Less Is More In New England

When it comes to employment rates, this six-state region has no trouble outperforming the national average.

By the BF Staff
From the July/August 2017 Isssue

New England has seen a lot of economic activity over the past few years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the annual average unemployment rate in New England, at 4.1 percent in 2016, was down 0.8 percentage points over the year while the national unemployment rate had fallen 0.4 percentage points to 4.9 percent. Deborah A. Brown, Regional Commissioner at the U.S. Dept. of Labor BLS, noted that New England’s unemployment rate was measurably lower than the national average in 2016—Maine’s unemployment rate was 3.9 percent, Massachusetts’ 3.7 percent, Vermont’s 3.3 percent, New Hampshire’s 2.8 percent, Rhode Island’s 5.3 percent and Connecticut’s 5.1 percent.

Over the 40 years this statistical data has been collected, the jobless rate in New England has rarely exceeded the U.S. average.

The Massachusetts unemployment rate dropped to 2.8 percent in December 2016, marking the sixth consecutive month the rate had declined. According to the Connecticut Department of Labor, the May 2017 unemployment rate for Connecticut was estimated at 4.9 percent (seasonally adjusted), unchanged from April 2017 and down four-tenths of a percentage point from a year ago. New Hampshire’s preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April 2017 was 2.8 percent.

The Vermont Department of Labor reported the state’s March 2017 unemployment rate was 3 percent, whereas it was 3.3 percent the same time in 2016. The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training reported that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April 2017 was 4.3 percent, down from the April 2016 level of 5.4 percent. In March, Maine’s preliminary unemployment rate hit a 40-year low of three percent, down from 3.7 percent a year ago.


“Economic development” is a term frequently used but often misunderstood. Simply, it is the creation of wealth in a specific area, and this is often measured in jobs created, capital investment and new property tax base. At the last board retreat of the Northeast Economic Developer’s Association, it was discussed how, in New England, most communities include vitality, sustainability and other types of revenue generation such as sales or rooms and meals tax. Fortunately for those involved in the “action” side of economic development, which includes real estate professionals, many communities and regions have created economic development strategic plans that will guide the way on what kinds of development is desired, and what impacts are to be avoided.

New England
At 282 acres, Granite State Business Park is the largest of Rochester, NH’s eight parks. (Photo: City of Rochester, NH)

The strategic plan for Rochester, NH has been approved for the 10-year update in 2016/2017, so it is an appropriate time to evaluate the successes before bringing in a new slate of objectives. The strategy approved in 2006 encouraged major changes to process and policy, and also focused on making incremental improvements. As the joke says, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” and that is how Rochester created so much new wealth in incremental steps in the last decade.

The Granite Ridge Development District: The creation of the Granite Ridge Development District, a 913-acre commercial and entertainment zone, involved policy changes as well as active investment attraction. The city rezoned the acreage for maximum density and favorable construction conditions beneficial to commercial developers. One critical feature is the construction of Marketplace Boulevard, a city street interconnecting the developments and allowing double the development capacity. The NH Dept. of Transportation invested more than $135 million into the Spaulding Turnpike in Rochester, directly impacting and making improvements for this massive development zone in the Seacoast of New Hampshire. Waterstone Retail of Needham, MA has a 500,000-square-foot center underway with Phase 1 now open and Phase 2 approved by the city. Thousands of jobs will be created, serving area residents and visitors to the region with shopping, entertainment and restaurants.

Granite State Business Park: The Granite State Business Park, next to Skyhaven Airport in Rochester, is the largest of the city’s eight parks at 282 acres. Started in the late 80s by a private developer, the park was acquired by the city and expanded in 2010. Since then Albany International has expanded, employing more than 400 and moving their corporate headquarters from New York and R&D facilities from Massachusetts.

Safran Aerospace Composites, in a unique partnership with Albany, has built a 345,000-square-foot facility for composite jet engine components, and has secured an option on another 50 acres. NCS Global has built a LEED Certified Silver facility for their global headquarters on Innovation Drive. Phase 2 Medical, one of the fastest growing medical device firms in New Hampshire is located in a 75,000-square-foot facility. With Phases 1 & 2 of the park now under agreement, the city is focused on adding more land zoned for industry to the park on the south side of the city. Active rail, COAST bus service and Skyhaven Airport provide access in addition to SR-108 and Spaulding Turnpike Exit 12.

