Balsams to seek fed backing for $40m in loans

USDA Rural Development help sought for $143 million project

Les Otten, developer of the Balsams revitalization and expansion project in Dixville Notch, needs “critically important” federal and state guarantees for bank loans on $40 million of his $143 million project, spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne says.

However, Otten has yet to file applications for either, according to the agencies involved.

Tranchemontagne says Otten’s Dixville Capital LLC hopes “to have things finalized and applications submitted soon.”

The largest chunk would be a $28 million bank loan. Otten has said he will ask the state to guarantee the loan through the state’s Business Finance Authority. The BFA can guarantee the entire amount.

A guarantee on the remainder — a $12 million bank loan — will be sought through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program, Tranchemontagne confirms.

On a $12 million loan, the USDA. would typically guarantee 60 percent, according to USDA spokeswoman Pollaidh Major.

Officials at the BFA and USDA say the resort would be the collateral.

That $40 million is part of $98 million in loans being considered by a bank in Woburn, Mass., according to Tranchemontagne. He said another $45 million will come from private investments in the resort.

“USDA Rural Development has been asked what we can do to help redevelopment of the Balsams,” says Ted Brady, director of the program for Vermont and New Hampshire. “We are potentially able to help by guaranteeing loans for banks. We are potentially able to help by investing in the community surrounding Dixville Notch. There’s a whole host of places we can potentially help.”

Otten has said he has invested “millions” of his own money in the project, although he has declined to provide a specific amount.

He has plans for a huge, year-around resort that would offer a wide range of activities and during its first year need about 375 employees. The Balsams project includes renovation of the resort’s Dix, Hampshire and Hale houses, as well as the Panorama golf course and clubhouse designed by golf course architect Donald Ross. The Balsams Lake Village, which will encompass the Dix and Hampshire Houses, would feature a new Wilderness Lake Lodge, a 500-seat conference center, hot springs baths and spa, a performing arts center and an open-air marketplace.

State officials have said they strongly support Otten’s effort, seeing it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that would provide a huge economic boost to the region, which has suffered since the demise of its paper mills.

Otten already has six important local, state or federal permits including zoning amendments and permission to draw water from the Androscoggin River for snowmaking. But, he’s still working on others.

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