JAY — Eleven out of 12 ain’t bad, Bill Stenger figures.
The Jay Peak co-owner announced Friday afternoon that plans to bring German window manufacturer Menck to Newport have fallen through. It is one of 12 projects Stenger and his business partner, Ariel Quiros, have initiated in the Northeast Kingdom through the federal EB-5 Immigrant Investor program.
“This is a bump in the road,” Stenger said. The rest of the pair’s Northeast Kingdom Economic Development Initiative, whose total price tag for remaining projects now is effectively trimmed to roughly $445 million, is on target, he said. Several other EB-5 projects are underway at Jay Peak Resort.Stenger pulled the plug on the estimated $20 million window manufacturing plant because recent design changes from Menck would require the window plant to be outfitted with European machinery.
“A stoplight went off in my head,” Stenger said.
The imported equipment would not apply toward the project’s job creation requirements — the cornerstone condition that transforms immigrant visas into green cards. For every $500,000 investment, at least 10 American jobs must be created.
That job creation can come from a mixture of direct, indirect or “induced” job creation. Economic modeling that quantifies the labor-inducing ripple effect of investment allows major business purchases, such as machinery to make windows, to satisfy the job creation standards. But not if the purchases are imports. And the technology Menck decided it needs is not produced in the U.S., Stenger said.
He previously estimated the Menck plant would commence renovations this fall at the now-vacant Bogner sporting goods retailer on a hill overlooking Newport. It would have created 100 to 150 full-time direct and indirect jobs through construction alone, and potentially 400 to 500 more jobs, both within Vermont and out of state, from ongoing operations.
AnC Bio, an American subsidiary of a Korean biotech firm, is still on track for the same site. Stenger estimates he’s raised 80 percent of the $100 million to $110 million projected for its development. He expects to have the rest before the end of the year, if not sooner. He’ll begin AnC’s local and state permitting applications in October.
Stenger said he’s disappointed by the Menck plans falling through, but he’s not worried about finding an alternative. He takes multiple calls each week from business interests around the country.
He’s encouraged also by signs of progress in the other NEK plans, including the pending purchase of a waterfront shopping plaza on Lake Memphremagog in downtown Newport.
Stenger handed over a “very meaningful, non-refundable deposit” for the property to Burlington real estate mogul Tony Pomerleau earlier in the week. It’s an act of trust: The two have yet to sign a purchase-and-sale agreement.
They likely will reach that stage before Stenger leaves Sept. 21 for an EB-5 investor mission to China and Vietnam with Gov. Peter Shumlin and a small delegation of state economic development officials. Purchase of a downtown block in Newport, planned as a mixed-use development aligned with the future waterfront marina, hotel and conference center, is scheduled to be finalized while Stenger is overseas.
In East Burke, at Jay Peak Resort’s sister mountain, plans also are moving ahead, albeit not according to the original schedule. Stenger said he decided to wait to break ground until spring, due to the hazards and complications of winter construction.
Other infrastructure will be laid starting in October, including burying electrical lines and bringing in other services to prepare for two-phased construction of hotels, an aquatic center, a tennis facility and an indoor mountain biking park.