Downtown Arts & Entertainment District: Rochester became a National Main Street Community in 2006, gaining approval from the National Trust for Historic Preservation for their strategic plan and achieving non-profit organization status. Similar to other New England historic mill towns, the city had suffered from disinvestment in infrastructure and buildings, depressing property values and losing foot traffic. The Main Street Approach targeted economic revitalization, events, Downtown design and organization outreach with their army of volunteers. Concerts on the Square, a farmer’s market and National Comic Book Day are just a few of the new activities in the Historic Downtown, bringing thousands of visitors each year. The Rochester Museum of Fine Arts displays in several permanent locations, but also exhibits “pop-up” art shows in vacant storefronts improving the look and foot traffic of Downtown. The economic development office has been selected by Americans for the Arts to participate in Arts & Economic Prosperity V (AEP5) to measure the local economic impact created by public arts organizations in the community as well as measure spending by arts audiences. The Rochester Opera House has been enjoying a renaissance, with 2015-2016 being its most successful season since it reopened in the 1990s. Downtown occupancy and residency is up dramatically, with 64 new dwelling units and a 5 percent drop in ground floor vacancy this past year alone. With input from Rochester Main Street, the city has improved city policies and ordinances, such as signs, zoning, expedited review, outdoor dining and much more.

Rochester Public Works has multiple new road, water and sewer improvement projects that will support existing and continued growth in commercial and industrial development. A $4 million project on Salmon Falls Road and SR 125 North will double the water capacity for Crossroads Business Park and the Market Basket Marketplace. The visitor friendly vibe of downtown will be enhanced by a “wayfinding” initiative, guiding pedestrians, bicyclists and autos to their favorite destinations along with abundant free parking. City Hall offices will be expanded into the Annex. Once the Rochester Fire Department, the structure is nearing completion and has been historically restored to meet the city’s need to bring Economic Development, Planning and Building, Zoning and Licensing Services together under one roof. This one-stop development center is ready to serve existing businesses and welcome new businesses.

The overall economic impact of these accomplishments makes living and owning a business in Rochester a great investment. More than $100 million in new buildings have been constructed, resulting in a 63 percent increase in commercial and industrial value generating new tax revenue for the city. As a percentage of the city’s development, commercial and industrial increased from 19.3 percent in 2003 to 24.7 percent in 2015, distributing the property tax burden across a more diverse base and allowing for services in the city to keep pace with demand. For more information, visit www.rochesteredc.com.


As life science companies transition from the R&D phase into the manufacturing phase, Franklin, Massachusetts provides the solutions companies and families are seeking. Franklin is within 30 miles of Boston/Cambridge resulting in easy access to the R&D concentrated areas. The short drive results in manufacturing space at a lower cost, while still drawing from the same educated workforce. In addition, Franklin is more accessible to well-trained individuals seeking manufacturing jobs.

Franklin’s Tri-County Regional Technical High School offers programs in manufacturing, engineering, technology, electrical wiring technology, metal fabrication, computer information systems and more. Students can continue their training at local community colleges or the more than 100 colleges and universities within 30 miles of Franklin.

Much of Massachusetts’ life sciences growth has centered on Cambridge and Boston with biotech startups and established companies focused on research and early stage development. Now these companies need space to manufacture the products they created, and Franklin is the solution.

In May, General Electric broke ground on its new corporate headquarters in Boston. This follows the move of GE’s Life Science Headquarters to the Franklin area in 2015. GE’s Life Sciences Healthcare is a $4B business with more than 11,500 employees in over 100 countries with the mission of enabling a new era of molecular and precision medicine. The $21 million dollar investment into the 160,000-square-foot facility was described at the time as an investment into GE’s future. This move allowed GE to experience the benefits of Mass. and was a major consideration in moving the corporate HQ.

