Grant exceeds expectations for Rutland small business

Anthony Edwards of Awesome GraphicsIn February 2018, six companies in the Rutland area received nearly $700,000 in grants for workforce development from the Vermont Training Program.

Almost 18 months later the owner of Awesome Graphics said the grant exceeded expectations.

“Through the grant we were able to hire and train employees, who now work here full time. Now that we have a more robust staff we have been able to service and gain more clients,” said Tami Napolitano, Awesome Graphics owner. 

Awesome Graphics, which began in 1994, offers a variety of printing and marketing materials including banners, signs, vehicle wraps and trade show booth displays.

In 2017, Napolitano completed the Small Business Administration’s Emerging Leaders class, a seven-month program for small business owners to create a three-year strategic plan to grow their business. However, she met many of the benchmarks she set for herself and her company in less than six months.

“A month after Emerging Leaders, we knew we needed additional help as we were growing so fast,” she said.

Napolitano heard about the Vermont Training Program from the Rutland Economic Development Corporation and decided to apply.

The Vermont Training Program, which started 30 years ago, offers workforce grants for pre-employment training, as well as training for new and existing employees. The program is available to all sectors of the Vermont economy and cover up to 50 percent of training costs.

It is managed by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development’s Department of Economic Development.

“In today’s tight labor market, job creators have a hard time finding job seekers. The Vermont Training Program is one of the most nimble economic development tools we have as a state.  It enables a company to hire or promote someone who might not have the exact right skills, train them, and create new opportunities for both the employee and the employer. It is an economic growth incentive that provides an immediate boost to the company and a long-term benefit to the employee,” said Ted Brady, Deputy Secretary for the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

Once applications are submitted, the review and approval process takes an average of 18 days. When Awesome Graphics was notified it was receiving a grant, Napolitano promoted Anthony Edwards and Clawed Derosiers, two of her part-time employees, to full-time employees. 

“I learned so much in less than a year,” said Derosiers who had a graphic design background. “I knew nothing about the printing world. During the training I discovered I had a lot of bad habits, and I have improved my quality control.” 

Today Awesome Graphics has more than 4,000 clients and nine full-time employees, two of whom are being trained by Edwards.

Awesome Graphics’ client base is starting to grow outside of the U.S. Recently it made a sign for a yacht club on Saint Martin, an island in the Caribbean.

“We are trying to create jobs here. We are trying to pay competitive wages as we grow and this grant allowed us to do just that,” said Napolitano.

According to Brady, more than 2,000 employees at 36 organizations have benefited from the Vermont Training Program in 2018, resulting in a 4.2 percent median wage increase throughout the state.

Company Name: 
Awesome Graphics
Location: 
Rutland, VT