by Joseph Gresser
JAY — At the opening of the new Stateside Baselodge Friday, Jay officials threw in a pair of bonus announcements. A new aircraft company will bring more than 100 skilled jobs to Coventry, and the sale of the Spates Block on Main Street in Newport to Jay Peak co-owners Bill Stenger and Ariel Quiros has been finalized.
At a press conference that followed the opening of the 84-room hotel, Mr. Quiros said he has bought Flight Design USA, the company that announced plans this summer to assemble and sell ultra-light planes at the Newport State Airport in Coventry.
Flight Design USA was the American branch of a German company, and the initial agreement allowed the Newport branch to act as one of six U.S. distributors of the company’s two-seater plane.
The new company, called Flight Design Americas, LLC, will have exclusive rights to sell planes in North America, South America and Central America, Mr. Quiros said.
The company expects to hire around 100 engineers, trained mechanics and assembly workers, he said. It projects sales of as many as 200 planes a year by the third year of production.
He had to beat out competition from companies in Florida and Arizona, both states with a strong aviation tradition, to buy the company, he said.
One of his advantages was the free trade zone that was recently established in the Northeast Kingdom. That allows Flight Design to cut 11.5 percent from the cost of its planes, Mr. Quiros said. That’s an advantage even though about 60 percent of the plane’s parts are made in the U.S.
Thomas Peghiny, who was president of Flight Design USA, will remain with the company as a manager. He will work alongside Mr. Quiros’ son Ari.
The younger Mr. Quiros said he is working with Lyndon State College with the intent of helping the college to build an aviation management program. Right now, he said, he has organized an aviation club. He believes that with enough student interest the college will seriously consider creating the program.
In addition to the ultra-light plane that Flight Design initially planned to make in Newport, the new company will get rights from the German company to manufacture and sell a four-seater, which will not be an ultra-light plane.
Mr. Peghiny explained that the plane will have a composite body made of carbon fiber. It will have the most modern instrumentation and a parachute that can help the entire aircraft reach the ground safely in case of an aerial mishap.
While other planes in the same class cost between $400,000 and $500,000, the Flight Design C4 will sell for $250,000, Ari Quiros Jr. said.
The elder Mr. Quiros wouldn’t say how much he paid for the company, only that it was a private sale.
Mr. Stenger also refused to provide a figure for the cost of the Spates Block. The buildings will be torn down over the winter, and plans call for beginning construction on the new Renaissance Block next year, he said.
The Renaissance Block project, like the Stateside Hotel, is financed by the EB-5 visa program. That program allows foreign investors to obtain a green card and path to citizenship.
At the ribbon-cutting, Governor Peter Shumlin, who was on hand to do the honors, said he has accompanied Mr. Stenger on trips to encourage investors to put money into economic development in Vermont. He said he expected to meet businessmen who want to move to the U.S. for business purposes.
Nothing could have been further from the truth, he said.
“Ninety percent of the people at the seminars were moms and dads who wanted to give their kids access to the best high schools and universities in the world and let them have a green card so they could stay and contribute to the country’s economic development,” he said.
Mr. Stenger said his recent purchase of the old Newbury Building on Main Street in Newport is also part of his plan to help revitalize the city. He said he hopes to create a retail space with small Vermont-style businesses, using the Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center as his model.
He said the new shops will make the city more attractive to tourists.
“What do you do when you’re on vacation?” he asked. “You buy things and you eat.”
Vacationers were already flocking to the new Stateside Baselodge on its opening day, with all 84 rooms booked for its first weekend.
The hotel is more moderately priced than the two others built on the tram side of the resort, Mr. Stenger said.
It was built using a modular construction process. Finished rooms built in Pennsylvania were trucked to the site and placed by crane into a heavy steel framework.
Mr. Stenger thanked the workers who built the new hotel. Over the past six years, he said, over 3,000 skilled craftsmen have been at work on Jay’s varied projects. With construction on the Renaissance Block and the AnC Bio biotechnology plant expected to begin next year, Mr. Stenger said he expects the builders to be at work in the area for another six years, at least.
William Kelly, counsel for AnC Bio, said plans are nearing completion for the biotech plant on the old Bogner campus. He predicted he will have a complete set of construction drawings by April 30, 2014, and invited local residents to hold him to that date.
If permitting goes as hoped, Mr. Kelly said construction should get started in August and be completed by 2015.
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