Upper Valley tech life: good jobs, the great outdoors, craft beer -- and no traffic

Spencer on Northeast Slopes in Corinth.

You won’t often hear Orford, N.H., population 1,200, described as central to anything. But that’s just what it is to Cassie and Spencer Brugger, who live there.


“We can get to Loon easily, we can get to Killington, Sugarbush isn’t that bad,” said Cassie.


“Going up to Jay, Burke,” added Spencer.

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When they aren’t skiing or mountain biking -- which is actually much of the time, although it may not sound that way -- the Bruggers work for Simbex, a high-tech medical device firm located in a refurbished brick industrial building along the Mascoma River in downtown Lebanon. They’re both from the Northeast, but they met one summer as students at the University of Colorado while working in an alumni donation call center.

Spencer, Cassie and their dog Ella in the White Mountains.

Spencer, who is approaching 30, holds degrees in applied physics and applied math. He works as a project manager at Simbex, coordinating teams of engineers on two initiatives. The first is working with Riddell to develop research-grade head impact sensors for football helmets. The second is creating a next-generation hospital bed that prevents bed sores and monitors patients while letting them get what they need most: rest.


“The projects we do really help people, which is great,” Spencer said. Take the football sensors, for example: “That is just helping people continue to be able to do something that they love. … What kind of data can we take and use to help train them to be able to be safer, make better decisions, play better, to continue playing.”


Cassie is 29 and holds an undergraduate and a master’s degree in sociology. She works as a senior program administrator in two Simbex “commercialization centers.” Both are government funded, and they serve to help startups and academics bring promising medical devices to market that might not otherwise get there.


“We can actually take what we know and teach people and say, ‘Well, we can give you a little bit of funding, but more importantly we can teach you how to avoid mistakes,’ ” she said.


At Simbex, they’ve found a company that supports their work and their lifestyle, too. “They know that we have talented people at Simbex,” Cassie said, “but they also want to say, ‘We appreciate that you’ve got kids or like to ski, go skin or hike up Storrs Hill at lunch and get a group of people together.”

The view from Mt. Cube in Orford.

For the Bruggers, their lifestyle also revolves around their families -- Spencer’s parents live not far across the Vermont border -- and their 200-year-old farmhouse. They live 30 miles from work, and it’s a 35-minute drive. “I don’t think we have one stoplight,” Cassie said.


Cassie has served on the library board, and once a year she and Spencer hold a craft beer how-to in town -- because another thing Orford is central to is a thriving regional craft beer industry. Their favorites include Polyculture Brewing in Croydon, River Roost in White River Junction, Hill Farmstead in Greensboro, and Good Measure in Northfield. Several nearby restaurants offer good food and regional craft selections, too.


“We tell them people come from all over the world to get to these breweries, and they don’t believe us,” Spencer said. “They’re like, ‘Really? Is that the place you have to stand in line?’ Yes it is.”


The Bruggers also raise sheep and sometimes chickens -- but only in the summers.


“Nothing that interferes with ski season,” Cassie said.


“By the time winter comes around,” added Spencer, “I don’t want to be taking care of farm animals -- so they go in the freezer.”

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The Tech Valley blog is the work of Story Kitchen Creative. It is published under the auspices of the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce and paid for by the City of Lebanon.

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