Andy Raynor NH
A premier location. An airport. Land – and enough of it – for industrial development. Major improvements taking place where Interstate 93 runs through it. And beer. We caught up with Will Stewart, president of the Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, who filled us in on what’s happening and what’s ahead in this region.
1. Derry-Londonderry is one busy place these days, which is great to see. The region had a great piece of news at the end of 2015, with the ribbon cutting at Pettengill Road. What’s all the excitement about there?
It sure is busy place, and the newly-opened Pettengill Road is at the epicenter of the excitement right now. The road itself is less than a mile in length, but it opens up nearly 1,000 acres to industrial development, right alongside Manchester-Boston Regional Airport and between Route 3 and Interstate 93. This is the biggest single economic development opportunity in the state since the creation of the Pease International. About 1.2 million square feet has already been built, or is under construction there, with more in the pipeline. This is truly a case of “if you build it, they will come.”
2. The latest 10-year transportation plan recently submitted by Gov. Hassan includes plans for Interstate 93 and Exit 4A. How important is this for the communities?
It’s huge. Exit 4A is going to be a game-changer for the entire region, but especially for the towns of Derry and Londonderry. Like Pettengill Road, Exit 4A will make possible new development opportunities, including the Woodmont Commons planned unit development. Spanning 629 acres, Woodmont Commons will be a vibrant mixed-use urban village – a town within a town – featuring shopping, dining, entertainment venues, as well as residential, office, educational, and medical facilities.
3. Travelers coming north from Massachusetts and points south on I-93 pass through Greater Derry Londonderry. What are some reasons for people to take a break and spend some time?
This is a great spot to break up a trip, whether for a day, an afternoon, or just an hour or so. For those in a hurry we have great restaurants that are just off the interstate. For those who have a little more time, we have some of the state’s best apple orchards and pick-your-own farms, not to mention standout attractions like the Robert Frost Farm, the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire and Tupelo Music Hall. The greater Derry-Londonderry region also boast the state’s longest section of paved rail trail, which attracts bicyclists and others from surrounding towns and even surrounding states.
4. The area is such a great location for businesses and industry, but it’s also a great place to live. What’s your favorite story about a business inspired by the unique opportunities here?
Back in 2013, Melanie Davis and Carmel Shea were at the end of their bicycle ride on the Derry Rail Trail. Hungry and thirsty, the two friends looked around downtown Derry for some place they might be able to grab a snack and an iced coffee.
And while they saw plenty of great restaurants and lunch spots in downtown Derry, Davis and Shea said they didn’t see any coffee shops, or any other downtown establishments where they would be comfortable entering clad in bike gear and carrying their helmets. So in true entrepreneurial fashion, the two set out to solve the problem they encountered.
Such was the spark for the opening The Grind Rail Trail Cafe, a community-focused, bicycle-themed specialty coffee bar in historic downtown Derry. Today, The Grind is one of the most popular spots in town (and my favorite out-of-office meeting spot).
5. We’ve talked about transportation, commerce and lifestyle. But we need to talk about beer. What’s up with the brew industry?
Yes, we absolutely do need to talk beer. Much to the delight of area residents and those passing through, the towns of Derry and Londonderry boast four – yes, four! – craft breweries and one meadery. And they’re all within a stone’s throw from both one another and Interstate 93. I’m not aware of any other place in the state (or elsewhere for that matter) that has that high of a concentration of breweries so close together. The region also boasts a bevy of other brew-related businesses, from one operating a portable canning line to one specializing in the installation and maintenance of draft beer lines.
Andy Raynor nh