Gateway to Maine

Town of Kittery

The summer gathering place is known for its white sand beaches, cobblestone streets, and sparkling blue waters dotted with sun-bleached sails.

Tourists also flock to the community’s quaint lighthouses and numerous historical sites. Kittery dates all the way back to 1647, when the plantations around the natural harbor of the Piscataqua River estuary formally incorporated. The town’s name comes from the birthplace of one of the town’s founders, Alexander Shapleigh, whose manor house in Devon, England was called Kittery Court.

A wealth of historic homes and fine architecture have survived to this day. For example, Kittery’s First Congregational Church, founded in 1714, is housed in the oldest church building in continuous use in the state of Maine. Constructed in 1730, the building still boasts a number of original features, including a 284 year old pulpit and the two-aisle design seen in traditional New England meetinghouses.

After guarding the town’s shores for nearly 300 years, historic Fort McClary is now open for tours. John Paul Jones State Historic Site features a striking memorial to Maine’s sailors and soldiers who fought in the First World War. The popular park is named after a Revolutionary War hero who commanded the sloop Ranger, a warship that was built and launched from nearby Badger’s Island.

Kittery’s number one draw is not its picturesque beaches or remarkable history, however; the town is best known for its shopping. This reputation began with the founding and expansion of the Kittery Trading Post, which quickly became a landmark for fishermen, hunters and outdoor enthusiasts visiting Maine. The success of Kittery Trading Post paved the way for the town’s famous outlet shops lining the Route 1 retail corridor, which attract thousands of shoppers each year. Popular retailers include Adidas, Brooks Brothers, Calvin Klein, Gap, Lindt Chocolates, Nike, Old Navy, Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Swarovski and Timberland – and many more.

Kittery’s shopping, entertainment, and dining opportunities also go well beyond its famous outlets. “People are pretty well acquainted with the Kittery Outlets, but what they may not know about Kittery is that there is a burgeoning local business community as well,” says Kittery Town Manager Nancy Colbert Puff. “We have a lot of new gift shops, restaurants and art galleries.”

Foreside, Kittery’s traditional downtown, is buzzing with activity and is quickly gaining a reputation as the region’s hippest new place to be. A thriving arts community supports numerous art studios, art galleries, craft stores, and theatres in Kittery Foreside and the surrounding area. In fact, artisans make up a sizable portion of the town’s workforce.

Dining opportunities include an eclectic range of independent and nationally awarded restaurants, from Indian, Mexican, Thai, and Chinese, to wood-fired pizzerias, neighborhood bistros, seafood restaurants, clam shacks and lobster houses – a New England favorite. Kittery also has seven major supermarkets and shopping plazas all within seven miles of the Town Center, as well as smaller neighborhood convenience stores, sandwich shops, and old-time general stores.

In addition, Kittery’s convenient location puts the town within an hour’s drive of countless sporting events and outdoor recreation opportunities, including AAA hockey and baseball, 38 ski resorts, woodlands, lakes, rivers, and mountains. There are also 22 colleges within a 40 mile radius, from the Landing School of Boat Building and Design with an enrollment of just 68, to a major university with over 13,000 students. As well, the new Kittery Community Center at Frisbee Common and its Performing Arts Center provide a gathering place for meetings, fundraisers, and performances.

The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, located on Kittery’s Seavey Island, remains the oldest continuously operating shipyard in the US Navy. The facility’s 6,500 employees are currently focused on remodeling and repairing the newest class of US Navy nuclear submarines. The shipyard’s presence has helped the area grow into a manufacturing hub, particularly manufacturing that involves high-tech, chemical / biological and nanotechnology devices, a mix of talent that continues to draw even more next-generation technology firms into the area. Kittery has also recently become a regional center for healthcare.

Incoming businesses are attracted to Kittery’s healthy economy and welcoming business environment. Maine’s property tax rates for businesses are identical to the residential rate; in Kittery that rate in FY14 was $15.22 per thousand (based on 100 percent of property value). State corporate income tax is nearly one third of New Hampshire’s – which is located just next door – and excise and property taxes are at least one third lower. Furthermore, manufacturers are exempt from paying 95 percent of the sales tax on fuel and/or electricity used in their manufacturing operations.

Central Maine Power (CMP) is Kittery’s primary electricity provider, but there are exchanges where businesses may be able to find cost savings. The majority of local businesses rely on fuel oil for heating. A little more than 10 percent rely on gas, but there is a burgeoning compressed natural gas availability, including a new station just minutes away.

Kittery supports new, expanding, or relocating businesses in a variety of ways. Generous local and state programs abound, and businesses can find multiple ways to recoup tax money when they invest in material, capital, and human resources to create new business and jobs in Kittery. “That includes three tax increment financing districts in place within our commerce and business park zones to support municipal infrastructure improvements from development and provisions to work to developers’ benefit through credit enhancement agreements,” Kittery’s Economic Development Committee reports.

The town also boasts a Capital Improvement Program that is mature and self-sustaining, providing ample funding for a number of major additions and improvements throughout the town over the last six years. Upgrades have been made to Kittery’s three schools, the wastewater treatment system, the solid waste Resource Recovery Facility, Fire Department facilities and equipment, the port and harbor piers and facilities, and the public works department.

In addition, the Town’s fiscal health recently earned an AA+ bond rating by Standard & Poor’s, a coveted rating nearly unheard of for a town of Kittery’s size.

Kittery businesses also enjoy close proximity to a variety of transportation options. The Business Park and Commercial zones have direct access to Interstate 95/the Maine Turnpike, which sees at least 100,000,000 vehicles annually. Access became even easier last year, when the 1923 Memorial Bridge to Portsmouth on US Route 1 was completely replaced; the Route 1 Bypass Bridge will be replaced within the next two years. The Portsmouth and Kittery harbors support deep-draft ocean vessels, as well as commercial fishing and recreational boats of all sizes. Rail transport is just minutes away, and Boston’s Logan International Airport, Manchester–Boston Regional Airport, and Portland International Jetport are all less than an hour away. High speed fiber-optic broadband internet, telecommunications and cable service is also in place throughout the town.

With so much to offer, Kittery continues to attract new businesses in diverse sectors, from healthcare and biotech to nanotechnology and defense. The town’s convenient location, pristine beaches, and famous outlets also bring in waves of tourists each year – making the Gateway to Maine an ideal place for both work and play.