“It’s incredible news,” said Mount Snow Vice President of Business and Real Estate Development Dick Deutsch. “It will allow us to continue the execution of our master plan.”
Peak Resorts CEO Tim Boyd called the regional center a central piece of the company’s growth strategy. “We are delighted that the USCIS has approved our new regional center, which will allow Peak Resorts to continue to pursue job-creating, transformative economic development projects at our key Northeast resorts.”
Under the federal EB-5 program, foreign investors can invest $500,000 in regional center projects in special “Targeted Employment Areas” like rural Vermont and receive a permanent residency visa in the United States.
Mount Snow recently finished construction of their West Lake snowmaking system, part of a $52 million EB-5 project that also includes work underway at Carinthia for the construction of a new lodge. Mount Snow officials say their earlier-than-usual opening with top-to-bottom trail coverage was a direct result of their increased snowmaking capacity. “Our ability to open Mount Snow for the 2017/2018 ski season on November 11 clearly highlights the capabilities made possible by our incredible EB-5-backed West Lake infrastructure investment and our ability to deliver an elevated guest experience like never before,” said Boyd.
The Great North Regional Center will provide EB-5 investment marketing, oversight, and compliance reporting for EB-5 projects in Peak Resorts in the Northeast. The geographic region covered by the center includes New Hampshire, Vermont, a portion of the northern Berkshires, and a portion of eastern New York. According to USCIS, regional centers promote EB-5 projects to investors, monitor its investors, and track the job creation requirements for the projects. The regional center also files necessary documents and information with the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission and other government regulators.
Mount Snow’s master plan, unveiled in 2010, includes renovation and new construction at nearly every resort facility. At the main base area, the plan calls for the replacement of existing structures, the addition of a new skier services building, 200 condominium units, and new terrain for the ski school. At the adjacent Sundance area, the master plan calls for the demolition of the current base lodge and relocation of maintenance and operations facilities to the current Sundance parking lot.
The next phase of Mount Snow’s master plan build-out includes construction of five residential buildings with a total of 102 units adjacent to the new Carinthia Base Lodge, currently under construction. The luxury two- and three-bedroom condominium units will range in size from 1,130 to 2,155 square feet. The proposed development also includes an amenities center with a year-round outdoor pool, exercise equipment, sauna, and massage rooms.
Deutsch said an EB-5 project proposal for the Carinthia residential project is “imminent.”
The West Lake and Carinthia Base Lodge EB-5 was funded through the Vermont Regional Center, the nation’s only state-run regional center. The VRC has come under scrutiny after allegations of fraud at Jay Peak, one of the projects under the VRC’s purview. At a September 7 conference call with investors, Boyd suggested that the Jay Peak allegations played a role in slowing the processing of investor applications and the release of funds for Mount Snow’s project. Boyd said Peak Resorts decided to “move out of that regional center and move to one of our own, so that we aren’t associated with that state organization.”
Mount Snow’s West Lake and Carinthia Base Lodge projects will continue to be serviced through the VRC, but the USCIS recently announced its intention to close the VRC. Vermont officials have urged the USCIS to gradually wind down the VRC, rather than close it abruptly, which they say would jeopardize projects like Mount Snow’s. Deutsch said the VRC continues to operate and is processing Mount Snow investors.
Deutsch says having control over the regional center should streamline and speed up the EB-5 process for Mount Snow projects. “We’ll be able to sponsor our own projects, and continue to raise EB-5 capital under the regional center pilot program which, at the present time, allows investors to invest $500,000. If an EB-5 project is outside of a regional center, the minimum investment is $1 million.”
Supporters of the EB-5 program say it can direct investment to projects in rural areas, create jobs, and expand other economic opportunities. Peak Resorts and Mount Snow see the EB-5 as key to achieving their expansion plans. “In terms of what we want to do at Mount Snow, the EB-5 is wonderful,” Deutsch said. “It’s the perfect way to raise capital. It takes a lot of time, effort, and upfront money, but we’re developing an expertise in this niche of raising capital.”