14 Jul What Would the Northern Pass Mean for Main Street? Rep. Steve Rand, Owner of Rand Hardware, Explains.
To: Counsel for the Public and Consultant Tom Kavet
I am very concerned about the impact of the Northern Pass project, should it be buried, as planned, down Main Street Plymouth. I am the third generation owner of Rand’s Hardware, a 110-year-old business right on Main Street in the heart of the Town. We employ 18 people in our business and are the only hardware store in Plymouth. Our business includes Blue Seal feeds, a full service rental department, the area’s only plumbing supply wholesale or retail outlet, service for our Stihl lawn and garden equipment and more usual hardware store items, all housed in three buildings, a total of about 20,000 square feet.
Main Street is the main artery of access to our business both for vehicles and for pedestrians. Anything that affects Main Street has an immediate impact on our business. We have worked hard to survive all the competitive forces that have been thrown our way over the years, including, in recent years, Wal-Mart, big box home improvement stores, internet providers like Amazon and smaller regional competitors, like Aubuchon and Tractor Supply. So far, we have survived to continue our tradition of service to our strong customer base. Our ability to serve these customers depends upon their ability to access our business. We are strictly a bricks and mortar operation.
If a huge project to bury high voltage power lines were to impose itself on our Main Street, we could lose half of our business during the worst of it. I understand that the project could tie up Main Street for at least 6 weeks, possibly 11 weeks. For calculation purposes, if it turns out to be 8 weeks, and we lost 1/2 of our business during this busiest time of our commercial year (April to July), we could expect to lose on the order of $100,000 in gross profit. As I understand it, there is no compensation offered to us as part of the package.
I am sure of these magnitude of consequences because of a similar experience that our business had in the Nineties, when the Town of Plymouth tore up the sidewalks and pavement on Main Street to install new curbing, paving, sidewalks and street lighting. The project took place over several months and involved extensive excavation, rebuilding of all sorts of infrastructure both above and below ground, resulting in a huge impact on customer flow. My guess is that its financial impact was less than what Northern Pass will be, because the project was done in stages and did not affect every business for the full duration. Although Rand’s survived, many of our neighbor-businesses did not. Main Street ended up with several vacancies and the business “tide” was lowered for all. Despite the negative impact, the town center did end up as a more pleasant, better looking place that has shown itself to be more conducive to customer visits in the many years since. Unfortunately, I expect no such “end of the day” positives from the Eversource plan.
I ask, then, why a for-profit company, Eversource, with a foreign partner, Hydro Quebec, who is simply using NH as a conduit to transmit electricity to MA, CT and RI, with no payment to the State of NH, and none announced for the Town of Plymouth, with no invitation from me, should cost me $100,000 in lost gross profit, without any consultation or compensation?
In addition, I ask what my customers, who rely on day to day access to our store for products, like horse and poultry feeds, nuts and bolts, rental equipment that they use to conduct their businesses, and plumbing supplies to repair problems, will need to do to accommodate the profit motive of this big-business multi-national organization? How will they be compensated for their inconvenience? How far will they have to travel to find a replacement source? Once they have found a new source, will they ever return to my store as their continuing provider?
I am sure that the cost to my business will not occur only during the project period. Rand’s has spent over 100 years earning the shopping habits of its customers. For that habit to be interrupted over 2-4 months means that they may form new habits that could exclude Rand’s as their main or preferred vendor. Additional hundreds of thousands of lost sales dollars could occur over the years.
This is pure madness, and I reject the idea that any justice would be served by this arrangement. For me, this is more than a financial risk. It is a threat to my lifestyle and the preferred lifestyles of the people of Plymouth and surrounding towns. We should be allowed to enjoy dealing with our challenges and small victories without having to deal with somebody else’s need to make a profit.
As I read the research it is clear to me that there is no impending emergency or civilization-threatening need for the project as it is now proposed. The alternative site, the buried line down I-93, as provided by the newly-designated energy corridor of the State of NH, is the only plan that enjoys the support of the Town of Plymouth, as voted by us. To bring the line down Main Street and Route 3 might be a temporary advantage to Eversource, but a huge pain to the public and a life-threatening menace to businesses like mine.
Thank you for all your efforts on our behalf to see that the real costs of this project are known and incorporated into the decision process of the SEC. I am available at any time for testimony or further information. As you can see, I am willing to open my financials in order to see that the understanding of impacts is substantiated.
NH State Representative, Grafton Dist 8
A. M. Rand Company (Rand’s Hardware)
71 Main Street, Plymouth NH 03264