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N.H.'s Pitch to Amazon Includes a Heavy Dose of Boston Bashing

Todd Bookman/NHPR

Will a former apple orchard in Londonderry be home to Amazon’s next headquarters?

New Hampshire state officials on Wednesday released their proposal to lure the online retail giant's new “HQ2” to the state, putting forward the 603-acre mixed use development called Woodmont Commons as the best option.

At an event in Concord, Sununu says Londonderry (population: 24,129) offers all the perks of a city like Boston (population: 673,184), but none of the headaches.

“Without the traffic, without the taxes, without the bureaucracy, but still being able to draw off the most talented workforce pool in the world,” he said.

The state, in fact, repeatedly points out the differences between Boston and New Hampshire in its proposal, citing the high cost of rental housing and perceived hassle of trying to get to Logan Airport.

“Choose Boston and next year when you leave your tiny $4,000-a-month apartment only to sit in two hours of traffic trying to make your way to an overburdened airport, you’ll be wishing you were in New Hampshire,” reads one of the more direct lines.

The governor, who has made attracting businesses to the state one of his key initiatives, also criticized cities and states that include tax incentives in their proposals to lure Amazon.

Credit Todd Bookman/NHPR
The proposed plan for Woodmont Commons, a 603-acre mixed-use development in Londonderry.

“We don’t play the game of giving massive tax gimmicks and tax breaks, and all that. Other states have to do that because they have to...because they have massive taxes,” he said. “We’ve had the best tax breaks in this country for the last 200 years,” pointing to the lack of income or sales tax.

Officials say they considered cities including Portsmouth, Dover, Rochester, Durham, Hudson, and Nashua, but in the end chose Londonderry, in part, because of its “shovel ready” development site.

Woodmont Commons, which celebrated its groundbreaking earlier this year, is slated to have 1,400 housing units, as well as 880,000 square feet of retail space. It will also eventually get its own exit off of Interstate 93, which could prove a selling point to Amazon.

The online bookseller turned retail giant has outgrown its Seattle headquarters, and is looking to build a second home. The new campus will employ up to 50,000 people, and could bring several billion dollars in new investments.

In its announcement, the company said it is looking for an urban campus with close proximity to an international airport, as well as mass transit options.

That’s prompting Governor Sununu to reverse course on commuter rail: while he’s called a proposed train from Boston to Concord, N.H., a “$350 million boondoggle” in the past, his comments Wednesday suggested a willingness to get that project done if Amazon selects Londonderry.

“Absolutely that’s on the table. Rail has been studied, rail has been proposed, and if Amazon wants to come, we can accelerate those plans, and that’s absolutely on the table,” says Sununu.

Proposals to Amazon are due on Thursday, with the company planning to announce the winning bid sometime in 2018.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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