Since July 2020, the community has seen the opening of 14 retail and service businesses, all in the downtown area. The city has also welcomed larger manufacturing and distribution businesses, such as a newly opened Pella Windows territory service center. “Logistically, Rochester is very unique in the access that we provide in our location,” says Michael Scala, Director of Economic Development. “Businesses are starting to take notice of that in this logistics economy. We find it’s beneficial to let folks know that you can get anywhere from here. That’s spurred a lot of our development on the larger side. The smaller businesses have been inspired by our increased retail presence. We are the retail engine for Strafford County. Being the fourth largest city in the state, we have a good base for folks to sell their goods. There’s a spirit of entrepreneurship, too. A lot of these businesses are local folks that have had an idea, or they’ve always wanted to do something on their own.”
Rochester is home to a diverse group of companies, including Safran, an aerospace company with a manufacturing facility in the city, and arms manufacturer SIG Sauer recently purchased an existing 210,000 square foot campus, which is being fitted and will be ready to begin production soon. “Another benefit of Rochester is our size,” says Scala. “We are close to 50 square miles and have six business parks. We are one of the few communities that still has developable land in their business parks, although the parcels are getting fewer and fewer.” Many different industries are represented, including Albany International, a global textiles and materials company with a variety of applications including aerospace; Laars, an HVAC manufacturing facility; and Lydall Inc., a specialty filtration products manufacturer.
The city depends on their relationship with Creteau Technical Center, through the local high school, along with Great Bay Community College, to ensure a skilled workforce for local industry. Scala reports, “They work with the local manufacturers to develop courses to provide either new hires that don’t have training or people that are transitioning. Everyone has a need for skilled workers and New Hampshire is no different. Our unemployment rate is just slightly above 2%, so, businesses find themselves poaching a lot. The Portsmouth Navy shipyard is just 30 minutes south of us, and they are a huge employer of the trades, so we’re competing with them also. We do have a lot of skilled folks in the city, but there are not any extra.” The city and state have funded $6 million in upgrades to the high school over the last few years to connect students to skilled trades, and continue to provide a skilled workforce.
Rochester has a population of approximately 35,000 and is poised for growth. City Manager Blaine Cox notes, “We are right on the Spaulding Turnpike, with five exits, so you can be from Portsmouth Route 95, into downtown Rochester in 20 minutes. Also, we do have some undeveloped land, unlike our sister cities to the south, who are saturated. Our prices are attractive compared to our sister cities. So, all those things make us very attractive right now.”
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