City of Opportunity

Dover, New Hampshire

With a rich heritage and lineage to the past, (her family roots in the city of Dover date back to the early 1600s), Mayor Weston is still actively involved in her family run business, a familiar presence in Dover since 1924. And it is this strong relationship with her past, along with a keen business sense, that enables Mayor Weston to share her enthusiastic vision for New Hampshire’s fastest growing city and its future – a future that synchronizes the past and the present with a clear vision of what can be.

Founded in 1623, with a present population of 32,000, the city of Dover (the Garrison City) is located in Strafford County along the seacoast area of New Hampshire. The city rests halfway between Portland, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts and is the oldest permanent settlement in the state and the seventh oldest settlement in the United States.

Ranked one of the top 100 communities to live in the U.S. by Money Magazine, Dover is setting a state wide precedent with respect to innovation and recognition as the ‘City of Opportunity.’ “We’ve always tried to be a leader,” shares Mayor Weston. “We have many cities and towns around the state that look to Dover for guidance, which is impressive.”

With four rivers running through the city – the Cocheco, Salmon Falls, Bellamy and Piscataqua – Dover served as a shipbuilding center in the 1700s and by the 1800s was home to the nation’s leading manufacturers of cotton goods. Subsequently, Dover became known as a ‘mill town’, as evidenced by the restored mill buildings in the city’s downtown which now serve as mixed use properties.

“We now have development within our mills,” shares the Mayor. “Under our zoning ordinances we’ve allowed multi-use, so we have some businesses and some residential. We’ve tried really hard to attract other businesses… our attitudes have changed. We’re pro business.”

Incentives for new business

As part of Dover’s Economic Development incentive, the city has adopted and implemented TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Districts, authorized by the New Hampshire Legislature since 1979.

A TIF District is an approval process in which a municipality may reserve part or all of its incremental project tax revenue to fund new public infrastructure that will promote and encourage private investment. A TIF District has to be approved by Dover City Council and says Mayor Weston, “We really reach out to companies and want them to come in. A few months ago we adopted a TIF District. We looked at other TIF Districts [within New Hampshire] and incorporated things that worked for them… This helps new businesses to come in and will help them out.”

Revitalization is a priority for designated communities in New Hampshire that want to encourage economic growth and welcome its subsequent business opportunities and job creation. The state’s Economic Revitalization Zone (ERZ) Tax Credit Program acts as a special incentive for new and existing businesses to expand or relocate. Dover qualifies for five districts with an ERZ designation as determined by the Commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED).

The amount of tax credit available for any business is dependent on such factors as capital investment, salary level of employees and the number of jobs created. Businesses qualifying may use these tax credits against their Profit and Enterprise Tax. Dover has five areas qualifying for the ERZ Program and Mayor Weston explains that, “By creating these ERZ Zones these [businesses] will work directly with the state to process their applications and apply for the program. By establishing these ERZ zones we’ve removed that local hurdle from the process. It’s definitely a timeliness incentive.”

Additionally, the Dover Economic Loan Program provides financial assistance to existing and new businesses that represent promising economic viability. The city-funded program offers assistance to corporations, startups and expansions. Businesses that can’t receive full funding from banks can draw on the Loan Program to supplement the difference. The program “fills in gap financing,” says Mayor Weston. “We’ll do everything we can to take care of the hurdles.”

Taking advantage of location

Dover has three business and industrial parks located just outside the city’s downtown and within ERZs. All parks offer opportunities for growth and expansion with easy access to major highways and multi-modal freight transport. Amtrak provides service to Boston, Massachusetts and Portland, Maine.

The essential I-95, the Maine to Florida corridor, is nearby via the Spaulding Turnpike. The Portsmouth International Airport is also located nearby at Pease International Tradeport which offers both domestic and international flights as well as commercial shipping capabilities at the Port of Portsmouth.

Post secondary institutes such as the University of New Hampshire are located six miles from the city and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are within an hour and a half’s drive. Less than a half hour away are Great Bay and York County Community Colleges.

Mayor Weston affirms that with a broad range of thriving sectors such as aerospace, healthcare, IT and manufacturing, to name a few, there is no particular sector that is lagging. In fact, “To be perfectly honest, I don’t think that we’re lagging in anything,” she confirms. “We have a good relationship between staff, City Council and the Planning Department. We work well together. We all realize that we need a balance. Right now we’re promoting economic development… we’re also working on the relationship with our surrounding communities.”

Must see

The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire, in downtown Dover, offers children two floors of interactive exhibits, exploring the worlds of science, art and culture. Children learn from a hands-on approach, applying problem solving techniques based on real world situations through materials and tools. Founded in 1983, the Museum relocated from Portsmouth to Dover in 2008. The museum has seen over three million visitors to date and is New Hampshire’s most visited cultural and educational institution.

The Museum has received numerous awards including the Citizen’s Bank award – Champions in Action; the Governor’s Award for Cultural Access Leadership; and the Promising Practice Award from the Association of Children’s Museums.

Established in 1916, The Woodman Institute Museum comprises four historic brick buildings dedicated to science, the arts and local and natural history. The Museum has the largest American rock and mineral collection north of Boston, with numerous art pieces and antiques. The Museum grounds display the oldest house in Dover as well as the state’s oldest intact garrison house, built in 1675. In 1980, the Museum was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Mayor Weston explains that there’s no room for boredom in Dover with its ice arena, two public pools, parks, trails and playing fields for the outdoor enthusiast. The city’s Rotary Arts Pavilion also features live outdoor entertainment.

To be sure, Dover is a business focused city with a unique historic appeal. Mayor Karen Weston sums up her strong sentiment for this place called home: “What’s great about Dover is that we blend the old with the new,” she says. “The quality of life is awesome. Dover is the future of New Hampshire and a secure city to live, work and play.”

October 20, 2017, 2:02 PM EDT

Wind on the Rise

In the world of renewable energy, wind power is growing fast. It is projected that 10 percent of the energy generated in the United States will come from wind farms by 2020. Offshore wind farms are a relatively new addition to the American energy market, but the technology has been well established in Europe and is now taking off state-side as well.