Voters in Groveton – which has been struggling since the paper mill there closed in 2007 and devastated its economy - took a fiscal leap of faith Saturday.
They voted to borrow up to $400,000 to put sewage and water on privately owned land in the hope that businesses will locate there – and bring tax money and jobs.
The $400,000 allows Groveton to seek another $600,000 in federal funds.
If that federal grant comes through the total of $1 million would be used to install water and sewage on the redeveloped site of the old paper mill.
The question at the town meeting – attended by about 200 - was whether it was smart to take on $400,000 in debt without an ironclad guarantee that it would mean more jobs.
Ken Strong was among those who argued the town needed to take the chance.
“If you people vote no today you are going to throw away a tremendous chance to save this town,” he said.
Mike Stirling, who manages the former mill site, said attracting a large company with hundreds of jobs would be hard.
He said the better strategy is to get a lot of small businesses of five to 10 workers each that would grow and need more employees.
He said a furniture manufacturer and fish farm headquartered in Ohio have already agreed to open up in Groveton – if sewage and water is available.
And, he said he was talking to about 20 other businesses, hoping to persuade some to relocated.
The vote was 140 in favor and 25 against.