By John Toole
---- — LONDONDERRY — The mission to bring 10,000-plus jobs to Pettengill Road turned into a civic pep rally July 17, headlined by Gov. Maggie Hassan.
About 75 community and business leaders convened last week with state and local officials for a forum on future economic development of a 1,000-acre area between Manchester-Boston Regional Airport and Interstate 93.
Acting Town Manager and police Chief William Hart let them know the future is now.
In the last few weeks, Hart said, Londonderry officials have had at least a half-dozen meetings with people who have the money, vision and ability to bring development to the area.
“We can’t let this moment pass,” Hart said.
The Planning Board recently learned one developer is in the initial phases of proposing a 200,000-square-foot distribution plant that could open as soon as October of next year.
The town is pursuing $8.2 million in federal transportation aid for Pettengill Road development through an economic recovery program.
Building a one-mile, four-lane road is expected to cost more than $12 million.
But also in the mix could be creation of a tax increment financing district to aid development. That’s a mechanism to pay off debt from new infrastructure with future tax revenue.
There’s a lot at stake for the town and state.
A study by Laconia-based Applied Economic Research last year projected the potential for 10,000 to 25,000 jobs from a business park development along Pettengill Road.
The study said the town could see $7.5 million a year in taxes from such a development.
“We really think this is a golden opportunity,” town comprehensive planner John Vogl said.
It’s no longer a question of if Pettengill will develop, he said, but when.
Conditions are right, Applied Economic Research president Russ Thibeault told the forum participants.
“This is ready to go,” he said.
A $12 million to $13 million investment in infrastructure could pay for itself within a year, assuming Pettengill saw 500,000 square feet of commercial and industrial development, Thibeault said.
The state would see $9 million to $10 million a year in business tax revenue once the area is built out, he told the governor.
Hassan said she is supporting Londonderry’s aid application.
“The governor’s office is fully behind that application,” she said. “We want to make sure everybody in Washington understands how important this project will be.”
Manchester-Boston Regional Airport officials want to see Pettengill developed.
J. Brian O’Neill, deputy airport director, said he came to the forum as a cheerleader.
“The airport is very excited about this project,” O’Neill said.
The airport sees business development around Pettengill as a way to regain passenger traffic.
“This is the next important thing for the airport,” O’Neill said.
Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, said Londonderry and the state need Pettengill.
“We are starting to come out of a terrible recession and we need to look forward,” she said. “We just need jobs.”
Carson continues to work on her initiative, to create a state infrastructure bank that would assist towns like Londonderry with projects such as Pettengill.
Her proposal would provide a state match for town dollars to finance them.
Carson said the proposal is under study in the New Hampshire House.
Hassan acknowledged Carson’s infrastructure proposal has “real potential.”
David Preece, executive director of the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission, said expanding the commercial and industrial tax base would help communities and the region.
“To bring in jobs, we need infrastructure,” Preece said.
The session, which lasted less than an hour, was held at the Executive Health and Sports Center.
Jeffrey Rose, commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development, attended, as did state lawmakers and Executive Councilor Chris Pappas.