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Associated Bank Contributes $15K to Help Reduce Ecological Impact and Assist Small Businesses

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Solar energy panels to be installed at Food Enterprise Center through the Vernon Economic Development Association

Pictured (left to right) are: Susan Noble, VEDA; Crystal Kinnunen, Bill Kopka, and Peter Ruud, Associated Bank; Mike Breckel, VEDA; and Billy Mahan, Associated Bank.

Crystal Kinnunen, bank manager at Associated Bank Viroqua and board member for VEDA, recently championed the grant for the Food Enterprise Center, which is owned and managed by VEDA.

“Associated Bank and VEDA share a common mission on sustainability and supporting small businesses to make our communities a better place,” said Kinnunen. “This is a great opportunity for Associated to support food security in an area of the country known for organic food growth and production.”

Associated Bank’s grant funding focus is guided by both a Community Commitment Plan and an Environmental, Social, and Governance Plan.

VEDA has been working with Ethos Green Power for more than three years to bring solar energy to the Food Enterprise Center’s main operations. This is a multi-tenant facility which houses 25 businesses that support more than 90 jobs in the rural impoverished area. VEDA has designed a 100kW (248 panels) solar array to be installed by Ethos Green Power as a ground mounted system on the south lawn of the building.

The electricity generated will support the common areas at the Food Enterprise Center that serve tenant small businesses, along with the refrigeration coolers that store produce and dairy products for a Community Hunger Solutions program that brings nutritious food to community members who lack access.

“This solar project is a long-term solution that fosters a stronger, more stable community,” said Mike Breckel, VEDA board president. “Through the solar panels, VEDA will save approximately $9,000 every year in electricity costs that can be used to help more businesses grow.”

The total cost of the project is $180,000. VEDA generated $98,000 in grants plus support from an anonymous donor of $50,000 and contributions from community members. Associated Bank’s grant fills the final funding need.