Much of what politics is about is good. It’s still the place of society, ideas and the future. This is what initially attracted me to this field and continues to interest me to the present day. And it’s been an interesting day.
Today the Union Leader announced that the paper mill in Gorham has been purchased by an investment group in Manchester named Merchant Banc. Of course all of the news surrounding this development has to be positive. The newly minted two day Town Manager in Gorham could only express praise at this development and what it could mean for the community. It was sort of like a NHPR story with Laura Knoy—wonderful, intellectual ideas expressed from thirty thousand feet but the reality is far different, and often political and much darker.
I think this is the case with Gorham.
The bankrupt owner of the Gorham mill is Toronto based Fraser Papers who according to its own reorganization has been trying to shed assets to get its reorganization plan approved by the courts. Gorham, New Hampshire has no strategic value so the question quickly becomes: how quick can this non-performing asset be unloaded? Last winter I predicted that there would be no buyer for this historic mill at any price and I’ve fallen short here that was until I heard of the purchaser, Merchant Banc from Manchester.
This is where the darkness begins…
Last winter I also reported about the failed grant attempt to bring the natural gas pipeline into this circa 1890s mill. The taxpayer money ended up in Wisconsin thanks to the work of the Northern Community Investment Corporation (NCIC) in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. And that’s what I think this is. Merchant Banc comes in takes over the Gorham mill for nothing, gives Frasier a needed exit strategy and buys time for NCIC to cover their ass and get the money back from Wisconsin. And this is taxpayer money that were talking about here. A lot of taxpayer money, which wasn’t authorized to be transferred to Wisconsin.
Merchant Banc isn’t in the paper business they’re in the money business. I don’t think it will take much explanation to show what happens when money managers try and take over a capital intensive business in need of strategic performance, investment and direction. More often than not it ends up in disaster. And I’ll make that argument here.