Study Details Impact of Balsams Development
March 4, 2015
By Barbara Tetreault
Berlin Daily Sun

Renovation and expansion of the Balsams Resort and Wilderness Ski Area would be the largest private sector development project in Coos County in memory with an estimated total investment of over $300 million between 2015 and 2024.

An economic impact study released by the developers Friday said the project would increase economic activity in the county during that period by almost $1 billion. It would also create an estimated 1,700 jobs enough to replace all the jobs lost in the county over the last 10 years. The impact would not be limited to Coos County. The study states the resort's rebirth will also generate millions of new dollars in revenue for the State of New Hampshire through rooms and meals, real estate transfer and other taxes.

Noted New Hampshire economist Brian Gottlob of Polecon Research prepared the 25-page study, entitled 'The Economic and Fiscal Impacts of the Renovation, Expansion, and Annual operation of the Balsams Grant Resort and Wilderness Ski Area'. The study was commissioned by Dixville Capital, LLC., the corporation established by ski developer Les Otten to redevelop the property.  The study paints a picture of not only a revitalized North Country job market, but of a project that has the potential to bring long-term economic gain statewide.  "Results of our analysis indicate that the renovation and expansion of The Balsams Resort and Wilderness Ski Area will dramatically alter the employment outlook for Coos County over the next decade, reversing a more than 10 year trend of declining wage and salary employment in the County," the study states.

The initial phase, which the developers hold to get underway this June, calls for renovating the historic Dix, Hampshire and Hale Houses, as well as the legendary Panorama golf course and clubhouse designed by famed 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. The ski area would be expanded with a 9-mile pipeline bringing water from the Androscoggin River in Errol to the ski area.

The Polecon study shows that initial renovation and expansion capital expenditures of more than $130 million (that figure has been increased to $143 million) will create 583 full and part-time jobs between 2015 and 2016, of which 300 would be directly related to construction.  By the time the entire project is completed in 2024, with a total housing capacity of over 2,900 and the biggest ski area in the region, the number of jobs created is projected to reach 1,700. The new jobs would represent a 4.1 percent increase in employment for Coos County in 2015, and 11.9 percent by 2024.

The state would also benefit from the project. Based on conservative projections of visitors to the expanded resort, Polecon estimates an additional $1.5 million in annual rooms and meals taxes in 2016 increasing to $4.6 million by 2024. In addition, visitors would spend money on gasoline, tolls, alcohol and other commodities, all of which generate revenue for the state. Revenue from visitor spending is estimated between $1.6 million in 2016 to $5.3 million in 2024.

In the first twelve months since the Balsams closed, the state lost an estimated $1.8 million in all visitor, tourism and recreation related revenue. Now closed almost three-and-a-half years, approximately $6.3 million in revenue has not been generated for the state.  "The restoration and enhancement of the Balsams will allow the resort to not only become relevant for the 21st Century, but to become a world-class, year-round destination with the potential to attract thousands of new visitors to New Hampshire, from all corners of the globe," said Jeffrey Rose, commissioner of the NH Department of Resources and Economic Development. "This vision for the Balsams is a transformational opportunity for the North Country, and its benefits will be felt throughout the state."

"The North Country Chamber of Commerce is behind the rebirth of The Balsams one hundred percent," said Chamber President Wayne Frizzell. "We know it will be a tremendous boon for the entire North Country and state as a whole. In addition to the new jobs and tax revenue, The Balsams redevelopment will create a strong, positive ripple effect on area businesses, organizations, and events."  For nearly a decade, Coos County has struggled with negative job growth, and according to the New Hampshire Labor Market Information Bureau, no growth is expected for the foreseeable future. The Balsams project would reverse that trend and hiring associated with the project would nearly replace all the jobs lost in the county over the past decade.

Long-term, annual operation and maintenance of the resort will increase employment directly and indirectly in the county by 479 in 2016, rising to 1,692 by 2024. These jobs related to on-going operations will increase labor income to $11.5 million in 2016 and rise to $31.5 million (based on 2015 dollars) by 2024. The expansion will also increase employment and income outside of Coos County in other New Hampshire counties.  "Overall employment in the entire North County region (Coos, Grafton, and Carroll Counties) and State of New Hampshire will increase by a larger amount, as some of the economic activity resulting for the renovation and expansion of The Balsams 'leaks' to other counties in the state. The volume of economic activity resulting for the project that occurs outside of Coos County but within other counties in state ranges from a low of 90 jobs to a high of 176 jobs," Gottlob said.  "This study confirms how important The Balsams has been historically as a major economic engine for the North Country. It's closing in 2011 dealt a significant setback to the area, and we are honored to have the opportunity to restore and expand this majestic resort, making it a world-class destination in all seasons, and creating more jobs and economic stimulus than it ever has before," Otten said.

Key findings from the study:
   Total economic activity as measured by output or sales will increase by almost $1 billion in Coos County between 2015 and 2024 (from $65 million to $125 million annually) as a result of the more than $300 million direct investment at the resort, and including the indirect and induced impacts of the renovation, expansion, and operation of The Balsams Resort and Wilderness Ski Area.
   Between 2015 and 2024, direct, indirect, and induced jobs resulting from The Balsams project will have created enough jobs to replace almost all of the jobs lost in Coos County over the most recent 10 year period (assuming no further net job loss in the County).
   Total labor income resulting from renovation, expansion, and operation of the resort will increase by $383.1 million in New Hampshire between 2015 and 2024, including $293.8 million in Coos County (ranging from $19 million to $47 million annually).
   Between 2010 and 2013, Coos County experienced net out-migration of over 600 residents, or roughly two percent of the county's population. Construction of new residential housing units for sale at The Balsams Resort could increase Coos County population by between 0.8 percent and 2.4 percent over population levels in the county without the renovation and expansion project. In addition, new housing units at the resort provide an opportunity to bring high skill, higher-income residents to the County, increasing the attractiveness of the potential workforce in the region and longer-term prospects for revitalization of the region.
   Meals and rooms tax collections in Coos County declined by about 17 percent (almost $1 million) over the 12 months following the closure of The Balsams Resort and total state revenue losses from all visitor, tourism and recreation related revenue are estimated at about $1.8 million over 12 months as a result of the closure of The Balsams Resort

.Before it closed, the Balsams in Dixville Notch, N.H., was known for its upscale Grand Resort Hotel, which emphasized fine dining and lodging.

Before it closed, the Balsams in Dixville Notch, N.H., was known for its upscale Grand Resort Hotel,
which emphasized fine dining and lodging. (Boston Globe Photo)

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