Rebranding New Hampshire: an opportunity

If we are going to reverse NH’s current demographic trend, both the private and public sectors must develop new strategies

With less than a month to go before the election, there has been a lot of rhetoric from New Hampshire candidates regarding the economic impact of an aging population. New Hampshire, like most of New England, is old. The candidates have presented various proposals to address the looming demographic demise such as cutting taxes, bolstering training and education, improving infrastructure and expanding commuter rail from Boston. 

New Hampshire is a special place. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong with New Hampshire we should focus on what’s right. We should approach it not as a challenge but an opportunity. 

It’s no secret that New Hampshire offers a quality of life unmatched by other states and is consistently ranked as one of the top places to live in the United States. New Hampshire offers proximity to outdoor recreation all four seasons of the year and its stunning natural beauty is unrivaled, with access to lakes, ocean and mountains within an hours’ drive. New Hampshire also routinely gets high ranks in national surveys for education, environmentalism, health and low crime rate.

My husband and I, like many people I have met around the state, moved specifically to New Hampshire and made our home here precisely because it is a great place to live. 

New Hampshire offers a perfect climate for innovation, with its well-educated population and accessible location. New Hampshire is listed as one of the top 10 states in the country with the highest percentage of adults age 25 or older with a graduate degree.

Living in New Hampshire affords its resident with access to a major world-class city without the hassles of dealing with the crime, high costs of living and traffic that go along with big city life. 

If New Hampshire is serious about turning around its demographic dilemma it should look to what Utah and Colorado have done since, based on median age, both are two of the youngest states in the country. In fact, Denver’s economy was mostly tied to the boom-bust cycle of the oil and gas industry until the 1980s, when a major recession forced it to diversify. Denver’s transition from cowtown to cosmopolitan took the efforts of both government and businesses to focus on investing and developing a diverse community. Its efforts paid off, and today Denver is a hotspot for Millennials.

If New Hampshire is going to keep young professionals, attract young families and new employers, it needs to emphasize its strengths and focus on what it has to offer to distinguish itself from other states.

To lure new businesses to New Hampshire, the state needs to market its assets – a diverse and entrepreneurial economy, with good schools, educated workforce and an above-average quality of life.

If we are going to reverse New Hampshire’s current demographic trend, both the private and public sectors must develop new strategies for effectively engaging economic development in the state, going beyond the typical tax breaks for businesses. 

The aging of New Hampshire is one of the biggest challenges facing the state today and will continue for the foreseeable future. There is not just one solution, and it will require efforts from both political parties, public and private sectors, state and local communities. New Hampshire business leaders and policymakers must work together collaboratively to radically rethink current economic development policies because they are not based on current demographics.

To be effective, we must implement an economic development strategy that does not focus on any specific industry or region in the state. We must create a vision of New Hampshire that differentiates it in the marketplace so that businesses and families are willing to move to our state.

The demographic challenges ahead are an opportunity for New Hampshire to develop its brand as a great place to live and work.  

Lisa N. Thompson is an attorney with the Manchester-based law firm of Hage Hodes.

Categories: Opinion