Nearly two dozen Vermont lawmakers hit the road Tuesday. First stop-- Jay Peak resort. Over the past few years, the resort has used more than $275 million of EB-5 foreign investment dollars to build a hotel and conference center, an indoor water park, hockey rink and other projects, to make it a true year-round international resort.
Lawmakers, some who say they haven't seen Jay in decades, marveled at the changes.
Resort owner Bill Stenger says that for him, the bottom line is job creation and economic investment for the Northeast Kingdom.
For the afternoon, it was a tour of the city of Newport, which is slated to get hundreds of millions in additional EB-5 money for five big projects, ranging from a Korean biotech company to a waterfront conference center.
"It's a dynamic time for our region," said Bill Stenger of the Jay Peak Resort. "It's dynamic because these are great ideas that are going to have funding and it's dynamic because the people who live and work in this community are going to have a bright future."
Lawmakers and administration officials heard from a crowd of nearly 100 area residents about the potential impacts to their community, from housing to workforce development issues.
Bob Kern, the superintendent of local schools, told lawmakers he needs demographic data to know what to plan for.
"We know that there's going to be 5,000 permanent jobs-- we're told-- and 5,000 part-time jobs or temporary jobs, but we don't know what income level they are, what families are coming and where they are going to live," Kern said.
Transportation improvements will also be needed, as evidenced by the bumpy ride lawmakers had on the trip up.
"We have plans for those roads, the infrastructure, so we will definitely be looking at those projects to help facilitate the expansion that Bill Stenger wants to do," said Rep. Pat Brennan, D-Colchester.
While no specific bills are on the table this session, lawmakers say they realize there is a lot the state will need to execute to make Stenger's Northeast Kingdom dreams come true.
"What's special about it-- it needs to be kept intact-- need to have the opportunity to grow, but thoughtfully. I think that's what people will notice," said Rep. Bill Botzow, D-Pownal.
In order for these grand projects to be completed, it's going to take millions more in investments. That is something Bill Stenger says keeps him up at night. Stenger and the governor jet off to Florida this week to work on securing more of those investments.
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