Officials from the Vermont EB5 Regional Center gave their final stamp of approval to the Mount Snow projects on Monday. By Tuesday afternoon, Peaks Resorts (Mount Snow’s parent company) Vice President Dick Deutsch was already airborne, on his way to China to seek investors. According to Laurie Newton, Mount Snow’s director of planning and permitting, Deutsch already had Wednesday meetings scheduled with people in Beijing who can help connect Mount Snow with investors.
The two projects approved for EB5 investors include Mount Snow’s Westlake project, a 120-million-gallon water storage pond that will expand the resort’s snowmaking capacity, and the construction of a new 36,000-square-foot base lodge at Carinthia.
The EB-5 program, run by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), encourages foreign investment in approved projects that create jobs. For each investment, a minimum of 10 jobs must be created. If the minimum number of jobs is created within two years, the investor receives a permanent green card. In certain “targeted areas,” which include rural areas like most of Vermont, the minimum investment is $500,000 per investor – half the amount needed for EB5 investments in other areas.
In addition to bringing in $52 million in new investment to the Deerfield Valley, the EB5 projects are also slated to create 1,040 jobs. “That doesn’t mean 1,040 jobs in West Dover,” Newton says. “It includes direct and indirect jobs.” In other words, if a local restaurant has to hire new staff because of the increase in skier visits attributed to the upgrades at the mountain, those jobs count toward the total. “The USCIS has formulas they use to determine whether the jobs really were created,” Newton says.
The economic impact of Mount Snow’s EB5 could extend well beyond the Deerfield Valley. Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation Executive Director Pat Moulton Powden says there is a “multiplier effect” when investments are made at “employment hubs” like Mount Snow. “Mount Snow’s labor pool comes from a broad area,” Moulton Powden says. “Any time you have a group of communities that starts to see that kind of economic activity, it tends to spread.” She says Mount Snow’s expansion should mean more full-time, year-round work in the valley.
There have been a number of successful EB5 projects around the state. Another Vermont ski resort, Jay Peak, has fueled an ambitious growth program with EB5 investments. Before taking a position at BDCC a little more than a year ago, Moulton Powden was deputy secretary of the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development – the state agency that oversees Vermont’s EB5 Regional Center. She says that a successful EB5 project can attract further EB5 investment. Once a developer such as Mount Snow has experience and a track record of success, new projects may be easier to develop. “That’s what happened at Jay Peak,” Moulton Powden says. “They developed networks, got a good reputation, and investors came looking for them. They developed Jay Peak first, then turned their attention to downtown Newport, a new hotel, and other projects. You never know how far the road may take you.”
In a prepared release, Deutsch said Mount Snow is excited about the potential for additional growth and redevelopment at Mount Snow under the EB5 program. “This is the first phase of what we hope will be many successful projects at Mount Snow,” Deutsch said. “With a state-approved master plan for the redevelopment of up to 900 units and 200,000 square feet of skier service space, we expect to have many future projects at Mount Snow.”
Newton says there’s no official groundbreaking date for either project yet, but Mount Snow hopes to receive permits for their West Lake project soon.
Mount Snow has been seeking access to snowmaking water for decades – often having their hopes for a solution dashed after months of planning and permitting. But Newton says the West Lake project has an excellent chance of success – for one reason, it satisfies the state’s objectives regarding water withdrawal at Snow Lake. Currently, snowmaking water withdrawal at Snow Lake is grandfathered under rules that would otherwise significantly curtail the amount of water the resort could withdraw from the snowmaking pond. Once West Lake is on line, Snow Lake will be subject to the state’s minimum flow standards.
The resort needs the West Lake project to expand their snowmaking coverage. The proposed containment pond will be constructed in Wilmington, adjacent to Cold Brook Road, with water withdrawal also in Wilmington, near Cold Brook’s confluence with the Deerfield River. According to Mount Snow, the pond will increase their snowmaking water storage five-fold, and allow 100% snowmaking coverage. Additionally, it will allow the resort to open more terrain earlier in the season and recover from poor weather conditions more quickly.
The Carinthia project would replace the current 8,000-square-foot base lodge at Carinthia with a new, three-story, 36,000-square-foot base lodge with a cafeteria, restaurant, bars, retail shop, convenience store, ski and snowboard rentals, ski school, and ticket sales. “The current lodge was built when Walter Stugger owned Carinthia,” Newton says. “It was only open on weekends and holidays. Since Mount Snow purchased Carinthia and turned it into the park, the base lodge just isn’t big enough.”
The resort’s master plan also includes the development of more than 100 “ski in/ski out” units at Carinthia.
Moulton Powden says the investments at Mount Snow can help boost economic development throughout the region. “This is exciting news for the valley and for the region,” she said. “Mount Snow has work to do to get their investment together, but they’re on their way. You put that together with the investments at the Hermitage and Haystack, and it’s all good news for the Deerfield Valley.”