Let’s take a closer look at Ardent360 and the “deal” they are offering property owners in WV, MD and VA. You should start by reading Ardent360’s letter to PATH land owners here.
This is how Ardent Ventures (the company that the letter claims will “help” land owners) describes itself:
Ardent Ventures is part of a group of companies called Ardent360 based in Sterling Virginia. At Ardent360, we work with commercial and residential real estate owners to improve the value of their property through a combination of construction and energy efficiency services.
So now we go to the Web site of this “group of companies called Ardent360 here. At the Ardent360 Web site, we learn that
Ardent360 is a comprehensive service provider of general contracting and specialized building and energy solutions for residential, commercial and municipalities in the Mid-Atlantic region.
If you browse through the rest of the Ardent360 Web site, you will not find a single reference to what Ardent is claiming it can do for PATH land owners. The letter claims that Ardent would
assemble easement rights for numerous properties along planned transmission routes. Bundling together as a “block” allows us to apply much greater leverage in pricing negotiations, while advocating and justifying the best payout for each individual property owner.
Working with us increases your compensation, eliminates attorney fees and other out-of-pocket costs, and can benefit the Power Company as well. We are confident our efforts will not only get you paid sooner, but will also result in a higher overall easement price for your property.
Our approach is simple and straight forward, and is risk free to the property owner. Most importantly, all of our efforts on your behalf will be kept in strictest confidence.
We understand that you may be opposed to the PATH line for personal reasons. However, we believe that PATH is going to happen. The additional power supply, improved reliability, and the ability to transfer power across the region, including electricity generated from renewable resources such as wind, will likely outweigh potential community concerns.
Ardent never reveals how or why “assembling” properties into a “block” will be “risk free to the property owner” or will “result in a higher overall easement price for your property.” Note also that Ardent claims that “all of our efforts on your behalf will be kept in strictest confidence.”
The other interesting part of Ardent’s claims is their reliance on power company propaganda to heighten property owners’ anxiety about PATH to discourage land owners from standing up for themselves. AEP/Allegheny is spending millions of our dollars to tout PATH, and Ardent is using that propaganda to bolster the claims that PATH is a done deal and that it is really an environmentally friendly project. The longer AEP/Allegheny and the WV PSC delay their decision on PATH, the more time Ardent has to work on the anxieties and fears in the communities they are preying upon.
But we need to look at the heart of their claim that by assigning their rights to Ardent, land owners will get a deal that is “risk free” and will result in a higher “easement price.”
We know from Ardent360’s Web site that Ardent is basically a company that markets design and consulting services for business and housing remodeling in Northern Virginia. They do little or no actual construction work themselves, because they are “a comprehensive service provider of general contracting,” not actual builders of anything. Their business appears to be finding customers and hiring subcontractors to do the work. In other words, they don’t really to much of anything real except to insert themselves in between their customers and the subcontrators they hire to rake off some profit. They claim they are “creating value,” but I heard that same claim from mortgage company hustlers five years ago in the subprime loan market.
There is no information on their Web site that tells us that Ardent360 has ever done what they claim in power line situations. If they are so good at helping property owners in these situations, and if they do such a great job of marketing their other services, why aren’t they bragging about their great experience on their Web site?
Ardent’s claims to get higher prices for land owners will only be true if their “block” negotiating scheme provides enough profit for them to pay their costs and profit, and still have money left over for the “higher” results to land owners. Is that possible? I don’t know. Is it “risk free”? I don’t know.
I have seen lots of advertisements for “risk free” and guaranteed results on late night TV, AM radio and matchbook covers. I am a strong believer in the old saying that “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
So, if you are a property owner threatened by PATH, talk to these Ardent guys. If you think they have something to sell, fine, sign up with them. But if you don’t like what you are hearing, there is something you can do about it. Ardent’s sales people (and that is what they are, no matter what they call them) may claim that they will keep your conversation “confidential,” but there is no requirement for you to do the same. If you think this is a scam, and you live in WV, call the Attorney General’s fraud hotline at this number 1-800-368-8808. If you live in MD or VA, find out what state agencies protect you and contact them.
Update: A Jefferson County land owner has talked directly with an Argent sales person. She has posted details of the sales pitch in the comments section of StopPATH WV here. Her conclusion? “So yes, don’t fall for this, sounds like a big scam to me.”
Update 2: I have just gotten off the phone with the WV Secretary of State’s Office. None of the three companies associated with Ardent, namely Ardent360, Ardent Ventures and Ten Stone LLC, are registered with the Secretary of State to do business in WV. And yet they are sending certified letters to WV citizens at their residences and making business propositions to them. You might want to mention this when you call the WV Attorney General’s Office.
Update 3: Ardent’s letter lists Ardent Venture’s Web site as www.ardent-ventures.com. Click on the link. See what happens.
Update 4: My first time through the Ardent360 Web site, I missed this little tidbit about Ardent Ventures. Thanks to my buddy Keryn for digging this out. Here is what the Web site says about Ardent Ventures:
A residential real estate investment company, Ardent Ventures identifies value properties in Northern Virginia and, through Ardent Construction, converts those properties into a financial return for investors. Ardent Ventures’ established network of real estate professionals – including brokers and financers – can handle the entire transaction from acquisition of the property, to renovation or construction, to sale. Ardent Ventures currently seeks value properties and individual investors who have the resources to take advantage of this lucrative market.
In other words, these guys are real estate flippers in the depressed Northern VA real estate market. They can’t find enough prey on their home turf, so they are looking to infest WV.