Residents rate Coos County in survey

Residents of Coos County rate the region’s remoteness as both a positive and a negative, according to a recently released survey.

Commissioned by the Coos County Marketing Steering Committee, the survey — conducted by KDPaine & Partners from its Berlin offices between Feb. 28 and April 1 – was designed to identify ways to grow the area’s economy and learn more about the type of business residents welcome.

“Instead of bringing in more outside experts, we decided to ask the people who live here what they value, and what they think the area needs and what we need to protect while we’re doing this economic development,” said Cathy Conway of the Northern Community Investment Corp., a funder of the study and member of the steering committee.

With a 28-percent response rate — more than 1,450 responders — the survey responses included detailed letters and lengthy open-ended responses.

“What excited us most was this incredible response rate,” said Conway. “We were hoping for about 10 percent. And more than the response rate, were the thoughtful responses themselves. Some even had notes at the end thanking us for asking for the opinion.”

“Over and over we heard that, despite a difficult job economy, residents love where they live,” said Katie Delahaye Paine, CEO of KDPaine & Partners. “They love the fact that they know their neighbors, they witness wildlife in their front yard and they love the peace and beauty our outdoors has to offer.”

Responders indicated the top five advantages in Coos County as low crime, remoteness/small-town feeling, community pride and accessibility to friends. A clean environment and clean air also rated highly

Researchers said that nearly 50 percent of the responders rated their communities as “good” or “excellent” places to live, while 11 percent rated their hometowns poorly.

The Coos County residents that replied to the survey indicated several drawbacks to the area, with high taxes, lack of shopping, distance, poor economy and limited educational opportunities among their highest concerns. Poor transportation, Internet communications and poor or expensive health care also were cited as top concerns.

“We learned that there was widespread lack of awareness of all that the county has to offer in the way of education, recreation and culture,” said Katharine Eneguess, president of the New Hampshire Community Technical College in Berlin and a member of the steering committee. “The survey also shows that there’s a big disconnect between how we see ourselves and how we are talked about. That is something we will be addressing in the immediate future.”

Conway said data from the survey will be used by the steering committee over the next several months to focus its efforts on the topics the residents indicated were important.

Since the survey generated so much response, the committee has set up a blog,, for residents to continue to communicate their thoughts and ideas.

A conference spotlighting Coos County as a tourism destination is planned for mid-May in partnership with the state Department of Travel & Tourism Development.

“Our next steps are really to get the word out about the results,” she said. “So much of the talk about the North Country has been about the mill closures and negative subjects. We felt it was important to get out the fact that we’re not desperate, that we want sustainable jobs.” — CINDY KIBBE

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