After months of delays in securing its EB-5 funding, Mount Snow is finally moving ahead with a $52 million upgrade.
Company officials broke ground this week on a $22 million ski lodge project, and heavy machinery is also on site for a $30 million snowmaking expansion.
Mount Snow president Dick Deutsch says the benefits of the upgrades will be felt across the Deerfield Valley
"If we get open by Thanksgiving we usually have 10 to 15 percent of the mountain open, and with the new snow making we can triple the number of trails," Deutsch says. "So with all those added skiers in the area obviously the restaurants will be busier. The retail shops will be busier, and the lodging in this area will hopefully continue to thrive."
The federal EB-5 program allows non-U.S. citizens to invest at least half-a-million dollars in projects that create jobs and spur economic development.
In exchange for the money, investors get a boost in their application for U.S. citizenship.
"For rural areas like ours, EB-5 is so important to being able to renovate and upgrade our properties," Deutsch says. "A lot of these properties were built in the '50s and '60s and they are in constant need of renovation and upgrade and EB-5 is a great source of capital to do that."
The money for the Mount Snow projects was held up, largely due to a high volume of EB-5 applications at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
But even with those hassles Deutsch says Mount Snow will be applying again for EB-5 money for about 100 residential units the resort wants to build near its new ski lodge.
"We've spent a lot of time in developing our network of immigration lawyers, immigration agents, primarily in Asia," Deutsch says. "We want to continue to raise capital this way and continue to upgrade Mount Snow."
Joan Goldstein, Vermont's Commissioner of Economic Development, says everyone learned some lessons from what happened with the EB-5 program in the Northeast Kingdom.
Goldstein says the state has staff in place to help businesses navigate the federal program, and she says Vermont developers have to make a strong pitch to compete for the foreign money.
"It's very, very competitive right now," Goldstein says. "We've got major cities competing for this. We have New York, L.A., Vegas, Miami, and a lot of Chinese investors prefer some of those projects. So when you're from Vermont and it's a ski resort you have to try that much harder."
Mount Snow hopes to have its new snowmaking system operating in time for the next ski season. The new resort is expected to be online the following year.