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August 19. 2013 12:57PM

Northern Pass announces $7.5 million job fund for the North Country

LANCASTER — Northern Pass partners on Monday announced plans to establish a $7.5 million jobs creation fund aimed at increasing employment in the North Country, and tied to the approval process for the controversial hydroelectric project designed to bring power from Quebec into the New England grid.

Business leaders and lawmakers joined Northern Pass officials at a press conference in Lancaster to announce the formation of an advisory group made up of Coos County business and economic development leaders and elected officials that will ultimately decide what jobs creation efforts will be funded, and at what amounts.

The fund will receive $1 million after Northern Pass receives federal and state permits and begins construction, and $500,000 each year thereafter, until it has received $7.5 million total. In the meantime, Northern Pass has agreed to provide the local advisory group with up to $200,000 in seed money to begin its work, according to a statement issued early Monday by Northern Pass officials.

"It is absolutely essential that we create real, full-time jobs here in the North Country," said Realtor and former state senator John Gallus of Berlin. "This fund must be controlled by local residents who are best positioned to know where investments should be made to help create new jobs."

Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier said the fund would help create an environment that supports businesses and job creation.

Gary Long, president of New Hampshire Renewable Energy Policy Development at Northeast Utilities, said the fund could support efforts to create small businesses, provide support to larger businesses, and invest in the local tax base to make the area attractive for business creation or relocation.

"Northern Pass is part of that effort, and this separate jobs initiative, led by North Country residents, will offer great assistance in achieving their long-term goals," he said.

The Northern Pass project recently announced a new proposed route in the North Country and has submitted an amended permit application to the U.S. Department of Energy. In 2014, a permit application will be filed with the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee which will initiate a separate permitting process. Meanwhile, the project has scheduled a series of open house events in towns near and along the route. Details on the project may be found at northernpass.us