RICHMOND, Vt. (AP) — Several times a week during the summer, engineers from Richmond's Greensea Systems take their remotely operated underwater vehicles to Lake Champlain, where they test navigation software they are developing that could end up being used in the world's oceans.
Their renovated building by the lone traffic signal in downtown Richmond is a long way from saltwater, but the software being developed there for offshore industrial work and for military applications or other government uses provides a glimpse of Vermont's small but economically significant, high-technology sector.
"They are a brilliant poster child of things you might not ever expect to be located in Vermont doing world-class work in a really specialized, highly demanding industry," said Lawrence Miller, Vermont's secretary of commerce.
Greensea provides software that helps undersea vehicles navigate in a world where there are no GPS signals. Underwater, the software calculates the position by combining a variety of measurements from different sensors.
The need for ways to navigate underwater was highlighted this year when Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 disappeared. Searchers have been combing vast stretches of the Indian Ocean in the as-yet unsuccessful search for the plane. Greensea President Ben Kinnaman said he didn't know whether any of his company's products were being used in the search.
Vermont's desire for high-technology jobs is well known. The state's elected and economic development officials regularly highlight grants or companies that fit the profile.
Officials couldn't provide a precise estimate of the industry's contribution to the Vermont economy, but the Vermont Technology Alliance estimated that average high-tech jobs paid more than $76,000 annually in the past two years and that its members have increased their workforces by about 25 percent.
About 170 high-tech businesses belong to the alliance, and most employ 10 to 50 people, said Jeff Couture, its executive director.