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March 20. 2013 10:11PM

Up to 100 jobs possible with proposed assembly facility in Epping

EPPING - A developer is proposing a light assembly and distribution facility behind the Walmart and Lowe's stores that could provide 40 new jobs and another 60 seasonal positions.

The project proposed by property owner Route 125 and 101 Investments LLC was unveiled at a planning board meeting last week, but few details were revealed.

The first phase of the project would include the construction of a 100,000-square-foot building for the unidentified company, but the size would be increased to about 225,000 square feet as part of a future phase, according to Rob Graham of Route 125 and 101 Investments.

Graham declined to name the company interested in the site, saying only that the building would be used for "light assembly and warehousing for distribution."

The company employs about 40 workers throughout the year but increases its workforce to just over 100 during its three busy seasons, Graham said.

"They bring in goods and they assemble them into a package for kits, and they go out for different retail users or direct sales, that kind of stuff," Graham said.

The proposal comes at a time of slow economic recovery in New Hampshire. Economic forecasters predict the state will see only about a 1 percent growth in employment this year. Unlike the years that followed past recessions, New Hampshire's recovery has been slower than the national average.

"We're going to look at this as being a good thing for the community and the area. It's a good thing particularly in this economy," said Joseph Foley, planning board chairman.

The facility would be built on 18 acres behind the Epping Crossing shopping center on Route 125. Graham said two of four commercial development sites would be merged for the project, which could potentially include a third site as well. The fourth site on the property is occupied by Kansas-based propane supplier Ferrellgas, which opened its first propane-storage facility in New Hampshire two years ago.

"We've always anticipated bringing jobs to that site," Graham said. "Epping has always been helpful and right there with us."

He said the application process will take about three to four months with construction beginning sometime next year.

Graham offered a brief overview of the project but must still present a site plan for the planning board's review and approval.

"It sounds like a good use for the site," said Selectman Robert Jordan, who also sits on the planning board as a selectmen's representative.

While Epping's commercial growth has continued even during the tough economic times, Foley said he's worried that it could come to a halt in the future after voters this month for the third time rejected a $2.5 million plan to buy about 75 acres of land with five existing wells. Supporters of the plan urged residents to OK the purchase because the land could provide a future water source for the town.

Officials have expressed concern about the town's ability to meet its future water demands.

"Municipal wells wear out over time," Foley said.

Michael Schidlovsky, president of the Exeter Area Chamber of Commerce, said there's "no doubt that the Epping 125/101 interchange will continue to attract both retail and commercial enterprises." He referred to Exeter Hospital and Core Physicians' newly completed Epping Regional Health Center on Route 125. The new medical office building will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony next week.

Schidlovsky pointed out the benefits of a "value-added" type of business such as a light assembly facility moving into the area.

"The implication of that is that our 'local' workers will now be working at jobs that increase the value of a widget before it is sold elsewhere," he said. "When that happens, albeit in a small way, wealth is built. Wealth that stays local through good payrolls. Dollars that help our local economy."

jschreiber@newstote.com

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