WCAX had a very informative special titled “Building A New Kingdom.” It lays out Bill Stengers plan to invest over $500M into the NEK which could create as many as 10,000 jobs. For those of you that are not local or missed it we wanted to post it for your viewing. Below you will find the links to the 4 part video series as well as the text format.
Building a New Kingdom – Part 1
Saturday, November 9, 2013 10:55 AM EST<By Gina Bullard
NEWPORT, Vt. –
Big changes are coming to the Northeast Kingdom. Jay Peak President Bill Stenger has a massive development plan with a half-a-billion-dollar price tag. One major piece of the puzzle is revitalizing Newport.
Across the Vermont border, on the shores of Lake Memphremagog, sits a popular town with French flair — Magog, Quebec. Once a textile manufacturing town, the main industry now is tourism. “We live off tourists today,” said local resident Alen Sager.
“We love this city. A little town that has so much to offer, so many restaurants and shops — it’s a nice diversion,” said Jan Sullivan, a visitor from Dallas, Texas.
The action doesn’t stop in Magog. The whole region north of the border brings people in. The next town over a monastery sells handmade goods along the lake shore. Magog is at the northern tip of Lake Memphremagog. About 30 miles south, at the other end of the lake, is Newport, Vermont — a stark contrast. Magog’s population is 28,000. Newport is home to 6,000. Magog’s downtown shines while Newport’s is struggling. Newport has the highest unemployment rate in Vermont.
But one Kingdom businessman has big dreams to transform this region. “You have one end of the lake that has accommodations and economic energy and then you have Newport,” said Jay Peak President Bill Stenger. Stenger has a $300-million plan for this lakefront city. The goal — make Newport more like Magog.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Do you think it can be as vibrant as Magog?
Bill Stenger: I don’t want it to be… Magog on a Friday night in the summer has 50,000 people. I’d like half that.
Stenger says if he builds it, people will come. He knows from experience, leading a successful $275-million expansion at Jay Peak. The Newport project starts with demolition next year of several Main Street buildings to make way for a block-long, four-story development with retail offices and hotel rooms. It will be called the Renaissance Block. Next — a nearby shopping plaza will be torn down to make way for the Marina Hotel and Conference Center. It will have 150 rooms plus restaurants and conference facilities.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Do you think there’s a demand for a conference center in Newport. Why?
Bill Stenger: Because of the setting and the fact that it’s in a new place.
Stenger says it’s also about bringing in big business. He’s already secured a Korean bio-tech company. AnC Bio plans to open a research and manufacturing plant in Newport City, promising 500 jobs. “Newport has marvelous physical assets, so if you can get capital to invest in good ideas that we have for Newport, it will thrive,” Stenger said.
Stenger is finding that capital overseas. He is raising $500-million to revitalize not just Newport, but the entire Northeast Kingdom. It’s through the federal EB-5 program. For half-a-million-dollars and the promise to create 10 jobs, foreign investors get green cards and are on the fast track to permanent residency.
“We’re watching Jay Peak’s project very closely,” said Chris Johansen, who owns Northern Star Lake Cruises. His cruises take advantage of Lake Memphremagog, offering scenic tours. “It has so much to offer — it’s kind of Vermont’s best kept secret so to speak,” he said.
Johansen says business is steady. If Stenger’s ambitious plan works he says it will definitely bring in more cash. “Being a private entrepreneur and investing — no pun intended, a whole boat load of money — we’re just biting at the bullet. We’re like, come on, let’s see it happen,” Johansen said.
Even Magog, with all its success, knows their Vermont neighbor to the South could be a jewel. There’s a store called Newport Boutique, which at one time was trying to keep Magog residents in Magog instead of shopping across the border. “So basically they decided instead of people go out over there, they would bring the store here to the tourist, to the people who live in Magog,” said the store’s Lisa Rosa.
Much of Newport was built during the lumber boom in the late 1800’s. It was a major stop on the railroad line between Boston and Montréal. The city has been declining since the 1950s when the mills began to close. In the mid 80’s there was a plan to give the town new life, but there wasn’t enough capital. In the late 90’s the state funded a new a waterfront board walk and bike path, but it didn’t work.
Reporter Gina Bullard: There have been projects in the past to revitalize Newport, why is this one going to work?
Bill Stenger: It’s about bed base and access to capital.
Stenger says hotel accommodations will bring people in. But many locals are on edge about what this all means and if it will even happen. Several local business people told us they are skeptical of the half-a-billion-dollar plan. All refused to talk on camera about their concerns, afraid of possible retribution from Stenger, now considered the most powerful man in the Kingdom.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Why do you think they’re scared to talk about you?
