By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — The town has been known as a retail mecca for years, attracting scores of stores and restaurants to Route 28.
Now, Salem is making its mark as a medical community, drawing numerous businesses in the health field to prime real estate space off Interstate 93.
Yesterday, the state Division of Economic Development announced it has helped bring a medical imaging firm to town.
Gamma Medica Inc. recently opened at 12 Manor Parkway, bringing 24 jobs, according to president and CEO Jim Calandra. The company, which is leasing 8,000 square feet, plans to hire about 30 people in the next year, he said.
The start-up firm, launched in July, is a spinoff of a former California company that filed for bankruptcy protection, said Calandra, a longtime Windham resident. It specializes in improving breast cancer detection.
Gamma narrowed it choices for a new location to the San Francisco Bay and Boston areas, he said.
New Hampshire has a more favorable tax climate than Massachusetts and is able to attract highly skilled employees from the Boston area, Calandra said.
The company opted to move to Salem with help from Michael Bergeron, business development manager for the state Division of Economic Development.
Bergeron said he's worked to bring about a half dozen businesses to Salem over the last several years, including Entersays, CCS Companies and AgaMatrix, another medical device company.
"We sell the attributes of New Hampshire as a low-tax area, but we sell the Salem area as a good area for medical companies," he said.
More medical-related businesses have lined up behind Gamma, seeking approval to locate in Salem. That includes a 42,000-square-foot surgery center and medical office building proposed at 14-22 Keewaydin Drive.
Last night, the Planning Board was to hold a public hearing on a request from 14-22 Keewaydin Drive LLC to convert a former industrial building into medical space, according to town planner Ross Moldoff.
The Keewaydin Drive proposal is just one of several presented to the Planning Board in recent months.
Others include plans for a 8,000-square-foot medical office building and urgent care center at 159 N. Broadway, the former Service Credit Union building, Moldoff said. The Planning Board heard the site plan approval request by developer AV3 Properties two weeks ago.
Mark Gross of MHF Design Consultants, project representative for the Keewaydin Drive and North Broadway proposals, declined to comment before the board rules on the requests.
These latest proposals come on the heels of other medical firms receiving approval earlier this year, including a kidney dialysis center operated by Fresenius Medical Care North America at 19 Keewaydin Drive. Another dialysis center opened on Pelham Road, Moldoff said.
In addition, Parkland Medical Center opened a new urgent care facility on Stiles Road.
Parkland Urgent Care was one of three such centers to open along the Interstate 93 corridor in the last year. There are also centers in Windham, Pelham and Londonderry.
"In one year, it is interesting to see that much medical space," Moldoff said.