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Balsams funding vote on hold again

By MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Union Leader

June 12. 2018 8:36PM
The Balsams in Dixville Notch (File Photo)



CONCORD — The team hoping to redevelop The Balsams Resort will explore other options to convince the state Business Finance Authority to back a $28 million state loan guarantee.

“We are moving forward, but we are taking a little pause in the process,” said Scott Tranchemontagne, spokesman for developer Dixville Capital LLC.

People working on behalf of the project learned “there’s certain parameters under which they (the BFA) can grant loan guarantees, and that’s information that wasn’t readily available during the application” process,” Tranchemontagne said Tuesday.

Alternative options, he said, could be “any of the potential conditions that would be attached to a loan guarantee. We’re trying to be creative.”

The $170 million Phase I project would create nearly 600 construction jobs and produce 450 permanent jobs at the Dixville Notch resort.

“It’s very important to get some jobs going here,” said Wayne Frizzell, president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce board.

He said he doesn’t know the financing specifics but hopes the state will back the project.

“It’s a ripple effect,” he said. “If you’ve got people working in the area, they’re going to spend money locally in restaurants and stores.”

The $28 million loan guarantee from the state of New Hampshire would require the state to step in and make loan payments should the $170 million project run into financial difficulties.

The BFA would issue a $28 million bond. Service Credit Union would purchase the bond, which is, in effect, making the loan to The Balsams, according to the BFA.

If the BFA approves the loan guarantee, then the deal next would head to the Executive Council for approval. Construction would take an estimated 18 months, meaning completion wouldn’t happen until 2020.

The loan-guarantee application was filed with the authority last December. A decision had been expected in recent months but never reached a public vote by the board. The BFA is scheduled to meet Monday but will not be voting on the project, Tranchemontagne said.

BFA board chairman Dick Anagnost said some projects take longer than others.

“We’re a small piece of a very large puzzle, and you need to understand how all the pieces fit together,” Anagnost said. “That’s where the time is utilized in getting enough information to understand the whole puzzle.”

BFA Executive Director James Key-Wallace said in a statement, “We believe it makes sense to consider potential alternatives to see what best suits the project while protecting New Hampshire taxpayers.”

He said the authority recognizes the impact the project would have on the North Country “and believe it’s important to explore every avenue.

“With that in mind, we have agreed to grant The Balsams’ team additional time to develop alternative approaches,” Key-Wallace said.

Les Otten, the project’s lead developer, in a statement said: “As we have learned more about the BFA’s programs and protocol, we have developed potential scenarios that warrant further discussion. It is prudent to explore those options thoroughly, as the BFA’s support is critical to our project’s success.”

The BFA, established in 1992, promotes economic development in the state by assisting businesses with loans that banks otherwise might not fund, among other initiatives.

The project’s first phase includes renovation of the Hampshire and Hale houses; reconstruction of Dix House; and construction of a 400-room Lake Gloriette House Hotel and Conference Center, Nordic baths and spa as well as a marketplace and expansion of the former Wilderness ski area.

Other financing includes $20 million in developer equity; about $35 million in other equity, including preferred equity from investors; $18 million in equipment lease financing for the ski area; $53 million in construction financing; and $15.4 million in funding through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program, which allows foreigners making certain commercial investments in the United States to be eligible to apply for a green card and permanent residence.

mcousineau@unionleader.com


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