One developer stands behind another

I have known Les Otten since I was 9 years old, growing up in Bethel, Maine.

At the time, Les was just at the beginning of his ski resort career, one which would span over four decades. He was eager and enthusiastic and saw a real opportunity at Sunday River to make it a premier New England ski resort. He saw something that others did not and had the gumption to make it happen. With Les’ unique vision to expand the Sunday River ski area, he was introduced to my family as he needed to acquire additional land as part of the expansion plan. He purchased this land from my father, Raymond (Rugged) Chapman. I was a boy, but I remember Les well and the professional relationship, and ultimately friendship, that he and my father formed. I watched him firsthand as a little boy see something special at Sunday River, and despite naysayers at the time, find a way to make it happen. And boy, did he.

The similarities between Les Otten and myself are many: we both took on large-scale development efforts in the North Country around the same time with a primary goal in mind — to return much needed jobs to the community. Simply put, these efforts are not for the faint of heart — they are big, complicated, time-consuming (often far more than originally thought) and require significant investment to advance.

Both Les and I are at a stage in our lives where we did not need to take on another project, especially ones that will take multiple years and require millions of dollars of our own personal investment, in order to give them a fighting chance to become a reality. But we both saw real opportunities with our respective developments, and ones that will bring good jobs to the North Country and hopefully provide a meaningful future to the communities’ residents and workforce.

Too often I had read negative news articles or heard from naysayers that, “the Balsams is taking too long” or “that it’s not going to happen.” What a welcome this demonstrates to a man who did not need to do this, but took it on because it was the right thing to do! I am proud to stand behind what Les and his dedicated team are trying to do by revamping the former Balsams with the hope that its rebirth will put it on the map once again for thousands of families to visit and enjoy, all while providing good job opportunities to local residents.

In 2011, the North Country was fortunate to have two local businessmen step up to try and save the Balsams — Dan Dagesse and Dan Hebert. Both North Country natives, they bought the property and spent the next few years trying to find a way to reopen it, for the same reason that Les is now developing the resort — to bring jobs back to the North Country.

Despite the challenges, they hung in, and were introduced to Les in 2013, as they knew if the Balsams had a chance in reopening, they needed someone with the right experience. Sometimes it’s not about dollars and cents, but doing what’s right, doing something good, and these three men in their own ways have demonstrated this with their commitment to the Balsams and the region.

As the Balsams continues to advance its very challenging development, we need to acknowledge the hard work and expense to date that have gone into trying to develop something special and lasting for the region. I am proud to support Les and the Balsams project, and the incredible impact it will have on our beloved North Country.

I ask you all to recognize the tremendous work that has gone into this development over the years, by many folks, locally and across the state. And I ask you to support Les and his team as he continues to bring this incredible project to life.

No, it has not been easy, but we need to support each other and the North Country.

Robert Chapman of Gorham, president of Chapman Scrap Metal Recycling, is leading redevelopment of the former Groveton Paper Mill complex.

Categories: Opinion