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Lagging Health Insurance Exchange Glitches Leave Major Medicaid Improvements in Limbo

The fate of Vermont’s online health insurance exchange will be determined by whether or not a new contractor meets a series of deadlines this fall for improved functionality. But it turns out a lot more than just Vermont Health Connect is riding on those deadlines. Other major health care IT projects are sitting in limbo indefinitely, until state resources now consumed by fixing Vermont Health Connect get freed up.

Q Empire: The man behind the Northeast Kingdom’s biggest plan

3332 words / VTDigger.org

Ariel Quiros is the entrepreneurial force behind Jay Peak ski resort and the $600 million Northeast Kingdom Economic Development Initiative – one of the largest development projects ever attempted in Vermont.

Though the project is high profile, Quiros is not. The international tycoon, though sometimes seen, is seldom heard.

The first generation American stands out at press conferences for his mystique: When he’s not got the ear of the governor, Quiros is most often seen standing uncomfortably before a crowd with pursed lips, staring silently and expressionless, at nothing in particular, through ice blue eyes.

Quiros quietly presides over an integrated set of projects that together constitute the largest private investment Vermont has ever seen: expansions at Jay Peak, development of the newly renamed Q Burke Mountain ski area, the mixed use Renaissance Block planned for downtown Newport, the future site of a biotech firm in the same town, and the promise of a new and improved Newport State Airport in Coventry.

“I make the vision,” he says quietly, a touch of gravel in his voice after 20-plus years of smoking.

Community fears history will repeat itself at Q Burke Mountain

3310 words / VTDigger.org

It’s the day before Q Burke Mountain opens for the winter, and Ary Quiros could just as well be preparing for battle as for business.

The new CEO is opening the ski resort for the first time since he started at the mountain the previous winter, and he’s amped. If Quiros, 36, can turn this chronically failing but beloved ski area into a stable business, he will succeed where prior, much wealthier, owners have failed.

The arc of history and local expectations give him long odds. But Quiros — and his staff — are determined.

Wearing a weathered, Army green jacket and frequently checking a watch face practically the size of his wrist, Quiros shuttles from one outpost of operations to another to check on his troops: snowmaking, ticket sales, kitchen, pub and cafeteria. Finances. Marketing. Housecleaning.

“It’s like being in the Army again,” Quiros says.

Should Vermont loggers be licensed?

3041 words / VTDigger.org

Beverly Grout suspects a neighbor may have told the loggers that she and her husband Fred would be in the market to sell some timber.

She said the loggers, Ken Bacon Jr. and Ken Bacon Sr., knocked on the door of their home on a hill overlooking Barre back in June. Within days, the Grouts signed a contract.

“We didn’t realize who they were,” she said.

Left with 20 acres of damaged forestland and a blocked stream in Barre Town the Grouts wish they had known more about the Bacons’ track record.

A post-mortem of Menck Windows’ Northeast Kingdom EB-5 Project

Business feature reporting the cancellation of a $20 million immigrant-funded development in Newport, Vt. / 1420 words / VTDigger.org

More than a year in the making, plans to bring German window manufacturer Menck to Newport, Vt., have fallen through.

Developer Bill Stenger said the parent company’s new equipment requirements would cut into the plant’s job creation projections. It turns out slow sales projections and facility constraints also played a role.

Menck still is moving forward to establish itself in North America: but not in Vermont, and not with funding from federal “EB-5” immigrant investments.

Job creation and generally boosting economic activity is the program’s stated goal — and also, in Menck’s case, the hitch.

Unemployment Trust Fund tapped for fraction of potential relief

2276 words / VTDigger.org

Vermont legislators agreed in May to offer up to $8.67 million in refunds and discounts to businesses that laid off workers in the wake of 2011′s disastrous floods.

But only 75 employers, among the untold eligible businesses hailing from every county in the state, applied for the unemployment insurance relief. Instead of giving breaks for a “worst-case” scenario of 11,247 layoffs, the state forgave at least partial charges on just 299.

On their July 1 unemployment insurance bills, 54 businesses accepted $264,178.53 in refunds.

“Really, that’s all? Wow,” said Steve Moyer, CFO of Woodstock Farmers’ Market.

Leahy proposal would alter EB-5 job creation formula

946 words / VTDigger.org

Proposed changes to the controversial EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program would tweak the job creation requirement. Full-time employment defined as one person working at least 35 hours per week would be replaced by the equivalent of a full-time job, “regardless of how many employees fill the position.”

Capitol Hill controversy puts EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program in national spotlight

In-depth daily article explaining the connection between a national controversy and a state-run business plan. / 1173 words / VTDigger.org

Controversy on Capitol Hill this week shined a national spotlight on one of Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy’s signature economic development initiatives — a program that plays a key role in Vermont’s business strategy.

Monday, the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General revealed to a lawmaker an ongoing investigation into Alejandro Mayorkas. The director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the No. 2 position at the Department of Homeland Security.

Mayorkas had been accused of mismanaging the federal Immigrant Investor Program, also called “EB-5” for the type of visa it affords. Leahy is in the process of pushing Congress to make EB-5 permanent after 20 years in a pilot stage. The program — until Monday — had remained fairly obscure by national standards, despite a recent spike in use. But in Vermont, EB-5 plays a prominent role.

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