade someone from challenging oneself, pushing their limits to see how hard they can climb, but we also want people to have fun climbing. And it is not fun for anyone if can’t even get off the ground.

All of this said, climbing is a wonderful activity that comes naturally to many. It is one things that 3 generations of a family can all do together with each individual pushing herself or himself to the point that is both challenging and fun. (Skiing, for example, is wonderful to do with the whole family, but someone is always either being held back or pushed a little too hard!)

Member Spotlight: The Wayside Inn

The Wayside Inn opened in Bethlehem around the 1910s with current owner Sarah Levy taking over in August 2017.

Tell us about your experience in the hospitality industry.
Sarah went to college in Philadelphia where she stayed to work for Marriott Hotels. Within six years she worked her way up from bar tender to hotel general manager and ended up at a Marriott near her hometown of Hopkinton, Massachusetts.

When Sarah left Mariott, she worked on cruise ships and river boats for American Cruise Lines, then returned to Mass where she took a 9 to 5 job at a hospitality company in Boston. The company was soon to close, so “I was trying to figure out what to do next,” Sarah explained. “Owning an inn and restaurant has been a dream of mine since I was 14 years old.”

Revisiting her dream, Sarah had searches flagged on websites that would email her when a lodging property came up for sale in the New England area. That’s when she found The Wayside Inn.

Why did you decide to purchase The Wayside Inn?
“It’s extremely beautiful and has a ton of potential,” revealed Sarah. “It was so close to Lincoln where I would come as a kid. I came, looked at it, fell in love, and placed my offer.”

Tell us about what you offer, including your restaurant, at The Wayside Inn.
The inn has 26 rooms and a menu Sarah came up with that has been tweaked by Chef Josh Beemer, a Colorado Springs native who has been an executive chef for several years, most recently in Portsmouth before joining The Wayside Inn.

According to Sarah, the food is upscale American fare. “It’s really important to me that my hotel guests can find something they like on the menu,” she explained. “We haven’t pigeonholed it to one type of genre and change the menu seasonally to mix it up for the locals. We also try to add all kinds of new specials so people have something new to try.”

The restaurant overlooks the Ammonoosuc River, and with the addition of a new patio, will have outdoor seating within the next few weeks. The Wayside Inn is also now open for lunch Saturday through Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a Sunday brunch menu served from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

What do you love about the Littleton area?
“I love the energy here and how peaceful it is,” said Sarah. “Since I’ve moved here I’ve really come to love the community and the people. I feel truly lucky. I’ve definitely been embraced by the Bethlehem community as well as in Twin Mountain and Littleton. I love the scenery, the nature, and to be able to go hiking.

When you find a few moments in your busy schedule, what do you love to do?
Aside from hiking, Sarah is a foodie who tries to eat out once a week. She’s tried the restaurants in Bethlehem and is now working her way through Littleton. She also tried skiing for the first time last winter.

Member Spotlight: Kate Goldsborough Stylist

Kate Goldsborough Stylist is an unusual shop for our area. Owner Kate Goldsborough offers her trained eye and New York style to anyone looking for an a la carte or complete makeover. Her shop, formerly known as Art To Go, is located at 85 Main Street in Littleton.

How did you become a stylist?
After graduating Bennington College, I pursued an acting career in New York City where I did my advanced training. Through the years in school and beyond, make-up and wardrobe processes were running alongside the craft of acting. I borrowed techniques from the stylists for fun and because I was interested. Through that, helping friends, plus lots of shopping as research- of course- I discovered I’d inherited an eye for color from my artist mother, Carole Goldsborough McMillen and and the hand/eye from both she and my surgeon father, Richard H. Goldsborough. Long before I earned my cosmetology license, I found I had the ability to help people bring out their looks, and I found it gratifying that I could manifest my vision while giving them an emotional boost.

Is that your mission?
As the tagline on the front of the store implies, I help women with their look from hair to footwear. But my brand line is, “Get a look that turns your head.”  What I do is for the client herself. So much of beauty is about having your own style, and style doesn’t mean fashion, style means, “I choose to be who I want to be, presenting what I want to present.”

I coach where I see I can help, and that sometimes falls into the area of confidence.

Why did you decide to bring styling to Littleton?
Though I’ve been a consistently evolving retail store, and I’ve been on Main Street since 1995 as Art To Go, Kate Goldsborough Stylist is a change from an emphasis on retail to a total style center, which also includes boutique offerings. But when I decided to re-brand I was super unsure as to whether the market could sustain the unusual business model. I decided to put everything I do under one umbrella.  My clients seem to like it, and when I was in B School (online marketing training for entrepreneurs), Marie Forleo was wowed by the idea.

I had a lot of help from experts around me. Kate Goldsborough Stylist is the evolution of my abilities and proclivities—but it was one scary move to brand the business as me. And who’s ever heard of a style center? Especially in the North Country!

 

I went into Kate Goldsborough Stylist rather bedraggled and came out shining! She is very kind and really knows how to bring out the best in her clients. I get compliments everyday from my new look. I never thought my hair could look this good. I have a skincare and makeup regime I can easily do myself. I love the clothes she picked for me and look forward to buying more. – Virginia W., Manchester VT


What services and products do you offer?
I offer a total makeover. Or people can do just their clothes, hair, makeup, skin, whatever.

The official list includes:
Cut • Color • Brows • Personal Styling • Closet Transformations • Photo Styling • Events • Inner Confidence
But I also address ongoing health for beauty from the inside out.

Browsers can stop by the Main Street location to inquire about working with me on site or have consultations from afar.

