National report gives N.H. economy high marks


New Hampshire’s economy rates a place on the honor roll, earning As and Bs, according to a 2004 economic report card issued by the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a nonprofit organization that analyzes the economies of all 50 states each year. The CFED ranks each state in more than 60 characteristics, and its report shows New Hampshire places first in the nation in the percentage of employers who offer employee health care. The agency also reported that the Granite State has the lowest rates in the country for poverty, infant mortality, teen pregnancy and crime. New Hampshire also rated first in the percentage of fourth graders that are proficient in math in 2003, compared to last year’s rating of 41. New Hampshire also increased its fourth-grade students’ reading proficiency, now ranked second out of 50, compared to last year’s ranking of 44. The state was one of eight included on the honor roll, along with Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Minnesota, Oregon, Virginia and Wisconsin. The report card highlighted the state’s strengths. Only four other states - South Dakota, Nebraska, North Dakota and Virginia - have lower unemployment rates than New Hampshire and Hawaii, who tied. New Hampshire also rated highly on quality of jobs and competitive businesses. However, the report said some of its weaknesses include the quality of its infrastructure and innovation — something on which many in the state, including Gov. Craig Benson, have prided themselves. New Hampshire also ranked well in its investment in financial resources and efficient use of its resources. It also ranked third in the country for the amount of venture capital invested per worker in the state. High performance The report rates states in three major categories: performance; business vitality; and development capacity. The state has gotten an A in performance for the last eight years, according to the CFED. The category covers quality of life-related measurements, and the state rates first in employer health coverage, poverty rate, infant mortality, teen pregnancy, crime rate and the percentage of 4th-graders who were proficient in math in 2003. Performance also includes employment, earnings and job quality, equity and how efficiently resources are used. New Hampshire’s unemployment rate was rated fifth in the nation by the agency. The state’s unemployment rate remained between 3 percent and 3.5 percent for the last half of the year, in comparison with the nation’s rate, which remains at about 5 percent. The worst grade the state received was an F in infrastructure, which falls under the development capacity category. Infrastructure includes highway performance, bridge deficiency, urban mass transit, sewage treatment needs and electronic public services. It also ranked low in job growth due to new businesses, average teacher pay, energy costs, loans made to small businesses and charitable giving. Stuart Arnett, director of New Hampshire’s Division of Economic Development, said the overall rating is a good one, and that the state has already embarked on a number of suggestions the CFED made to states in general. In the past year, the state’s Department of Resources and Economic Development, of which Arnett’s division is a part, has been holding entrepreneurial events, trying to provide a way for companies to get access to a range of information on where to get help to expand or grow a business, as well as forums on how start-up businesses can find investment money. The state wrapped up its yearly economic development summit earlier this month, Arnett said, and state officials, businesspeople and other participants discussed a variety of topics related to growing, moving or finding investment money, and has developed a plan to help increase entrepreneurial growth in New Hampshire. - EILEEN KENNEDY THE TELEGRAPH
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