Roger Gauld, CFO of Hampshire Hospitality Holdings, Inc. (HHH) and Eliza Leadbeater, Executive Director of the Belknap County Economic Development Council (BCEDC), recently spoke with CDFA.
What was at this site prior?
Roger – We purchased the property from St. Charles Catholic Church—it had been deconsecrated.
Eliza – Hampshire Hospitality Holdings, Inc. purchased the Church and then incorporated the brick structure into the final design for the Inn. The property is located on Lake Winnipesaukee and the setting is absolutely beautiful. HHH, I understand, asked the Church’s leadership for approval of the name. It is just one example of how much thought the HHH partners give to their projects.
What roles did you play in the Project?
Roger – I’m the CFO for Hampshire Hospitality Holdings, Inc. and my role was to determine how we would finance the purchase and construction of the Church Landing at Mill Falls.
Eliza – My agency, the Belknap County Economic Development Council, is involved in linking developers with potential funders and financing. As part of our work, we wrote the grant application for CDBG funds on behalf of the Town of Meredith.
Why was a fourth inn added to the three that Hampshire Hospitality Holdings, Inc. already owns?
Eliza – As I understand it, it was really an economy of scale coupled to expanded capacity. This fantastic opportunity came up and HHH already had the operating expertise from its other three inns.
How did you figure out the financing?
Roger – It was pretty complex. This project had a number of funding sources including local banks. Frankly, we were interested in the CDBG funds because when they’re repaid, they go into a revolving loan fund that can be used for additional economic development in Meredith and the rest of the region.
Eliza - HHH is a major engine behind the growth and vitality in Meredith especially in the last dozen years. The Town leadership and everyone interested in this expansion were very positive about HHH’s accessing this loan. It was a way for the community to participate in the latest project.
How familiar are you with the CDBG funds that went into the project?
Roger – This was the first time HHH had used CDBG funds. However, we have a close relationship with the Belknap County Economic Development Council and saw this as an opportunity to give back to the community.
What were the funds used for?
Roger—We used the money for a portion of the furniture and fixtures.
What sets HHH apart from other businesses in the area?
Eliza – HHH has a proven, greatly admired, and now frequently imitated record of developing inns and setting a new standard for the hospitality business. By investing in Meredith like they have, they’ve really re-defined the community. Their vision went beyond establishing yet another business operation, to creating a destination, and enhanced image for the Town and its residents as well as its visitors. They set a tone and are active in other programs such as the New Hampshire Main Street program.
As a result of their businesses, Meredith has been transformed. It’s almost unrecognizable from the town it was even a decade ago. Meredith is a tourist destination; everyone benefits including the State of New Hampshire to have this kind of asset.
Has any other development or services been spurred by this project?
Eliza – There has been a tremendous amount of development and I credit Hampshire Hospitality Holdings for this. They built their first inn and created a vision for Meredith that has changed both the face and the spirit of the town; everyone has benefited ---residents both year-round and seasonal, other businesses, the Lakes Region, the State of New Hampshire, as well as our thousands of annual visitors.
How many jobs were created by the construction of the Church Landing at Mill Falls?
Eliza – According to final figures, this project created 26 new jobs and 21 of them went to people with low and moderate incomes. This does not include probably an equal or greater number of jobs in the Inn’s restaurant, operated by the Common Man.
Would you recommend using CDBG funds again?
Roger – Yes, mainly because as they are paid back, the funds went to BCEDC to be available for other economic development projects. It’s good for the community to use CDBG funds.
Are there any questions I haven’t asked, but you think people would like to know about?
Eliza – I commend the HHH partners for all they’ve brought to Meredith. We have these wonderful inns and all the auxiliary amenities such as restaurants, shops, spa, events, and festivals. They have also used the inns as a setting to promote New Hampshire by decorating with carefully crafted furnishings, antiques, and artifacts, as well as reproduction memorabilia and paintings that are unique to the state. I think it opens people’s eyes to the wealth and breadth of other New Hampshire options.
I’d also like to add that HHH employees are wonderful ambassadors—proud of the business they work for, excited about the region, and are an asset to our local workforce and the hospitality industry in New Hampshire. This is just another factor in HHH’s success.