In 2014, right out of the gate, reports were that Bill Stenger and Ariel Qurios’ Burke Mountain project got off on the wrong foot when a name change clashed with local sensibilities.
It’s off to a rocky start. When Quiros bought the ski area, many locals and loyal skiers bristled that he changed its name to Q Burke Mountain — a move they perceived as arrogant.
It wasn’t purely arrogance; it was just that sending a message — the winners are now in charge — to potential EB-5 investors was deemed infinitely more important than the opinion of the locals:
Quiros says the name change is a message to investors. […] But Burke Mountain’s international reputation for chronic failure was worthless to him. He needed to change the name to associate “Burke” with his and Stenger’s success at Jay Peak, which businesspeople know is owned by Q. Resorts.
Fast forward to this past week, where at Q-Burke Mountain hotel and conference center events are taking an interesting turn. The new hotel opening was delayed due to a multi-million-dollar dispute with the general contractor. An announcement of 180 layoffs of local employees followed quickly.
Partners Bill Stenger and Ariel Quiros wasted no time laying off the blame elsewhere:
In a swipe at the state, resort officials said in the news release announcing the layoffs that “Q-Burke Mountain Resort has worked diligently to create jobs and to retain personnel even through rough times, however, job creation, job retention, and economic development do not seem to be as important to the state as previously believed.”
It may not be easy to pass that one off with a straight face. After all, Vermont has been promoting (some might say pimping) the Q-Burke and the Jay Peak developments to potential EB-5 foreign investors. Motivated by the prospect of NEK jobs, Vermont has been marketing them around the globe as a sound investment almost from the start. In fact, it took multiple loud complaints from disgruntled Jay Peak investors and an SEC investigation before the state tightened up its accounting enforcement.
Why growl and snap at the hand that enables your EB-5 money habit? Same reason they added “Q” to Burke, a message to investors, which in this case is: it’s not our fault and keep investing. Because one season of bad weather, reports of unpaid bills and the specter of a hulking empty hotel could slow their foreign investment to a trickle-when they need gallons per hour.
And, in closing let’s return to Burke 2014 and “Q” arrogance:
Quiros understands the community doesn’t like the new name, he says. But he believes they’ll come to appreciate the value it brings, once he proves the long-term value of his plan. He thought about public perception “300 percent,” and stands by his decision.
“If I make a mistake here, I lose everything! I lose everything,” Quiros says. “Because in the world market, I don’t get the money from a bank. I get from word of mouth.”
Exactly “300 percent” right: no money from banks. It comes through the State and Federal EB-5 Immigrant Investment Program. Chances are Vermont will get over the criticism (because of the promises of local jobs). But maybe it’s a risky strategy to dump on the state after they have helped provide a steady stream of investors.
And there are plenty of other EB-5’s in other states begging for foreign investors. Donald J. Trump’s got one, a huge, beautiful, luxury Jersey City Hotel and conference center for example … just a coupla minutes from Manhattan and it’s huge , HUGE!
*“Burking” : originally meaning to smother, but which later passed into general use as a word for any suppression or cover-up.