I also offer a six-week group class. 603 616-9211 or kategoldsborough.com

 

Which town do you live in?
Bethlehem

What do you love about the Littleton area?
As a shop owner, I love that so many places converge here:  Canada, Vermont, Maine, Mass all touch NH and it’s not a big effort to get to Littleton. It’s fun to hear French in the shoe aisle of TJ Maxx! We have cool shops and businesses on a street that has the advantage of being an old fashioned walking street, and people are charmed by it. As a resident, I love the countryside, skiing, and New England beauty, but there’s also music, art, theater, and a cool community of people.

 

NH Legislative Updates – June 2018

 

From the New Hampshire Travel Council. For a list of all the bills the NH Travel Council is following, click here.

The New Hampshire Legislative session came to an unofficial close this past Wednesday.  I say unofficial because the Legislature will most likely come back for a day to deal with veto messages from the Governor.  That will take place either in early June or they may wait until late August/September.

On Wednesday the two chambers voted on the Committee of Conference (CoC) reports that were finalized last week.  While most of the 60 bills that went to a CoC were passed by both chambers there were a few that did not pass.

Below is a summary of the final outcome of some of the key bills we were monitoring.

YOUTH EMPLOYMENT:  SB 318  This bill originally dealt with repealing certain provisions of the youth employment law governing the employment of youths 16 and 17 years of age.  The bill was amended several times throughout the legislative process and was eventually adopted by both chambers and it addresses other labor laws in addition to youth labor laws.   The final version establishes criteria under which the commissioner of the Department of Labor may conduct a workplace inspection; amends certain notification and posting requirements; amends certain provisions of the youth employment law; and amends the requirements for employer retention of hour and wage records.

Regarding youth labor laws, the bill now allows 16 and 17 year olds to work 30 hours a week during a 5 day school week, 40 ¼ hours a week during a 4 day school week, and 48 hours during a school week with at least 1 but no more than 3 school days.

The bill also addressed an ongoing issue between employees and their employer concerning uniforms for the work place.  The law now states (change is underlined): “Uniform” means a garment with a company logo or fashion of distinctive design, worn by one or more employees, and serving as a means of identification or distinction.  No employer shall require an employee to wear a uniform unless the employer provides each employee with a uniform reasonably suited for the conditions in which the employee would be required to wear one, at no cost to the employee.  An employee may purchase any other company garments or items if the employee chooses.

FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE:  HB 628 establishes a system of paid family and medical leave insurance. After passing the House by a slim margin, the full Senate voted along party lines to interim study this bill 14-10.  An interim study vote is the polite way of killing a bill in the second year of the session. This bill would have created a paid medical leave program funded by and employee payroll reduction.  The benefit would have been for 6 weeks and the program was optional in that you could opt-out at the time of being hired.

UNUSED VACATION TIME: HB 1201, relative to an employee’s earned but unused vacation time.  This bill requires an employer to pay its employees for earned but unused vacation time.  After passing the House by a slim margin this bill headed over to the Senate.  The full Senate voted to kill the bill on a voice vote.

MEDICAID EXPANSION:   SB 313  As drafted, the bill establishes the New Hampshire Granite Advantage Health Care Program which shall replace the current New Hampshire health protection program.  Under this program, those individuals eligible to receive benefits under Medicaid and newly eligible adults will choose coverage offered by one of the managed care organizations contracted as vendors under the Medicaid program.  For the first time, this measure would claim 5 percent of state liquor sales profits to serve as a taxpayer match for the New Hampshire Granite Care Advantage Health Care Program. This bill has passed both chambers and is going to the Governor’s office.

CAMPGROUNDS:  SB 501, relative to immunity for campground owners.  This bill provides immunity for campground owners, except for intentional acts or omissions which cause death or injury.  The bill passed the Senate with an amendment by a voice vote.  When the bill went over to the House it met strong head winds in the House Judiciary Committee, where it was recommended inexpedient to legislate (ITL).  The full House adopted that recommendation by a vote of 170-101.  There was a last ditch effort by the sponsor of the bill, Sen. Avard, to tack this bill onto to a House Bill which he succeeded to do in the Senate.  Unfortunately, when it went back to the House Judiciary Committee, they recommended that the full House non-concur with the Senate change.

WORK SCHEDULES:  SB 422, relative to advance notice of work schedules.  This bill requires an employer to give 14 days’ advance notice of work schedules to its employees.  This bill gained some Republican support on the Senate floor, but was ultimately tabled.  A bill being tabled in effect kills the bill, but still needs monitoring as it can be taken off the table at any time (with a simple majority), but in this case I believe it went on the table to die.

MEALS AND ROOMS TAX :  HB 1609  This bill allows towns and cities to adopt an additional surcharge under the meals and rooms tax on hotel occupancy within the town or city and deposit the funds collected by the department of revenue administration and paid to the town or city into a capital reserve fund, revolving fund, or other special revenue fund.  This again had support from the City of Portsmouth as well as others from that area.  The full committee voted to recommend this bill inexpedient to legislate (ITL) by a vote of 14-7.  This bill was killed on the House floor this past week.

HIGHWAY SIGNS:  SB 400, relative to traveler information signs on highways.  This bill provides that the fee charged to a nonprofit organization for advertising space on a limited access highway shall be limited to the initial cost of the sign or its replacement. The full Senate voted to pass the bill.  The bill was amended to provide that the fee for non-profits only be enough to cover the cost of the sign.  Over on the House side the House Public Works and Highways Committee voted to recommend that this bill be killed 18-0.  The full House killed this bill.

BUSINESS TAXES:  HB 1292, relative to the effective dates of changes to the rates for the business profits tax and the business enterprise tax.  This bill changes the effective dates of the rate reductions to the business profits tax and the business enterprise tax to the beginning of the respective calendar year. In essence it bumped up the start date for the next round of business tax cuts by 6 months.  Starting January 1, 2019 the business profit tax will decrease from 7.9% to 7.7% and the business enterprise tax will decrease from .675% to .60%.