By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Belknap Economic Development Council Chairman Randy Eifert says that a key element in the organization's acquisition of the Colonial Theatre was the city's decision to step up to the plate and loan the money to BEDC which made the purchase possible.
Speaking at then organization's 24th annual meeting at Lakes Region Community College Wednesday night Eifert said that the $15 million restoration and renovation project is one of the largest community development projects in the entire state and is the result of "'getting the right people at the table and having the vision and resources" to make it possible.
"The Colonial Theatre deal showed what our board is capable of," said Eifert, who said that 2015 was a historic year for the organization which in recent years has shifted its strategy to one of becoming more of a catalyst for economic development.
"Many good people have tried before to acquire the Colonial," he said, maintaining that the group's ability to access grants and tax credits makes it an invaluable partner for the county.
He said that the organization's spinoff, 609 Main Street, is managing the transition of the property where the city will become the sole tenant once the renovation project is completed.
Eifert said $5 million in tax credits will help finance the project and that historic project tax credits and state tax credits will also be available. He said that a drive to raise $2 million to $3 million in private funds will be launched later this year.
Work has started on removing the partitions which turned the one-time 1,200-seat theater into five smaller theaters in the 1980s.
The Norman Marsh Award for support of policies promoting the region's economic growth was presented to former BEDC Chairman Henry Lipman, a Laconia Ward 3 City councilman and senior vice president of LRGHealthcare, who was credited with helping the organization refocus its priorities to a more active role in economic growth,
BEDC Executive Director Justin Slattery said that the organization's 200 by 2020 initiative, which was established to provide internships for high school students, has already surpassed its goal and has been an outstanding success.
Three new directors were installed; Chris Kelly of Bayside ReMax Real Estate, Steven Geer of Geer and Associates and Ron Magoon of Franklin Savings Bank.
Four new incorporators were installed; Allison Ambrose of Wescott Law, Jude Hamel of Prescott Farm, Scott Littlefield of Profile Bank and Valerie Fraser, a state representative from New Hampton.
Laconia Mayor Ed Engler presents the Norman Marsh Award to former Belknap Economic Development Council chairman Henry Lipman. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)
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