Bill Stenger: They shouldn’t be. Anyone that works with me, or knows me, knows I’m very approachable and I listen.
Stenger say the project is bigger than he is. It’s about building a new kingdom — and better days ahead. “This is an opportunity and time that may not come again and we have a good plan. We’re passionate about it. We’re going as hard as we can and I think people are resistant to criticize that,” Stenger said.
Building a New Kingdom – Part 2
Wednesday, November 6, 2013 8:19 PM ESTBy Gina Bullard
White sandy beaches, trendy shops and restaurants, spectacular mansions — welcome to sunny Naples, Florida — where the wealthy live and play on the Gulf of Mexico coast.
Once a sleepy seaside town, Naples is now booming and a home to many millionaires and billionaires — including the family of Anthony Korda. “I grew up in London. I’m pretty much London born and bred,” Korda said. Korda, his wife of 18 years and their two kids became U.S. citizens this year. They used their bank account to make it happen. “We wanted the American lifestyle, we wanted the American dream,” he said.
The British lawyer says in 2007 he was the first EB-5 investor in Jay Peak’s $275-million expansion, trading a $500,000 investment in the Vermont ski resort for green cards for him and his family.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Did you ever think it was too good to be true?
Anthony Korda: Oh absolutely. The whole thing sounded too good to be true — it sounded fanciful.
But Korda researched the federal program and found that for his investment his family would get green cards for two years and be put on a fast track for permanent residency and ultimately citizenship. In exchange, his investment had to create 10 jobs in Vermont.
From the sand to the slopes — over 1,600 miles away — Korda’s American Dream was made possible in large part by Jay Peak President Bill Stenger.
Korda is one of 550 investors from 60 countries who combined put up $275-million for the first wave of expansion at Jay Peak. “I would not have invested in Jay Peak if I wasn’t going to get a green card out of it. I was willing to trade my $500,000 with very little return on my investment in return for immigration benefits — that’s the payment, that’s the quid pro quo,” Korda said.
The money built a hotel, shops, an ice hockey arena and an indoor water park. Now Stenger is looking for 1,000 more deep pocketed foreign investors. His goal — raise $500-million to create the largest project Vermont has ever seen. It includes overhauling Newport — building two hotels, a conference center and rebuilding main street, plus developing Burke Mountain with new condos and a hotel. If the plan succeeds it would also be one of the biggest EB-5 projects in the country, with developers promising to generate more than 10,000 jobs.
Korda visited Vermont in October. He was checking on his own investment, but also others. He was inspired to help people become citizens using the same path he did. He now practices immigration law in Naples, working with EB-5 investors from all over the world. “In the last five years I’ve represented at least 250 EB-5 investors,” he said.
He has two offices in Florida, one in California and one in London. Korda was raised middle class and worked hard as a lawyer to become a millionaire. He and his family now live in a 4,000 square foot home in Naples. Korda says in this ritzy town being a millionaire is considered middle class. He says he was able to afford the $500,000 EB-5 investment because of a family inheritance. Korda knows some people don’t like the program, arguing it’s a way for wealthy people to buy the American Dream. But Korda says the U-S was built on immigration – and his investment is helping a region that needs his cash.
Reporter Gina Bullard: One of the big criticisms is that people say you get to go to the front of the green card line.
Anthony Korda: That’s not true — these are visas set aside for this purpose.
Every year 10,000 immigrants are allowed into the U.S. with the EB-5 program. They come to places like sunny Florida but they invest all over the nation, including Vermont.
“I tell my clients three things — one, will your green card be approved? Two, will it be made permanent? Three, will you get your money back? The third is less important than the first two, Korda said.
Under the EB-5 program there is no guarantee for investors. Officials say these are risky projects that might not succeed, which is why developers don’t go through banks and other traditional financing routes.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Do you expect to get your investment back — your half million dollars?
Anthony Korda: I would like it back, certainly.”
Korda is talking to Stenger about getting his investment back through a payment plan. But even if he doesn’t recover the cash, Korda says he’s already gotten a big payback. “You’re investing in this country and in turn this country will invest in you by allowing you to come here, bring your family here, work if you want to and enjoy life as an American,” he said.
Korda is just one example of hundreds of investors that are changing the face of the Northeast Kingdom. The vetting process for the immigrants is not simple. Investors can not have a criminal background and the investment money also has to be clean. The government wants to make sure it’s bringing in only upstanding people into the country.
