There are a lot of people betting on The BalsamsBy GRETCHEN M. GROSKY
New Hampshire Union Leader November 12. 2016 9:39PM
When people in the northern tip of the state talk about reversing the exodus of young families, they all seem to point to the same solution - The Balsams.
The big, beautiful grand resort located in Dixville Notch closed in 2011 and now a group of investors is working to bring it back. The project has received most of its permitting and should be going to the state this month asking for a guarantee on a $28 million loan, said Scott Tranchemontagne, a spokesman for Dixville Capital. The guarantee along with final permits on the ski area would put construction start time on the $143 million first phase in the beginning of 2017, he said.
"The Balsams will help with the economy down there. It would be a big benefit," said Gordon Corville, 90, of Pittsburg. "But it's a been a long time. A lot of people are hoping it's coming back."
Paper mill closures in Groveton and Berlin had already struck Coos County when the 2011 closing of The Balsams dealt another blow to the local economy. About 300 jobs were lost and 2 percent of Coos' population moved out between 2010 and 2013. The meals and hotel taxes declined by 17 percent in Coos.
A study of the economic impact of a Balsams revival shows a successful relaunch of the grand resort "will have created enough jobs to replace almost all of the jobs lost in Coos County over the most recent 10-year period" by the year 2024. The report by PolEcon of Dover predicts 1,700 jobs in total by 2024.
Plans call for construction of a new hotel and conference center, Nordic hot baths and spa, a performing arts center, an open-air marketplace and an expansion of The Wilderness Ski Area, which would be linked to the resort by gondola. An economic impact study predicts meal and room taxes will provide $1.5 million to $4.6 million a year between 2016 and 2024.
But it's the jobs people are counting on.
"We have had over 600 job inquiries on the website and we haven't even posted positions yet," Tranchemontagne said.
Tranchemontagne said many of those applying have "told us they moved to the North Country or we used to live in the North Country and want to move back."
Tranchemontagne said it was a place where generations of Coos families worked.
"We have a list of all the former employees and been in contact with them," Tranchemontagne said.
Also part of the financing deal is that $25 million of the condominiums be sold. The group has had 240 already buy in, raising about $21 million of that goal. The condos range from the low $100,000s to the mid $250,000s.
Corville and others said they are hopeful The Balsams will come, but as Corville puts it "I'm doubtful."
"People have been very patient. We understand how excited people are up there, especially for the jobs," Tranchemontagne said. "Large projects never go as planned, but we are just a few months behind schedule."
And if it doesn't, Bridget Frevdenberger, 36, of Colebrook said Coos will survive.
"It would be a game-changer, but if it doesn't happen there will be other things to keep this area moving forward," she said.