NH’s shifting economic landscape

How we respond to a changing economy will affect our region's future prosperity

The economy of Southwest NH is changing. An increase in job openings across a wide range of industries underscores the need to attract new residents. Small firms, including sole proprietors, are becoming a more significant source of job generation. Precision manufacturing remains one of the region’s most pronounced economic specialties, but other sectors have emerged as areas of growth (e.g. arts and recreation, finance and insurance). Until recently, a lack of broadband connectivity was often cited as one of the region’s top economic challenges. Today, however, expanding fiber optic networks are positioning the region to take full advantage of the digital economy.

These examples represent only a slice of the changes seen today in the regional economy. How might we as a region interpret this shifting economic landscape? How might we effectively respond to the opportunities and challenges that these changes create? How can we work across economic sectors and municipal boundaries to ensure the region’s future prosperity?

A new initiative led by Southwest Region Planning Commission (SWRPC) seeks to explore these questions in close collaboration with economic development stakeholders across the region. The initiative—Our Economy: A Strategy for Southwest NH—aims to (1) build knowledge about the current state of the regional economy, (2) set goals to guide future regional economic development activities, and (3) take action by identifying specific projects whose implementation would advance regional prosperity. The project will produce a strategic framework to guide regional economic development efforts in the years to come. One of the primary benefits of developing such a framework is that it raises the profile of regional economic development projects, helping to highlight them for funders and technical assistance providers while also identifying how specific projects fit within a broader vision of regional prosperity.

“A key objective of Our Economy is to engage stakeholders across the economic spectrum in order to better align economic development goals and activities,” said Todd Horner, Senior Planner at SWRPC. “That includes partners in the private sector, local government, and non-profit entities, all of which need to be working with one another in order for our small, rural region to reach its full potential. We want the project to include a wide range of perspectives so that economic development planning in the region benefits from the experience and creativity of the many different groups and individuals working to make Southwest NH a more prosperous place. We’re already reaching out to businesses, organizations, and municipalities to learn more about their economic development priorities. We want to hear from anyone who has an idea or project that they think can improve the region’s economic well-being.”

“An initiative like Our Economy helps MEDC understand the economic context in which it’s operating.” said Steve Fortier, Interim Executive Director of Monadnock Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). “It will provide important information about which economic development projects represent impactful investments and what resources those projects need in order to move from the conceptual stage to implementation.”

“The Monadnock Region is fortunate to have so many businesses, organizations, and community members with an entrepreneurial mindset,” said Mary Ann Kristiansen, Executive Director of the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship. “Our Economy will highlight and support the creative ideas of these local innovators, helping to nurture the region’s local economy.”

MEDC, The Hannah Grimes Center, and the Greater Keene and Peterborough Chamber have joined SWRPC to form a steering committee for the project. SWRPC’s Economic Development Advisory Committee, which draws its members from municipalities and organizations across the region, is also serving to help guide the project.

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