SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — The Black River Innovation Campus (BRIC) will be getting a new neighbor AI-driven technology to provide behavioral health care solutions to help those at risk of suicide and other mental health challenges inside the former Park Street School.
With the help of a direct investment from the Center on Rural Innovation, Voi Incorporated will be located within the Black River Innovation Campus.
Jay Bockhaus, managing partner of the Center on Rural Innovation Fund, declined to comment on just how much the grant was for but did give a date for when Voi will move in next to BRIC.
“Voi plans to relocate in the next 90 days,” Bockhaus said.
Voi Incorporated received a Phase I SBIR contract for their current project. Now, the company is planning to relocate as part of Springfield’s BRIC as the town has been declared an opportunity zone by Gov. Phil Scott.
“In 2019, Voi received a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from the U.S. Air Force to assess the feasibility of deploying Voi Detect. Voi today announced that the U.S. Air Force granted Voi an SBIR Phase II contract to provide funding for a pilot of the Voi Detect platform across several active and National Guard units over the course of this year; two of the National Guard units are based in Vermont,” said Aidan Calvelli of the Center on Rural Innovation. “The company is eager to offer its technology and solutions to help improve mental health outcomes in the U.S. military and beyond.”
According to Rick Johnson, chief operating officer of Voi, the move could occur even earlier than the present target date of May 2020.
“We are actually in the middle of the move right now,” he said. “It could be completed by the end of March.”
Johnson also said the employment numbers are open to the community.
“If we hit our revenue projections, I would anticipate hiring eight to 12 people by the end of 2020 (developers/project managers/customer service representatives/sales representatives) with the majority of these hires working in our Springfield office,” he said.
Trevor Barlow, executive director of BRIC, is pleased to see a mental health based company with the level of artificial intelligence move in next door and sees it as a good match.
“We are thrilled that Voi is relocating to Springfield, offering positive proof that BRIC and Springfield are powerful places to do business and make a national impact.” Barlow said. “We look forward to supporting Voi’s continued growth as they leverage BRIC’s infrastructure and ecosystem to strengthen their business and deliver real results for people facing mental health issues here in Vermont and across the country.”
Barlow continued to explain the local employment aspect of the addition of Voi Incorporated.
“So we are entrepreneurial support and that is part of the BRIC mission. We will be working with them, which means, they have work space. We will help them with essentially whatever they need to build their business because we have a pretty good network of resources locally, state and on the federal level and also the national kinds of the private sector.”
Employment opportunities are still being estimated but Barlow said they have projections of what to anticipate.
“There should be a fairly immediate impact locally and whether it’s being able to employ locals or getting more people into town. It’s kind of a net positive in the short term,” Barlow said.
Bill Hudenko, CEO of Voi, said the move was made possible through the partnership with Center on Rural Innovation and the Innovation Fund.
“We are excited to partner with the Center on Rural Innovation Fund to expand the distribution of Voi Detect and to enhance the capabilities of Voi Reach,” Hudenko said. “Our empirically-validated solutions can positively impact the mental health of soldiers, patients, students and others across the country, and we are very grateful to have additional capital to extend our capabilities.”
Jay Bockhaus said Voi is the perfect investment and the right match for filling the space in the same building as BRIC.
“Voi’s mission of helping to detect, support, and care for people at risk for suicide and living with behavioral health issues is vital,” Bockhaus said. “We are delighted to provide capital for Voi to continue its great work preventing suicide, an issue that deeply affects rural communities, and to welcome them to the Black River Innovation Campus as a home to build their business.”
Voi will relocate to the opportunity zone in Springfield based at the BRIC, home to Springfield’s digital economy ecosystem, where it will be able to leverage the campus’ 10-gigabit internet connection and wide array of technology and entrepreneurial support.
According to Calvelli, the Center on Rural Innovation Fund seeks to fund economic growth in rural communities while making connections with technology based companies to provide jobs for economically depressed areas.
“The Center on Rural Innovation Fund invests in growth businesses located in qualified Opportunity Zones in the United States to enhance economic growth and job creation in small communities. The fund seeks to find attractive technology-enabled operating businesses in rural geographies, which are under-served by traditional venture capital institutions,” Calvelli said. “The Center on Rural Innovation Fund identifies, funds, and supports the best tech entrepreneurs American small towns have to offer.”