By Julie Huss
---- — LONDONDERRY — The new economic development expert hopes the town will bank on a prime piece of real estate.
Stuart Arnett of the Concord-based Arnett Development Group is seeking ways for Londonderry to grow.
Earlier this year, the Town Council approved bringing Arnett on board as a contractor to help the town’s planning department with economic development goals and projects.
At a council meeting Aug. 1, Arnett gave the group its first look at a proposal to create a tax incremental financing, or TIF, district in town. That’s a mechanism to pay off debt from new infrastructure with future tax revenue.
The key location is the Pettengill Road corridor near the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, an area rich for development and eyed by many as a top spot for economic growth.
Putting a TIF into place is a positive tool, Arnett said, especially when infrastructure, a successful tax base and job growth are needed.
“Londonderry is a very special place,” Arnett said. “I want to begin pursuing the idea of a TIF over the next two months.”
Putting a TIF into place is a tool many communities have used to support local growth, he said.
Arnett is no stranger to this area.
He was contracted by the town of Derry in 2009 to do similar economic development consulting work, but the town severed its ties with his group two years later.
Arnett did advise Derry on its TIF project on Manchester Road, where a major road expansion took place ,paving the way for new businesses to locate, there including Wal-Mart and the new Pinkerton Place retail area.
Other towns with successful TIF districts include Bedford, Nashua, Pembroke, Raymond, Milford and Concord.
“It’s a well used tool,” Arnett said. “It’s been around for quite a while.”
Pettengill could serve Londonderry well.
A four-lane road would cost an estimated $12.5 million and would open 1,000 acres for development between the airport and Interstate 93.
The study estimated the project could generate $7.5 million a year in property taxes.
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 planned there.
“Overall, there is no more attractive tax-generating investment Londonderry can make it itself than the Pettengill Road infrastructure,” the study concluded.
Another large project — a 250,000 square-foot distribution facility — is also in the planning phases for that area.
The town has applied for a potential $8.2 million in federal transportation funds from the economic-recovery program Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery to support the Pettengill project.
Arnett said that money, along with a potential $4 million for sewer costs, could bring the TIF bond total up to $12.2 million. It would be a 20-year bond.
He said a TIF could work for Londonderry.
“A TIF is not a fix for a bad idea, a bad idea is still a bad idea,” he said. “But it’s a good way of helping a good idea get better.”
The next step is to continue to have public informational meetings, including meeting with school officials and county commissioners.
Public hearings would follow and a final Town Meeting vote could be on the ballot next March.