The moves are prompted to help remake GE’s image from an industrial company into a technology and healthcare company. Jeffrey R. Immelt, President of General Electric, said the Boston area’s biotechnology ecosystem shares the company’s aspirations. He then referenced the pipeline of future workers from the colleges and universities in the area, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard and Northeastern University.

Mr. Immelt also cited the area’s thriving venture capital industry and startup community as part of the decision making process. According to the National Venture Capital Association, the Boston area received $5.6B in VC funding for 348 companies, which ranked third in the nation for the number of companies funded by VC firms.

Franklin is a platinum rated Bio-Ready Community as a result of establishing a biotechnology overlay zoning district, its streamlined permitting processes and the modern and robust infrastructure. Franklin has adopted local policies that greatly ease the pathway for renovation or new construction of biotech laboratory space and manufacturing facilities. In addition, Franklin has a stable, single tax rate that is below the state average and the regional average. This contributes to Franklin being a desirable pro-business community.

Franklin’s industrial parks of Forge Park and Franklin Industrial Park, as well as the Grove Street Business Corridor are within one mile of I-495. These areas house a substantial number and variety of businesses representing many industry sectors, including biotechnology, data storage, software development, fiber optics, measurement devices, bio-storage, medical device and nanotechnology. Current businesses that call Franklin home include EMC, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Tyco, ZeptoMetrix, Hamilton Storage, Entegris, Cold Chain Technologies and many more.

Gregory Chiklis, PhD., President of ZeptoMetrix and Franklin resident described Franklin as being a huge advantage when recruiting employees because of the community, schools, Town buildings and all of the resources available. He also said that when his company went to expand “the Town was right there helping us with the permitting and designs and that Franklin is a business friendly community, which makes it fantastic for businesses like ours.”

Access from Franklin around the state, country and the world is superior. Franklin is conveniently located along and between multiple interstate highways. Interstate-495 connects to I-95, I-90 (Mass Pike) and I-290 within a few short miles. Franklin is 205 miles from New York City, 340 miles from Montreal, Canada and 427 miles from Washington D.C. Boston’s Logan International Airport has approximately 120 international flights and 775 national flights per day. In addition, less than 30 miles away, T.F. Green Airport in Providence, RI, has approximately 250 domestic flights per day.

Franklin is the solution for families as it has what families seek most: affordable homes, highly ranked schools, good jobs, open space and community events. The Town has been recognized by Bloomberg Businessweek as one of the Best Places to Raise Kids, by CNN Money as One of the Top Ten Places to Live & Launch, and by Family Circle as one of the Best Places to Raise a Family.

Franklin recently completed a new high school at a cost of over $100 million dollars. The high school contains a fully functioning radio and television station, 13 science labs, including a new biotechnology lab, and state-of-the-art computer labs. Students can take classes in forensics, physiology, robotics, meteorology, anatomy, green engineering and alternative energy.

The Town has an abundance of civic, sports, religious and youth activities for residents of all ages and abilities. The Town has 14 recreational fields, and offers live performances at the recently completed Black Box Performing Arts Center. Franklin’s history includes the first public library in America, and the birthplace of Horace Mann who is considered the father of public education.

Franklin is the complete package offering what businesses and families want. If you are looking for a great location to start, expand or relocate your business, please contact Bryan Taberner, AICP, Director of Planning and Community Development at (508) 520-4907 or email development@franklinma.gov.


Governor Gina Raimondo, Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor, Finlays CEO Steve Olyha and other local officials joined a celebration of a significant milestone in the construction of Finlays’ new global research and development center this April at Quonset Business Park. Finlays is a global leader in the development and distribution of tea and coffee extracts.

New England
Town Council President Richard Welch; Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor; Governor Gina Raimondo; Steve Olyha, CEO of Finlays; and Steven King, Managing Director of the QDC sign the final beam for Finlays’ new facility. (Photo: Quonset Development Corp.)

As this new facility rises and the final steel beam is put in place, we’ll see new activity at the site on Ocean State Drive. Steven King, PE, the managing director of the Quonset Development Corp. (QDC), North Kingstown, led the demolition of the former Navy buildings that once occupied this location so it is an exciting transformation for him to witness.

