Portsmouth has a proud heritage as a working harbor,
spanning 300 years of service to the shipping community and is distinguished
as one of the oldest working ports in the United States.
One of the key resources for continued economic growth for the Seacoast is the region's ability to capitalize on and expand its excellent transportation facilities at Pease International Tradeport and the Port of New Hampshire.
The closure of Pease Air Force Base in 1991, perceived to be a severe blow initially, has provided a rare opportunity for New Hampshire to oversee the integrated development of Pease International Tradeport as both a commercial airport and a unique economic development project.
Meanwhile, the Port of New Hampshire, which traces its lineage to the 17th century, has embarked on an ambitious expansion project which promises to increase the port's trade capabilities. Together, Pease and the Port are creating a window of opportunity that looks toward a bright future for the Seacoast.
Aviation first came to the New Hampshire Seacoast shortly after World War I. Using Portsmouth Fair Grounds as their airport, pilots barnstormed their way into the area in 1919 by providing airplane rides to local residents. Early in the 1930s, Portsmouth built a 300-acre airport, and one of its first commercial users was Northeast Airlines. With the onset of World War II, the airport was used by the U.S. Navy.
In 1951, the U.S. Air Force chose Portsmouth Airport as the prime location to build an air base, and Portsmouth AFB (as it was known then) opened in 1956. In 1957, the Air Force dedicated and renamed the base in honor of World War II B-17 pilot Captain Harl Pease, Jr., who had posthumously earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism in the Pacific theater. Over the years, Pease AFB was host to two Strategic Air Command units: the 100th Bomb Wing (BMW) from 1956 to 1966 and the 509th BMW, which came to Pease in 1958.
Pease was included on the Department of Defense's 1988 base realignments and closures list with a closure date of March 31, 1991. In April of 1989, the State Legislature established the Pease Redevelopment Commission (PRC). The primary responsibility of the PRC was to plan for the base closure and redevelopment. The commission approved the Pease Comprehensive Redevelopment Plan in May 1990. The plan envisioned an international aviation hub in concert with high-technology industrial development, making the best use of an 11,300-foot runway in close proximity to an excellent multi-modal transportation system comprised of the Port of New Hampshire, major highways and rail access.
To implement the plan and to acquire property from the Air Force, the New Hampshire legislature and attorney general's office drafted a law creating the Pease Development Authority (PDA). The PDA, charged with bringing industry and jobs to the former Pease Air Force Base, is guided by an overall mission that recognizes the priorities of balancing development while preserving New Hampshire's quality of life and environment.
Pease Airport opened for civilian use through an Airfield Joint Use Agreement with the Air Force on July 19, 1991. The PDA hired a marketing consultant soon afterward, which produced and distributed materials to christen the Pease International Tradeport.
On April 14, 1992, the Air Force and the PDA signed the Airport Public Benefit Transfer Application and Lease of Airport Property (55-year "master" lease) which included 1,702 acres for the purpose of developing a public airport. In just two years, the PDA proved itself successful in bringing aviation and non-aviation-related industry to the tradeport. The final 1,300 acres were transferred in July 1997.
Pease International Tradeport
The PDA marked a major aviation-related milestone Dec. 17, 1998 with the opening of its new $5.6 million passenger terminal and customs facility, and the arrival of the newly established Pan Am Airways, Inc. The passenger terminal will allow the tradeport to receive international passenger and cargo aircraft, forging a new link in the New Hampshire global trade, travel and tourism markets. Today, Gilford Transportation Industries (owners of Pan American Airways) has its corporate headquarters at Pease International Tradeport where Pan Am provides passenger service to the Sanford/Orlando areas in Florida; Gary, Indiana/Chicago, Illinois; Bangor, Maine and Pittsburg, Penn. The airline also runs a charter service to St. Martin and St. Kitts in cooperation with a local travel agency that offers vacation packages to the Carribean Islands. Pan American Services provides fixed base operator services for general aviation operations at the Tradeport.
Emery Worldwide Airfreight, BAX Global and SeaCoast Aviation operate out of the new 50,000 square-foot air cargo facility at Pease. Over the past year, the airport has seen a 38-percent increase in cargo operations and the trend is expected to continue given the availability of space at the airport.
Pease is home to many corporate and private aircraft which occupy former Quonset-style shade hangars on the runway apron, as well as four other 28,000 square-foot hangars. Tyco International, Ltd., a Fortune 500 company, has constructed a 17,000-square-foot hangar to house its corporate aircraft. Fisher Scientific, a Hampton-based Fortune 500 company, has kept its corporate aircraft at Pease since 1991.
The New Hampshire Air National Guard's 157th Air Refueling Group, which operates 10 KC-135R aerial refueling tankers out of Pease, shares the airfield. The NHANG contributes both funding and airfield services, such as the Pease Fire Department and contracted 24-hour tower service, to the overall operations at the airport.
Land-side developments have also been a success at Pease International Tradeport. The U.S. State Department completed extensive renovations on the former base exchange and commissary, paving the way for the National Passport Center and the National Visa Center. Together, these two components of the Portsmouth Consular Center employ approximately 400 people. In the former housing area, major changes are underway, including a high technology park where Lonza Biologics, Redhook Ale Brewery, a micro brewery and public ale house; Marriott Residence Inn; and Franklin Pierce College have constructed new facilities.
BayRing Communications, a long-distance and local telephone service provider; Celestica Corp., a computer manufacturing outsourcing company; Northern Research & Engineering Corporation, a division of Ingersol-Rand; and the Corporation for Laser Optics Research (COLOR), a state-of-the-art laser projection systems manufacturer, represent a handfull of the high-tech companies currently operating at the Tradeport.