Building a New Kingdom – Part 3
Saturday, November 9, 2013 10:52 AM EST</eBy Gina Bullard
NEWPORT, Vt. –
From building robots, to setting the perfect table, to cooking — what happens in classrooms at the North Country Career Center could hold the key to the Kingdom’s future.
Students at the center get prepared for college and the workforce. Crucial — because this region is going to need workers. Jay Peak President Bill Stenger has a half-a-billion-dollar investment plan for the Kingdom. Promising 10,000 new jobs over the next five years. Half of those will be temporary construction jobs.
Stenger plans to fund the development through the federal EB-5 investor program. For investing half a million dollars, foreigners get a green card as long as their money helps create at least 10 jobs within two years.
“When these developers are selling the region I would assume they’re saying we’ll get you the workforce you need. It’s highly critical. It’s going to be a major part of the success of these projects,” said Cindy Robillard with the NEK Workforce Development Team.
“We’re trying to get across to them the importance of customer service,” said Andrea Carbine, a Hospitality & Culinary Instructor at the center.
Teaching kids about hospitality is new for this career center but vital for the EB-5 developments on the way. Plans include expanding Jay Peak and Burke Mountain, building waterfront and downtown hotels and conference centers in Newport, plus a new biomedical research facility.
Director Eilleen Illuzzi says 700 kids are enrolled in the career center, but some new programs haven’t grabbed students attention.
Eilleen Illuzzi: This is the first year of the hospitality and tourism program. Enrollment is kind of low but we really want to start the program…
Reporter Gina Bullard: When you say low, what’s low?
Eilleen Illuzzi: oh, low.
Reporter Gina Bullard: How low?
Eilleen Illuzzi: In the two year program we have two students. We usually — we have about 15 students.
The program teaches kids to provide a higher level of service than what’s currently available in the Kingdom. “Hospitality is the largest sector that will be effected by the projects that are happening,” Robillard said. Robillard’s Workforce Development Team is in charge of finding people to fill all these potential new jobs. She admits it’s daunting — nothing like this has ever been done before here. “A lot of the preparations for people in those positions is entry level. We need people with good solid work readiness skills,” she said.
A report by the workforce development team anticipates 1,300 hospitality and tourism jobs are set to be created. That includes:
- 273 openings for maids and housekeeping cleaners — average $10.83/Hr.
- 141 hotel, motel and resort desk clerk positions — average $11.77/Hr.
- 85 Waitstaff positions — average $12.58/Hr.
- 13 Bookkeepers/accountants/auditors — average $16.44/Hr.
- 8 Chefs and head cooks — average of $20.53/Hr.
- 9 General operations managers — average $49.94/Hr.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Are you worried these aren’t the kinds of jobs the kingdom needs?
Bill Stenger: No, we also have 500 technology jobs… …A typical hotel has a broad spectrum of jobs, some are year round and I can show you, higher paying than in most sectors.
Five-hundred of the jobs are anticipated in the technology sector, but it’s unclear how many will be high paying jobs. So the career center started a new class showing students how to assemble and design products using computers — it’s called Mechatronics.
Reporter Gina Bullard: When you think of EB-5 and Mechatronics are you thinking AnC Bio?
Eilleen Illuzzi: I was originally thinking Menck Windows. We don’t know what AnC Bio needs.
Menck Windows was supposed to bring 125 manufacturing jobs to Newport. The deal fell through after Stenger realized the company would fall short of job requirements for the EB-5 funding — machines were going to do more of the work than people. Stenger says he’s talking to several other manufacturers to fill that void. Now the focus is on Korean biotech firm AnC Bio — that is expected to bring 500 jobs.
Bill Stenger: AnC Bio will start construction in spring 2014.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Do you have all the investors?
Bill Stenger: Almost all — we are approaching 90-percent.
AnC Bio manufactures artificial human organs. It’s a highly technical field that will require educated workers, but it’s still unclear what kinds of jobs AnC Bio will create and how the state needs to prepare.
Cindy Robillard: We haven’t sat in a room and had someone say these are the jobs, these are the skills we’re looking for, this is the kind of training we want people to have.
Reporter Gina Bullard: When do you think you’ll get that information?
Cindy Robillard: I’m not really sure about that. We’re in contact with the developers”
“We’ve made it clear what the timeline and phasing is for each project. I think there’s an inherent impatience for, ‘We want this to happen now — today,'” Stenger said. “These projects take years to plan, years to build.”
Stenger is currently going through the state permitting process for the AnC Bio plant.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Are you worried about AnC Bio falling through?
