By RIK STEVENS
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) a¿¿ Two years after the sale of the New Hampshire resort where the nation's first presidential votes were traditionally cast, no guests ply the halls.
The doors of the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in Dixville Notch remain shut, and a few buildings have fallen to demolition crews. None of the 200 to 300 jobs that disappeared when it closed in September 2010 have come back.
Then there is the silence. The men who bought the hotel for $2.3 million, Dan Dagesse and Dan Hebert, are looking for more investors, but communication with local business leaders has trailed off.The Balsams was one of the largest employers in the North Country, a region that has lost many manufacturing jobs in recent years. Coos County, where the resort sits, still has a 5.6 percent unemployment rate, highest in the state. "The fact that it shut down a couple years ago was devastating," said Jonathan Brown, president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce. "It's a symbol of who we are. If it reopens in the near future, it would have a huge impact on how people are feeling about the economy in the area." The resort, about 20 miles from the Canadian border, started as an inn in 1861 and was sold in 1895 to industrialist Henry Hale, who renamed it The Balsams. In 1918, he doubled the capacity to 400 guests. It features Old World elegance, fine dining and outdoor activities, including golf, boating and hiking. In the winter, it is popular with skiers and snowmobilers. Brown said his group is hungry for any information about the hotel, where voters in in the wood-paneled Ballot Room were long the first in the country to choose candidates, both in the New Hampshire primary and the general election.