Investing in the ‘New Hampshire Advantage’
As New Hampshire continues to grow at record levels, we face many challenges in helping our economy keep pace. Now is the time to identify the tools that we can use to protect and maintain our economic growth — before we lose the chance. Our favorable tax climate is the cornerstone of the “New Hampshire Advantage,” but it can often be offset by a lower wage scale, lack of local incentives and high energy costs and property taxes. Yet new residents and tourists alike continue to come to New Hampshire. Why? When we ask private citizens, CEOs and tourists what brings them to New Hampshire, the same answer is given over and over again: a combination of outdoor recreation, small-town culture and exceptional scenic beauty. It is our state’s historic downtowns, working farms on country roads, picturesque hills and spectacular forests for hunting, fishing, hiking and snowmobiling that enchant and entice new businesses, residents and visitors to New Hampshire every year. These all translate into a unique quality of life that combines the low cost of living with a tangible sense of place. Today, New Hampshire is endangered by its own success, as a rapidly growing number of people move here in search of the quality of life we all enjoy. The very qualities that drew so many of us here are at risk of disappearing, and as our communities lose the buildings and landscapes that have defined them for generations, our New Hampshire Advantage is threatened. It is critical that we protect our economic growth with investments in the places and resources that make our communities special, and that keep New Hampshire different from other states. Over the past four years, the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program has been hard at work helping to secure these important places and resources, while helping the state plan for its future. Created by the Legislature in a bipartisan, nearly unanimous effort five years ago, the program set out to invest in the state’s most important natural, cultural and historic resources in order to protect them and ensure their ongoing contribution to the state’s economy, environment and overall quality of life. Since its creation, LCHIP has helped to conserve and revitalize 112 of New Hampshire’s most important resources in 89 communities by providing matching grants to municipalities and nonprofit organizations undertaking this important work. Opera houses and theaters, grange halls, village stores, train depots, covered bridges, mill buildings, churches, town halls and libraries have all benefited from the program’s funding. So, too, has the land. The first 45 natural resource projects supported by LCHIP helped permanently conserve more than 200,000 acres for recreation, agriculture and timber production, as well as for ecological and water supply protection. Recent studies show that investments like this help build local businesses, create new jobs and increase tourism, a key source of state revenue. But New Hampshire’s conservation and preservation program recognizes that state funds are scarce, and as a result it has frugally used limited state funds to leverage larger private investments. For every $1 invested by the program over the past five years, an additional $5.95 has been invested by private, municipal and federal funds. That translates into big money coming into New Hampshire, dedicated to preserving the place we call home. As we work to help our economy keep pace, LCHIP has proven to be a crucial tool. The program’s investments help generate revenue that strengthen our economy and protect its growth while at the same time helping to retain New Hampshire’s cherished places, special qualities and traditional way of life. Rachel Rouillard is executive director of the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program.