Current construction projects include 325 Corporate Drive, a 10,000 square-foot office space; 222 International Drive, a 58,000 square-foot light industrial/office complex site with a mezzanine; 110 Corporate Drive 56,000 square feet of mixed-use office and light assembly space; 119 Rye Street, a building that offers three spaces featuring 5,800, 7,500 and 50,000 square-foot areas.
In cooperation with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, the PDA announced the opening of the Tradeport's new south entrance in November 1999. The entrance features direct access to Interstate 95, a park and ride area, bus terminal and free trolley service for airport passengers destined for the Marriott Residence Inn, the bus terminal and downtown Portsmouth. The service is provided by COAST Transportation in cooperation with the Pease Development Authority.
The face of the Pease International Tradeport is constantly changing. New tenants like the Boulos Group have plans to construct two 70,000 square-foot facilities for professional, business, and research and development activities. Alliance Aircraft Corporation has leased three existing buildings at the Tradeport and one in Dover, N.H. as they begin staffing a startup company to design and building new state-of-the-art jet aircraft ranging in size from 55-110 seats.
"Pease International Tradeport offers businesses industrial and office space, aviation cargo space within a Foreign Free Trade Zone, and the convenience of free parking and transportation from the Tradeport to downtown Portsmouth," said George Meyer, executive director of the PDA. "Our aim is to provide quality development resources to business and ease of travel for the travel and tourism markets. I think we're well on our way to making the Tadeport 'the' economic engine of New Hampshire. Our 11,300 foot runway, Interstate 95 and the Port of New Hampshire all combine to make our region one of the most dynamic development areas in the country."
Port of NH
Portsmouth has a proud heritage as a working harbor, spanning 300 years of service to the shipping community, and is distinguished as one of the oldest working ports in the United States.
The Piscataqua River Basin's recorded seafaring history began with a visit in 1603 by English explorer Martin Pring and witnessed tremendous activity in the following three centuries. Throughout the Revolutionary War, World War I and World War II, and amid major historical and cultural changes, Portsmouth Harbor grew to support a thriving international trade business. As communities were settled along the banks of the Piscataqua, and businesses flourished along New Hampshire's Seacoast, Portsmouth became recognized internationally as a prime industrial shipping center.
In 1957, the New Hampshire State Legislature created the New Hampshire State Port Authority (NHPA) as an autonomous state agency. The organization is overseen by a board of directors appointed by the governor and executive council.
The mission of the Port Authority is to develop and manage the state's tidal waters in a way that stimulates commerce and the shipment of freight through the port, and to cooperate with other state and federal government agencies in the planning, maintenance, development and use of the port, harbors and navigable rivers. The Port Authority fulfills this mission through ongoing harbor management, port development, port marketing, trade development and Foreign Trade Zone operation.
Today, activity at the Port includes pleasure boating, and sport and commercial fishing, in addition to bulk and general cargo transport from points around the world. The Port's strategic location makes it ideal for import and export operations with European trading partners as well as businesses in the Middle East, Africa and the Pacific Rim.
The Port is ice-free year-round and is the closest ice-free port to Europe, with a clear 3-mile transit from the sea buoy 2KR to the dock. There is also full rail service to NHPA and many other private facilities nearby, and access to Interstate Highway 95 is only a half-mile away. The port channel is maintained at 35 feet (salt water) and has bridge clearances between 135 and 150 feet.
The present facility consists of 11 acres of waterside open storage and a 600-foot concrete and steel wharf with 35 feet of salt-water draft. The wharf can accommodate vessels of up to 700 feet LOA. There is also a 300-foot barge and container pier on site. Vessels of all types have put in at the Port, including general-purpose liners, bulk carriers, passenger ships, container carriers, feeder vessels, barges and US. Navy ships. The Port also features ample supplies of fresh water, stores, bunkers, telephones and its own heliport site.
The Port of New Hampshire is the Grantee of Foreign Trade Zone #81 with five nearby sites. The Port itself has 10 acres within the FTZ including 50,000 square feet of warehouse space for display and processing operations. Sub-zones also remain active in the state.
Corporations and businesses in the region recognize the value of the NHPA as a resource. Sprague Energy in Newington handles a variety of cargo, including oil, asphalt, salt, cement and ore products. Sea 3, Inc. imports propane gas, a vital resource to the region. Commercial non-industrial users of the Port include two tour boat operators, military vessels, environmental research vessels and boat charters.
The New Hampshire State Port Authority works hand in hand in a public/private partnership with a private Marine Terminal operator. The Port is looking to diversify cargo shipped in and out of the terminal and to increase economic development to the region by stimulating commerce.
An ambitious program to expand the NHPA is currently underway. A 300-foot barge facility pier was recently completed, and an additional 750-foot pier project is in the planning stage. These new piers will accommodate additional bulk cargo products, and container and barge services. They will also provide for overflow vessels, tall ships, visiting Navy vessels and cruise boats.
Other improvements already completed at the facility include the resurfacing of the Port's 600-foot pier and the installation of new fenders and bollards. The facility's bulk storage and parking areas have also been paved, and the terminal scale has been increased from 60 to 70 feet.
New Hampshire's skilled workers produce some of the highest quality manufactured products in the world. The ability to bring these products to a global market is essential, and the Port of New Hampshire's public docks provide the deep water ocean access shippers need to carry our products to the world.