Will Dyer resort ‘save’ Westwood? Business owners react to news of new ownersSusan Cort Johnson
The announcement that Dyer Management signed an agreement with Lassen County in December 2009, assuming all rights and responsibilities for the construction of the four-season resort southwest of Westwood, brought a variety of reactions from local business owners.
Some were enthusiastic and others were skeptical. Don Biggs, owner of Biggs Butchery, views the project as an antidote for the sagging economy.
“It will do more than provide jobs; it will help the area overall. I think the economic boost will be amazing,” said Biggs.
He added that the town is experiencing a trying time evidenced by the number of businesses that have either closed or no longer operate in Westwood.
Northeastern Rural Health Clinics closed the medical center, Flanigan-Leavitt Insurance Agency closed its Westwood office and the owners of the local pharmacy closed the business.
Plumas Bank is closing its Westwood branch in February 2010. B.J. North, executive vice president of retail banking, explained during an August 2009 meeting with residents that Plumas Bank is a business that has to be in a community with potential to grow.
A profitable bank must bring in $20 million and the Westwood branch averages $9–$10 million. She said there was potential for growth when developers were planning to build the Dyer Mountain Resort, but the project failed.
The Dyer Mountain project is not necessarily the answer said Mike Young, owner of Young’s Super Market. He said he remains neutral on the subject.
“I don’t want to takes sides. If it was to happen, good; if not, try something else. The town needs something because it is stale,” he explained.
The Westwood Chamber of Commerce supports the project.
“The chamber has always supported the development and continues to do so. I believe Westwood needs this project now more than ever for the jobs it would create to the tax money that would go to our schools,” said Jodie Gunn, chamber president.
Frankie Couch, owner of A Place to Bead, moved to Westwood four and a half years ago, long after the debate over the pros and cons of the development that was approved by Lassen County voters in November 2000.
Because she moved from Eureka, she said she knows projects like Dyer Mountain take time due to such requirements as an environmental impact report, which is an important safeguard.
At this point, after 10 years in the planning stages, Couch is a little skeptical about the development. If it comes about it will bring more customers to the businesses in Westwood she said. Of course, that would be good for business she added.
Ron Lunder, owner of Mountain Meadows Mead, is also skeptical about the project, finding it hard to believe there is financing available.
“We can all be pleased that a Delaware corporation has promised to help Lassen County with legal fees to defend the doomed Dyer Mountain project. In the current real-estate market and credit market, if a Delaware corporation assumes a $50 million debt secured by a property that is worth perhaps $5 million as timberland, they must have a plan.
“But until they can pay $1.6 million in back taxes to Lassen County, we must be skeptical. As Joe the Plumber says, ‘Money talks and b*llsh*t walks.’ Show us the money,” wrote Lunder in his response via e-mail to a question posed by the Westwood PinePress about the news of new Dyer Mountain owners.
Lunder also questions whether a ski resort would ever be built on Dyer Mountain. “A ski resort on Dyer Mountain? It is January, where is the snow?” he wrote.
Alex de Martimprey, owner of Lassen True Value Hardware and Lumber, looks at the amount the “new” owners already invested in the Dyer Mountain project as former investors in Dyer Mountain Associates as a reason to believe they will be vigilant.
“People don’t throw good money after bad money,” he reasoned when analyzing the news that Dyer Management would put money in an escrow account for legal fees incurred by Lassen County that are associated with defending the project.
The investors deposited $271,083.92 in the account, making it current. The Lassen County Board of Supervisors was given this information at their Jan. 5 meeting.
De Martimprey said while the Dyer Mountain project may prove to be beneficial to Westwood in the future, it has no impact on the current business situation. Lassen True Value Hardware is one business that may not be able to continue to ride out the tough economic times and remain open.
He said his father purchased the hardware store in 1973, and he joined the business in 1975, so the family company has been serving Westwood for 37 years. The present economy is the toughest it has ever been and store sales are down.
“I just don’t know how we will hold on through the winter months. It could be too late for a lot of us,” said de Martimprey.
Couch said that in addition to providing more customers for local business, the Dyer Mountain project might be good for the community as a whole. She said people need jobs and also there is not a lot to do in the area. Yet she doesn’t want the development to change the community too much.
“I would like to see Westwood grow a little but not change too drastically,” she said.