Cutting-edge biotech company at Concord airport could be business magnet for city

By JAMIE L. COSTA

Monitor staff

Published: 03-18-2023 3:02 PM

The arrival of billion-dollar medical research company United Therapeutics at the Concord Airport could signal a wave of new investment in the city and pave the way for other companies to follow suit.

The city of Concord signed a 20-year lease agreement with United Therapeutics Corporation, a Maryland-based biotechnology company that has a facility in Manchester researching artificial organ manufacturing, to build a structure for its corporate jet and pay for runway improvements at the municipal airport.

“UTC’s proposed corporate hangar will give them a physical presence in Concord,” Deputy City Manager Matt Walsh wrote in a summary of the proposal. “Should UTC desire to relocate or expand activities in New Hampshire, their presence at the airport could make Concord an attractive option for their future growth in the region.”

Walsh noted it could be the first of many commercial developments that could be coming to the property.

“UTC’s presence may serve to further raise the profile of the airport across a variety of business sectors, and thus may potentially serve as a catalyst for additional aviation-based development,” Walsh wrote.

The hangar will be constructed near an abandoned section of airstrip and vacant landscape on 2.88 acres of land off Regional Drive bordering the town of Pembroke. United Therapeutics expressed interest in building a private hangar at the airport to hold up to five aircraft, including jets, turboprop planes and helicopters. The 58-foot-tall, 35,000-square-foot building will contain a small conference room, a pilot lounge area and a two-car garage. The lease will begin on April 1 with the expectation that the company will have construction complete by October 2024.

The city expects the building to be worth between $4 million and $5.7 million, which would generate between $102,265 to $141,573 in taxes each year.

“This is an excellent addition to our community,” Walsh told City Councilors at their meeting last week.

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The company’s founder and CEO, Martine A. Rothblatt, is an accomplished pilot and passionate aviation enthusiast whose interests include development of electric-powered aircraft, Walsh said.

The company, which was established in 1966, specializes in treatments for high blood pressure in the lungs and pediatric cancers and is on the cutting edge of research and development of organ manufacturing.

“Its corporate mission, values and culture are nothing short of inspiring,” Walsh said.

Wedged between the National Guard building and a row of commercial buildings off Chenell Drive, the private planes and jets will likely operate once a day at most to transport company executives and clients to and from the city of Concord, Evan Herron of Silver Maple Construction said during the Concord Planning Board meeting Wednesday night.

“They have a strong presence in the southeast of the United States and it’s growing in the northeast, which is why they’ve chosen Concord as a strategic spot to build this hangar,” Herron continued. “They will take the plane in, hop in a car for their meetings, return to the airport and fly home.”

Over the course of the 20-year lease, the rental rate will increase by 3% annually and is expected to generate anywhere from $1.1 million to $3.3 million for the city, in addition to annual tax revenue.

“UTC is one of the world’s premiere biotechnology companies. The city has long desired to attract such businesses to the community,” Walsh wrote. “UTC’s presence in Concord advances this long-standing goal.”

The company was unable to reach an agreement to build a similar hangar at the Manchester airport and approached the city of Concord instead. The decision, Walsh continued, will bring more opportunity for development like this to Concord.

“We’ve gotten a lot of interest, and we are working with another potential partner and a few other folks that are in the wings — no pun intended — are out there,” Walsh said. “If it all comes together, it would be amazing.”

The proposal received major site plan approval from the planning board Wednesday night after the council agreed to the lease on Monday.

United Therapeutics “is extremely eager to move forward with construction and will do so immediately once all permits are finalized,” Walsh wrote.

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