LACONIA — The Belknap Economic Development Council is considering targeting distressed downtown buildings and using its own money — coupled with that of other public and private investors – to purchase, rehabilitate, and resell them as a way of spurring development in the downtown area.
The new project was announced yesterday morning at a breakfast meeting at the Belknap Mill hosted by the organization's board of directors for community stakeholders.
The BEDC is using the services of Jack Dugan — the longtime chair of the Monadnock Economic Development Council — who used a similar approach in downtown Keene that led to its revitalization.
"We want to take distressed properties and turn them into more productive properties," said Henry Lipman who is the chair of the BEDC.
According to Vice Chair Randy Eifert, the BEDC has seen a drop off in the number of small businesses coming to it for short-term business loans.
Traditionally, the BEDC served as a sub-prime lender — meaning it provided loans, using USDA Rural Development money, to businesses who did not immediately qualify for traditional lower interest bank loans.
When the then BCEDC was founded in the 1980s, Lipman explained that many banks had failed in the wake of the savings and loan crisis and money for capital projects from traditional banks had dried up.
Fast forward to today and banks are awash in money and most business people with a viable plan can qualify for corporate loans at more favorable rate than that offered by the BEDC.
Eifert said the BEDC has about $800,000 in capital and would consider "(holding) its nose and overpaying to get a hold of the right piece of property."
Using the Keene model, ideally the building would be rehabilitated using BEDC money that could be used to attract additional community development money and private investment, put to a productive purpose, and resold on the private market with the proceeds going to purchase yet another distressed building.
Should a building be in the downtown TIF or Tax Increment Financing District, the increase in taxable value would be used of offset any infrastructure costs needed for the project.
The newest project of the BECD would be augmented by the three already stated goals of the — to retain and attract young talent to the Lakes Region, to support creative entrepreneurs, and to enhance workforce development programming.
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