Norwich strengthens region’s diverse economy

-A A +A

Norwich strengthens region’s diverse economy

Thu, 11/23/2017 - 6:11am -- tim

by Bruce Edwards, Vermont Business Magazine When the talk turns to the economy of Washington County and its major employers the usual names pop up: State of Vermont, Central Vermont Medical Center, Darn Tough, Keurig and National Life Group among others. But one educational institution, the oldest private military college in the country, plays no small role in the county’s economy.

Norwich University with a student body of 2,509 students and 850 employees makes a significant economic contribution.

Norwich President Richard Schneider said business is “booming.”

“We’re absolutely packed with undergraduates,” Schneider said. “I cannot take one more student.”

Of the 2,509 students, 1,602 make up the corps of cadets with the remaining 907 civilian students. In addition, there are 1,600 graduate students in several programs that attend classes off campus and around the world.

In preparation for the school’s 200th anniversary, Norwich has embarked on a significant capital construction program.

“We’ve got a new academic building going up right now called Mack Hall, a $24 million building and we’re renovating the last three academic spaces,” Schneider said.

Those academic spaces are Webb, Dewey and Ainsworth halls.

All together, the projects total close to $50 million. 

In addition, two years ago, $6.8 million in renovations were completed to Kreitzberg Library.

The four-story Mack Hall will feature interactive classrooms, case-study spaces, pocket lounges, a cyber-security war room, and a 400-seat auditorium and performing arts center

The projects are part of the school’s five-year, $100 million Forging the Future fundraising campaign that includes scholarship endowments.

Schneider said the upgrades to the campus are critical to the school’s future because the size of the student body has doubled in 25 years.

Despite the ongoing U.S. military involvement around the world since 9/11, Schneider said enrollment is up at all the military colleges in the country. “We have a ton of kids in America and their parents who want a valued-based education,” Schneider said, “and who are willing to serve this Republic and get the fact that our freedoms must be protected.”

During the course of a year, the school pays $47 million in salaries and benefits to its 850 employees, including adjunct faculty who teach online courses.

“So we are a huge payroll impact to Vermont and with all this construction we’re pumping a lot of money into the Vermont economy,” he said.

The school also invested in a $6.5 million biomass plant that burns wood chips instead of fuel oil, which saves the school $1 million a year.

Dave Magida, chief administrative officer, said the school has a strong bias when it comes to hiring Vermont contractors. Magida said one reason is the quality and price of the work “is terrific.”

“We need them as much as they need us and it shows when we finish projects,” he said. “There’s a lot of pride taken in the construction work these folks do.” 

Construction costs of current projects:

Construction of Mack Hall  –

$24 million

Renovations to Webb Hall –

$13.5 million

Renovations to Dewey Hall –

$6.5 million

Renovations to Ainsworth Hall – $4.5 million

Contractors on the projects include: Benoit Electric, Engelberth Construction, Freeman French Freeman, Jones Architecture, Vermont Mechanical, Thomas Mechanical, Ziter Masonry, S.D. Ireland, Percy Excavation, Rock of Ages, and Northfield Savings Bank.

Norwich University was founded by Alden Partridge. Partridge, a native of Norwich, graduated West Point and a short time later became its superintendent. He left West Point and in 1819 founded the American Literary, Scientific, and Military Institute, which is today Norwich University.

Bruce Edwards is a freelance writer from Southern Vermont. This article first appeared in the November issue of Vermont Business Magazine.