Finlays new project at Quonset will ultimately include 93,000 square feet of building space and will result in an investment of approximately $54.3 million. The project is planned to be completed in two phases. The first phase will consist of a 28,800-square-foot global research and development facility and pilot plant. The second phase will see the construction of a 65,000-square-foot full-scale manufacturing and distribution plant.

“This new facility will bring Finlays products to market, but will also bring good, family-supporting jobs to Rhode Island,” said Governor Raimondo. “Because of our hard work reinvesting in our manufacturing industries and supporting high-skill, high-wage opportunities for our residents, global leaders like Finlays want to be here and create jobs. I’m thrilled to see another business building here in Rhode Island.”

“This significant investment in our infrastructure will enhance our ability to bring world class solutions and innovative ideas to market. As we continue to grow our leadership position in the industry, we are proud to be doing it here in Rhode Island, a state that shares our values and promotes our ambitions,” stated Steve Olyha, CEO of Finlay USA.

As part of the project, Finlays has committed to hiring 73 new full-time employees by 2019.

The project would not be possible without the partnership of Commerce RI. Thanks to the efforts of Rhode Island’s Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor and his team, Finlays was able to access the Rebuild Rhode Island tax credit as well as Qualified Jobs Incentive Tax Credits.

“Finlays is another example of a globally important company that is planting a flag in Rhode Island—drawing upon and growing our innovation ecosystem,” said Secretary Pryor, who also serves as Chair of the Quonset Development Corporation Board of Directors.

Another key draw for the company at Quonset was its innovative site-readiness program. Working with the R.I. Department of Environmental Management and the Coastal Resources Management Council, QDC has completed all the permitting and engineering that a developer would require as part of “due diligence” to get a project under way. Quonset’s site-readiness program allows businesses to begin construction within 90 days of taking site control, a significant advantage.

The company also is taking advantage of two standard lease incentives offered by the QDC. The first incentive is based on the length of the term of the lease (50 years), while the second is based on employment and wages the company delivers. Both incentives are offered on all new land leases signed by Quonset tenants regardless of their size.

Innovative programs are just one of the many reasons that Quonset has established itself as a leading engine of economic development in Rhode Island. With nearly 11,000 jobs at more than 200 companies the Quonset Business Park is a true Rhode Island success story. Finlays’ new facility is a welcome addition to the Park and the Quonset Development Corp. looks forward to working with their entire team on this project.


Rocky Hill is a suburban community of 21,000 residents located in central Connecticut two hours from both Boston and New York City. Access is provided directly from Interstate 91 while Bradley International Airport is a 20-minute drive. Its location within Connecticut and within New England places Rocky Hill businesses within 500 miles of 1/3 of the U.S. economy and 2/3 of the Canadian economy.

Rocky Hill is home to 1,300 business establishments employing over 17,400 people. These include Henkel North America, Arburg, SYSCO, URS Corporation, Burris Refrigerated Logistics, AECOM, Simoniz USA, PDQ Inc., The Meredith Corporation, McKesson, Paychex, Regus, Walmart and Sheraton, among many others. All of these businesses are located within the town’s six business parks and two commercial corridors.

Rocky Hill’s business footprint consists of 2.5 million square feet of industrial space, 1.8 million square feet of retail/service space and 2 million square feet of office space. A market analysis projected an additional 1.8 million square feet of new development is possible by the year 2030. It is anticipated 2017 will realize the completion of approximately 252,000 square feet of commercial construction.

Town leaders and citizens are quietly balancing development demands. Projects like Town Center West, a 70,000-square-foot mixed use retail project with 144 apartments; the development of River’s Edge, a residential mixed-use brownfield project located along the CT River; a 55,000-square-foot expansion of Simoniz USA; construction of a new Hampton Inn and Suites; the construction of a 52,000-square-foot surgery center; and over 39 new businesses during the last two years, are balanced with single family development, Town center revitalization and passage of a $10 million bond referendum for farmland and open space preservation.

Most of Rocky Hill’s success can be attributed to three basic factors: its central location both in Connecticut and the Northeast region; its direct access to exits 23 and 24 off of Interstate 91; and its responsive government. Through prudent management, the town’s administration has been able to retain a low tax rate attractive to business, while maintaining an exemplary education system.

