Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook: Developers saw promise in PeaseBy MIKE COTE
July 20. 2018 2:33PM
PORTSMOUTH - Dan Plummer has a ready answer when you ask him to share the most difficult project his commercial development company at Pease International Tradeport has ever faced.
That would be the first one, says the president of Two International Group. Twenty years ago, the young company was about to open an 85,000-square-foot building and had no tenants to occupy it.
"That was brutal," Plummer says during a talk with his wife and company vice president, Renee Plummer, at their corporate office at One New Hampshire Avenue.
"We had three tenants that would have almost filled it," Dan Plummer says. "In a day and a half, all three - and none of them are related, none of them knew about the other one - a day and a half, and they all called us and they all walked."
That's when Renee Plummer pulled off a marketing coup that resonates to this day. She got on the phone and convinced Caleb Solomon of the Wall Street Journal to visit the newly decommissioned Air Force base. The reporter filed a story about the $8 million three-story spec building and the promise of Pease as an economic engine.
The floodgates opened. Within three months, the building was 100 percent leased. And Two International Group quickly made plans to build three more to accommodate demand. Now the company operates 19 buildings and about 1 million square feet of commercial space at Pease, with two new commercial buildings about to come online as well as a hotel in Kittery, Maine.
Of the 218 businesses operating at Pease, about 130 are located in Two International Group's buildings, according to the company, whose tenants include Liberty Mutual Insurance, Medtronic, Amadeus, Portsmouth Regional Hospital and McKesson Corp. The company has operated as many as 25 buildings over the years, tearing down older ones to construct new ones as buildings age and needs change.
The Plummers remain dumbfounded and thankful about their good fortune - how a newspaper story written by a reporter who seemed to know next to nothing about New Hampshire before he arrived jump-started their business.
"He doesn't know anything about the base. He doesn't know anything about the city of Portsmouth. He writes an article, and he gave it credibility," says Dan Plummer, who adds that the couple remain in touch with Solomon.
Affiliates of Two International Group are nearing completion of an 83-room Hampton Inn & Suites in Kittery on Route 1 adjacent to the Kittery Outlets. At Pease, Two International will soon open 19 Rye Street, a two-story 30,000-square-foot Class A office that will be leased by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. And 85 New Hampshire Avenue, a 28,800-square-foot two-story building, will become the new home of Global Aquaculture Alliance. The nonprofit will double its space to 15,750 square feet when it moves from another Two International property.
That new car smell
During a tour of 85 New Hampshire Avenue, Renee Plummer offers a sneak preview of the second floor that Global Aquaculture Alliance will soon occupy. When she encounters a worker laying down carpet tiles in a large open room, she asks for his blessing to look around.
"Can we walk on it?" she says.
"It's yours, right?" the worker responds.
"Yeah. Right now it is," she says.
Renee and a guest walk across the new carpet only to end up clomping along a patch of sticky surface where tiles have not yet been installed.
"That's probably not the best way to go," the worker says.
It's hard to contain Renee Plummer's enthusiasm for a new building. It reminds her of the smell of a new car, like the black Corvette convertible she drives around with the top down during a tour of her company's holdings.
She's proud of the amenities Two International has brought to Pease, including Great Bay Kids' Co. day care in the 81 New Hampshire Avenue building and the retail services at 14 Manchester Square, which include restaurants, a barber shop and a contract U.S. Postal Service company.
She points out the TVs fitted in the lobbies of the buildings - where people can congregate and catch up on the news, she says - and the rows of flags near the entrances to a couple of the properties, where companies can display their logos - and look international.
"It's a layer of detail that people feel like, 'This is where we are,'" she says. "They're proud to go to work."
Dan Plummer, who grew up in Amherst, runs the development side of the business, leaving the marketing to Renee, a native New Yorker who has become known for her work with the Republican Party as well as community and social causes, including Veterans Count, a charity and assistance program for veterans and military families.
"Danny is a workaholic. And it's great because he just loves this. This is his golf," Renee Plummer says. "And I just love being with people. Now I'm able to help and do more community things, like helping my veterans."
Contact Business Editor Mike Cote at 206-7724 or email@example.com.