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Sununu Amazon pitch: If you like Boston, you'll love New Hampshire

By DAVE SOLOMON
State House Bureau

October 19. 2017 9:02AM
Taylor Caswell, commissioner of Business and Economic Affairs, is joined by Gov. Chris Sununu and Londonderry Town Council Chair Tom Dolan in announcing the state's bid for Amazon HQ2. Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith, behind Dolan, also was present. (Dave Solomon/Union Leader)

CONCORD — The benefits of Boston without all the headaches.

That's the essence of New Hampshire's sales pitch to Amazon as the internet giant accepts applications from across the country to host a second international headquarters and the 50,000 jobs that come with it.

New Hampshire is offering the Woodmont Commons development in Londonderry as an ideal and shovel-ready location for what has been dubbed Amazon HQ2.

The 603-acre site is already appropriately zoned, has its own exit off a widened I-93 and is only minutes from the Manchester/Boston Regional Airport, which has the potential to expand its cargo handling capacity while Boston Logan does not, according to Gov. Chris Sununu.

Sununu said the state would not offer any tax breaks or financial incentives for Amazon, as many other cities and states are expected to do, but would instead rely on the state's inherent low-tax environment.

"We know how good we have it here in New Hampshire. No sales tax, no income tax, ranked in the top 10 for low business taxes, with transportation infrastructure in place and a shovel-ready site we can offer today," he said.

"It's going to be very difficult for Amazon not to take a deeper dive and a good look at why New Hampshire should be their next headquarters."

Thursday is the deadline for applications, with hundreds coming in from across the country. Some Granite State economists did not give New Hampshire much of a chance in courting the online retailer, but Sununu was brimming with optimism Wednesday morning as he unveiled a proposal that highlights the state's advantages, along with its proximity to the workforce, transportation network and educational institutions in nearby Massachusetts.

Economist Russ Thibeault with Applied Economic Research in Laconia has done a lot of work for Londonderry over the years in the development of Woodmont Orchard and 1,000 acres of industrial land along Pettengill Road, which connects Industrial Drive with Raymond Wieczorek Drive near the Manchetser-Boston Regional Airport. FedEx and UPS, among others, already have operations in the area.

"A lot of firms since the 1980s, Digital being the prime example, were major national firms that found it attractive and productive to have a New Hampshire location," said Thibeault. "So there is a precedent there, but this is the largest trailer truck of economic activity to come down the pike that I can remember."

Thibeault said the selection process is highly competitive with many cities and states offering tax advantages.

While Sununu said, "We don't play that game of giving massive tax breaks," the state does have a new law on the books that could enable a break on local property taxes.

"The town is looking to take advantage of the new legislation passed and signed by the governor that allows municipalities to give a temporary property tax break on all new commercial construction," said Town Manager Kevin Smith. "So that's something we'd be looking to take advantage of if Amazon chooses Londonderry."

Commissioner of Business and Economic Affairs Taylor Caswell said the state considered sites in Portsmouth, Dover, Rochester, Durham, Hudson and Nashua before settling on Londonderry as the focus of a well-written and attractively designed 80-page proposal that could be used for many kinds of business recruitment.

"We can take and use it in 100 different ways," Caswell said. "It's professionally done, very thoughtful and very appealing to Amazon and a host of other companies."

Tom Dolan, chairman of the Londonderry Town Council, was also on hand for the presentation, and said that Londonderry residents, including those who abut the proposed development, are mostly supportive.

Traffic was a major issue, he said, but the widening of I-93 and creation of an additional Londonderry exit allayed much of those concerns.

"The highway going from two lanes to four lanes, which is under construction right now, that's a major factor," he said. "And a dedicated exit will go in midway between Exit 4 and Exit 5 that will be named Exit 4-A. We're hoping the A stands for Amazon."

dsolomon@unionleader.com


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