Rocky Hill is a wonderful place to grow a family and a business. From corporate office parks to vibrant neighborhoods, Rocky Hill continues to accommodate growth without sacrificing its small-town atmosphere. Businesses seeking a central New England location, with a major corporate footprint and a highly educated workforce can contact Ray Carpentino, Economic Development Director, at rcarpentino@rockyhillct.gov.


The City of Stamford continues to lead Connecticut with over $6 billion in new residential and commercial development around the Stamford Transportation Center. This new development supports the strong and diverse residential, commercial, industrial and retail business base of the city. A few of the reasons companies are choosing Stamford as their home is access to the city’s growing pool of young talent within the 25-35 age range, an affordable high quality of life—including good schools, a broad array of public services, attractive parks and recreational activities, and a safe living environment. Stamford provides the smartest choice for people to live and work in the Fairfield County and New York Metropolitan Area.

The CT Next has recently awarded a $2 million project implementation grant and designated Stamford as an “Innovation Place”. Innovate Stamford is a partnership consisting of the Stamford Partnership, Fairfield County Business Council, Downtown Special Services District, Ferguson Library, BLT, the City of Stamford and hundreds of volunteers, who envision an intensely collaborative, walkable, digitally enabled city connected to other major Connecticut cities and NYC. The District continually will enhance the current environment by attracting additional young people and companies that want to create, live, learn and work in Stamford. This network will allow for people to plug in and find each other, cultivate an entrepreneurial ecosystem that appeals to tech-companies and make room for tech-driven economic growth. The Innovation District creates an inviting environment for new talent to locate and foster an ecosystem that consists of mentorship and capital, for growth-stage companies. Key features of these districts will include incubators and co-working spaces, shared experiences, such as the Alive @ Five summer concert series, an autonomous vehicle technology zone and access to a new public gigabit-based Wi-Fi network.

Under the leadership of Mayor David Martin, the city continues its pro-business attitude, while being financially prudent to preserve the city’s AAA bond rating. The city offers the most available tax incentives and credits in Connecticut, including Enterprise Zone, Entertainment District, Urban Jobs, Film Production and Digital Media, and Insurance Reinvestment, as well as the Small Business Express loans and grants program. The city has set an expectation of a 140-day approval process from site plan submission to zoning approval and a building permit approval process of less than 30 days. The City also works closely with CT Department of Labor to provide training incentives and resource packages for businesses, such as the First Five Program, which allows for substantial financial assistance for large-scale business projects to encourage business expansion, relocation and job creation.

As the State’s engine for economic growth and its largest business center, Stamford is a pre-eminent location for corporate headquarters. Stamford boasts an unemployment rate of four percent, the lowest among the five most populous cities in the State of Connecticut. Stamford’s labor force has grown 3.65 percent since 2012. The companies within the city consist of employers across multiple industries, including: R&D, banking; insurance and reinsurance; office equipment; pharmaceuticals; consumer products; media and information technology; and retail, reside. The city has proven to be an ideal location for businesses to flourish, as demonstrated by cable company Charter Communications and other recognizable Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 names such as, United Rentals and Pitney Bowes. Recent additions to Stamford’s corporate list of companies include leading entertainment company Octagon Sports & Entertainment Agency, which will bring over 150 people to their 57,992-square-foot space near Harbor Point. Another addition is consumer goods company Henkel, which moved over 300 employees from Scottsdale and Wilton to their new 155,000-square-foot headquarters at the BLT Financial Center. Other groups that also have moved to or expanded within the city over the last five years include PartnerRe, Synchrony Financial, Tradition Energy, WestMed Medical Group, Bridgewater Associates, Indeed.com, Rhone Apparel and Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits.

In recent years Downtown Stamford has transformed into a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood through significant development such as the ongoing expansion of the Mill River Park and the expansion of the UCONN campus and dormitories. The Stamford City Center has 1 million square feet of retail space. Mill River Park, located in the heart of Stamford Downtown, is a 31-acre park and three-mile greenway to Stamford.

For more information, contact Thomas Madden, Director of Economic Development at madden@stamfordct.gov.