Portsmouth: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Portsmouth is a part of the northeast market area that serves about a third of the nation's population in addition to eastern Canada. Major economic sectors in Portsmouth include tourism, the retail and service industries, and fishing and agriculture. One of the area's major employers is the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard across the Piscataqua River from Portsmouth in Kittery, Maine. This facility, which repairs nuclear submarines, also supports attendant vendors and manufacturers, and in the early 1990s completed construction of a $34 million enclosed dry dock.

The Pease International Tradeport, an airport and economic development project on the site of the former air base, is the current location of more than 150 businesses employing some 5,000 people on about 3.6 million square feet of new or renovated space. Several regional carriers provide daily departures to a variety of destinations. Landside developments at the Tradeport include the National Passport Center and the National Visa Center. The site has also attracted several high-tech businesses including Lonza Biologics (formerly Celltech Biologics), a London-based firm, which is now one of the area's largest employers.

The Port of Portsmouth is a center for exporters and importers of road salt, scrap metal, fuel oil, building materials, and other goods; many exporters are located in Portsmouth. Overall, more than five million tons of cargo per year makes the short journey to and from the Atlantic Ocean to the port's dock.

Items and goods produced: machinery, electronic components, plastics, liquefied propane, gypsum products, shoes, microwave parts, tools and dies, drinks, buttons, reaming tools, wire and cable, computer connective hardware

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Industries

Local programs

The State of New Hampshire, which levies no state sales or income tax, is considered one of the most favorable climates for doing business in the nation. Portsmouth relies on services provided by the Small Business Development Center, Leadership Seacoast (a group of community leaders), Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), Chamber of Commerce workshops and seminars, and the efforts of the Economic Development Commission in encouraging businesses and providing forums for business contacts.

The Portsmouth Economic Development Commission provides a one-stop information and referral center for business consulting for startup or expanding firms. Financing support is offered by the Portsmouth Economic Development Loan Program (PEDLP) for prospective or existing small business owners in the area. Incentives for qualified businesses are funded by PEDLP monies along with private and federal loans and can be directed toward acquiring land and buildings, buying machinery and equipment, and other approved projects.

Portsmouth's Community Development Department and Chamber of Commerce have developed the Microenterprise Assistance Program to encourage economic development within the city by providing business counseling services to small businesses that would not normally be able to afford such services. The free counseling may include marketing development, loan proposals, assistance with developing business plans, cash flow analysis and financial planning, productivity studies, contracts and agreements, and skills transfer to the small business owner.

State programs

An International Trade Resource Center at the former Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth provides information and assistance for exporters or for those investigating an expansion into foreign markets. The state of New Hampshire's incentives include no general sales or use tax, no general personal income tax, no capital gains tax, no inventory tax, no property tax on machinery or equipment, one of the lowest unemployment insurance rates in the country, investment tax incentives, job tax credits, and research & development tax incentives. For manufacturers, business and technical support are available along with financing that is free from taxation.

Job training programs

The Small Business Development Center, which is funded by the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA), the State of New Hampshire, and the University of New Hampshire, offers free management counseling, low cost training, and resource information to the state's small business community through six sub-centers. The federally-funded New Hampshire Workforce Opportunity Council (WOC) provides business and industry with customized classroom training and on-the-job training of eligible workers.

Development Projects

Business at the Pease International Tradeport continues to expand under the Pease Development Authority (PDA) and maintains 3.6 million square feet of new or renovated space. Plans are underway to double the number of employees at the Tradeport from about 5,000 to 10,000. The Port Authority of Portsmouth is implementing a long-existing plan to add new piers that will allow for greater cargo capacity and room for vessel overflow. Another project long in the planning phase (since 1988) is a new library building that finally began construction during the summer of 2005 with occupancy anticipated for July 2006.

Economic Development Information: Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce, 500 Market St., PO Box 239, Portsmouth, NH 03802-0239; telephone (603)436-3988. New Hampshire Office of Business and Economic Development, c/o NH Business Resource Center, PO Box 1856, 172 Pembroke Rd., Concord, NH 03302-1856; telephone (603)271-2341 or (603)271-2591; fax (603)271-6784; email info@nheconomy.com. New Hampshire Small Business Development Center, c/o Rochester Chamber of Commerce, 18 S Main St., Ste. 2A, Rochester, NH 03867; telephone (603)330-1929; fax (603)330-1948; email wdaniel@cisunix.unh.edu

Commercial Shipping

The only seaport in the state and the only deepwater harbor between Portland, Maine, and Boston, Massachusetts, Portsmouth remains a major New England port of entry. The port, a designated Foreign Trade Zone, includes a state-operated marine terminal. Container service to Halifax and European destinations is available weekly. The port continues to play an increasingly important role in Atlantic shipping, and, as of 2005, the Port Authority was in the process of adding new piers to facilitate the handling of more cargo and barge services. Public and private terminals along the Piscataqua River account for in excess of five million tons of cargo per year. In addition to the port facilities, Portsmouth shipping includes the Guilford Transportation Industries railroad and around 20 regular truck route carriers. Air freight service is available at three commercial airports within an hour's drive.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Portsmouth workers are described as young, well-educated, with a good work ethic, and attracted to the city in part because of the short commute to work. The labor pool includes workers with diversified skills while the nearby colleges offer strong academic and technical support. Nearly 42 percent of those older than 25 years have a bachelor's degree or higher while 91 percent are high school graduates.

Considered a viable alternative to Boston for both living and working, Portsmouth is ideally situated for business expansion in both national and international markets with the Port of Portsmouth offering area manufacturers direct worldwide access. The redevelopment of the former Pease Air Force Base has created numerous commercial business opportunities for companies that repair, maintain, and retrofit aircraft as well as vendors and suppliers for those types of facilities. In 1999 the eCoast Technology Roundtable was established to recruit high-tech businesses and professionals to the area.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Portsmouth metropolitan area labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of nonagricultural labor force: 54,300

Number of workers employed in . . .

construction and mining: 1,800

manufacturing: 4,000

trade, transportation, and utilities: 11,300

information: 1,600

financial activities: 4,800

professional and business services: 8,000

educational and health services: 5,500

leisure and hospitality: 6,300

other services: 1,600

government: 9,400

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: Not reported

Unemployment rate: 1.4% (April 2005)

Portsmouth: Economy

Largest employers in the Portsmouth region Number of employees
Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. 1,800
Portsmouth Regional Hospital 1,000
City of Portsmouth 881
Demoulas Market Basket 425
Lonza Biologics 390
Erie Scientific/Sybron Lab Products 310
Pan Am Airlines 300
U.S. Department of State National Passport Center 259
Shaw's Supermarkets, Inc. 226
U.S. Department of State National Visa Center 215

Cost of Living

New Hampshire historically ranks among the lowest in the nation in the percentage of residents' income collected for state taxes and fees. New Hampshire depends more upon real property taxes for revenue than most states as it does not have general income, sales, or use taxes. Substantial revenue is collected from taxes on gasoline, tobacco, alcohol, and parimutuel betting.

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors in the Portsmouth area.

2004 ACCRA Cost of Living Index: Not reported

2004 ACCRA Average House Price: Not reported

State income tax rate: None on earned income; 5% on interest and dividends (with some exceptions); 8.5% business profit taxes; 18% inheritance and estate tax

State sales tax rate: None

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: None

Property tax rate: $17.17 per $1,000 of valuation (2004)

Economic Information: Community Development Department, City of Portsmouth, 1 Junkins Ave., Portsmouth, NH 03801; telephone (603)610-7218