Bill Stenger: Not at all. Our leadership team will be here in November. Doctor Jake Lee, our Chief Technology Officer, is now on faculty at UVM.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Are you worried about the timeline at all?
Cindy Robillard: It creates a little anxiety.
Despite the uncertainty, people preparing for this massive expansion say it’s a chance to build a new Kingdom that might never come again.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Do you feel equipped and ready to go to train a workforce?
Cindy Robillard: I feel ready to go… I don’t know that we’re equipped as I stand here speaking to you today, but I know we’ll respond in a way that will make it all happen.
“As part of the success, we have to plan along the way. It can’t happen to us, we have to be a part of it,” Eillen Illuzi said.
Building a New Kingdom – Part 4
Friday, November 8, 2013 8:30 PM EST</eBy Gina Bullard
BURKE, Vt. –
“We’re going to make this an outdoor family area,” said Ary Quiros. Quiros, the President and CEO of Burke Mountain, is the new face of a ski resort that needs a lift.
Quiros took over less than a year ago. “I love it here,” he said.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Are you skier?
Ary Quiros: Yes, I Telemark.
The family friendly resort was founded in the 1950’s. In the last 20 years there has been five owners, and Quiros says Burke was losing money.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Are you nervous at all?
Ary Quiros: Not at all — maybe in front of the camera.
Quiros says big changes are coming to this mountain. He and Jay Peak President Bill Stenger are planning a $100-million overhaul.
“For the last five owners there’s been a lot of good intention but not a hell of a lot of follow through,” Stenger said. He says there will be follow through now because they have access to cash. The money will come from the federal investor EB-5 program. In exchange for half-a-million-dollars, foreign investors and their families are on the fast track to permanent residency. But their investment must create at least 10 jobs.
Plans call for a new ski in, ski out hotel half way up the mountain, plus an indoor tennis facility and aquatics center. Currently Burke sees 70,000 skier and rider visits a year. After the developments Quiros hopes that number more than doubles — to 150,000.
People in the industry and the community didn’t want to go on camera, but repeatedly expressed concerns that while they welcome improvements, they’re afraid Quiros doesn’t value the community’s history.
Reporter Gina Bullard: How are you going to prove yourself? Are you worried about coming in and changing the entire face of Burke Mountain?
Ary Quiros: No, absolutely not. I have everything to back up all my changes — why I’m doing it — and I have them understand it.
Quiros is the son of Ariel Quiros, Bill Stenger’s partner in the massive expansion at Jay Peak and this new Kingdom-wide development. We wanted to speak with Ariel Quiros directly, but despite several attempts never got a response.
At 37-years-old, Ary Quiros has a lengthy resume. He’s grown up all over the world and worked in manufacturing and international trade. He’s a trained pilot and scuba instructor and is fluent in Spanish, French and Korean. “I lived in Korea, in Miami. I was born in Berlin. My father was part of the Berlin Brigade,” Quiros said.
Quiros is already leaving his mark on the ski resort. There’s a new logo featuring the letter ‘Q’ — for Quiros.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Why did you want to have that?
Ary Quiros: It’s a new company. We take pride and ownership and we want to show the world what we’re doing is good for the mountain.
He admits there’s controversy — he’s had to lay off six managers. “I had to reduce the amount of staff in the beginning due to high fixed costs,” he said. Quiros says his military background has shaped his management style. In 2002 he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was deployed several times to Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s currently a Captain in the Vermont National Guard. “I enjoy it very much and I apply the same principals here in managing of people,” Quiros said.
He’s never worked in the hospitality sector but has interned at hotels in Spain. “We’re very conservative and I dedicate my time to developing my staff, and my staff is the key here to moving forward,” he said.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Why was Ary chosen to run this?
Bill Stenger: He’s part of the family — passionate about skiing, great drive and wants to see this be successful.
Quiros says his sole focus right now is making Burke profitable. “There’s fundamentals in business and fundamentals in things we do and if I can’t sustain this business, then I can’t help the community in the future. So I have to stop giving time and resources to them so I can allocate all the time to this mountain, fix it up, bring it up to code, take care of my employees, make it sustainable — then move forward,” Quiros said.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Are you worried there’s a lack of trust for Ary?
Bill Stenger: Any time you come into a new situation there’s, ‘Show me. Show me you’re going to do what you say.’
Proof the community could soon see — the new hotel is set to open in two years. “Working with people and leading them — that’s my ‘A’ game, that’s what I enjoy, that’s my passion, and that’s why I love it here,” Quiros said.
“We’re not going to fail at this,” Stenger said.