The Hippo


May 25, 2020








Business outreach
Amazon pitch being used to entice new businesses

By Ryan Lessard

 When state leaders unveiled their pitch to Amazon to locate its second headquarters in Londonderry last fall, it was a “long shot,” according to the governor. But it was a shot heard around the region, as officials say it’s proven effective at attracting other businesses to consider relocating to the state, or existing businesses to expand here.

Commissioner Taylor Caswell, the head of the state Department of Business and Economic Affairs, said the Amazon HQ2 pitch, an online multi-page document, was a comprehensive outline of all the reasons any company might want to locate in the state. And it got a lot of media coverage after its reveal in October.
“We were getting a lot of coverage in the Northeast, particularly in the Boston and Massachusetts market,” Caswell said.
Some companies reached out to the department, and others were flagged for visiting the website to check out the document, which Caswell said is a marketing technique they use to generate potential leads. 
“We saw a definite uptick in that kind of activity,” Caswell said.
In all, he said there were dozens of companies in the Northeast who have contacted the department as a direct result of the Amazon bid and the publicity surrounding it.
Caswell said the case made in the document showcases the state’s tax friendly environment, especially by virtue of having no broad-based income or sales tax. It highlighted the state’s academic institutions, high quality of life, the first-in-the-nation presidential primary and the existing tech industry, including biotech and medtech.
“A lot of those types of industries are really flourishing here, and one of the reasons they’re flourishing — and one of the things I think businesses picked up on when they saw this — was our access to a highly qualified workforce,” Caswell said.
The document also outlines the potential for a new commuter rail corridor connecting the state’s urban centers to Boston. Caswell said that’s proven to be a popular idea among the tech companies they’ve spoken to so far.
“It certainly comes up a lot,” he said.
While he said it may not be the primary factor, it is seen as a “significant value add” to a growing number of companies. 
Gov. Chris Sununu reversed course and began supporting commuter rail efforts earlier in January, when he backed a proposed $4 million in project development funding. Attracting businesses from out of state has long been one of the governor’s top priorities.
The Amazon bid also identified a shovel-ready site in Londonderry, which would be right off Interstate 93 with its own new exit. Since Amazon passed on New Hampshire, that site, which is part of the Woodmont Commons property, is up for grabs. 
Caswell said putting it in the proposal certainly raised the profile of the site, which is big enough to accommodate multiple companies, has already been zoned, has a single owner and is very close to the highway.
“It’s all the things that people who do site selection for a living really like to see,” Caswell said.
Overall, the proposal made the case for New Hampshire and educated several companies about what kinds of opportunities exist here.
“They learned something, and I think it’s different on a case by case basis, about New Hampshire and its business environment, from this,” Caswell said.
At the table
So far, Caswell has personally spoken with a handful of companies about what New Hampshire has to offer, and there is a whole team of individuals in his department dedicated to doing just that.
The Amazon proposal has also been instrumental in reminding existing New Hampshire companies about the benefits of doing business here, Caswell said.
“It’s working for us on both sides of the border,” he said.
In one particular case, a CEO or president of a yet-unnamed company, which already has a location in the state, has met with Gov. Sununu, Caswell and other key agency heads to discuss the possibility of relocating the company’s headquarters to the Granite State. That’s something that usually only happens when a deal is further along, Caswell said. But being a smaller state means easier access to government heads.
While he can’t say for certain that the publicity surrounding the Amazon bid triggered the interest, the meeting did take place earlier in January, a few months after the pitch was made.
New doc
The Amazon report proved successful at putting the state on the radar of other companies, but as Sununu recently put it in a statement, it was also “the most comprehensive business marketing plan our State has ever produced.”
Currently, Caswell and his team are working to revamp the report so that it can become the main business marketing strategy and the primary tool for extolling the state’s economic virtues.
“We’re taking that report and we’re de-Amazoning it,” Caswell said.
Pretty soon, Caswell said, the department will be unveiling a new document — based on the Amazon bid but without all the Amazon-specific references — and posting it on the Business and Economic Affairs website for all to see.
The move may capitalize on the existing momentum but also put all the arguments for why a company should move to the state in one easy-to-find place.
Caswell said he has been reviewing the draft PDFs and hopes to finalize the document soon. 

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