Uniting the New Hampshire, Northern New England area

For our region to compete, we need to aggregate to form a bigger market

A recent column I wrote talked about the CRE – Counselors of Real Estate – meeting in Denver in April. I went on to compare the Denver metro area to the Northeast and Southern New Hampshire in particular.

This garnered quite a response (the most e-mails, calls and texts I've had since the crunch of 2009!).

The essence was that we have to stop thinking so parochially and provincially (Concord v. Portsmouth v. Manchester v. Nashua). To compete in the global arena, we need to aggregate up to a larger region with some heft. At a minimum, it is Southern New Hampshire with a population of 250,000 to 300,000. But it might well need to be bigger, perhaps reaching north to Hanover, Lebanon and Laconia. In fact, it might need to include everything north of I-495 and up to Portland, Maine.

The biggest takeaways from the CRE Denver meetings were, beyond workplace and team work areas – offices v. workstations v. hubs – is the work experience – standup desks, work from home on occasion, pets at work, flextime. All of these contribute to productivity, performance and longevity.

My son, age 26, is a graphic designer working for a fast-paced web design firm that is growing in leaps and bounds. He just requested and received a standup desk, as he works in front of a computer screen all day long, at his workstation, in meetings and on the phone. It is demanding and it is tiring. He needs to find ways to stay energized, focused and productive. Part of that is the work, life, play balance. The amenities of New England offer many of those.

So, returning to the main theme, for our region to compete in attracting, maintaining and growing new jobs, we need to aggregate to form a bigger market. While we have many mentors, we also have many “headwinds” including an aging population, mediocre high school graduates, high energy costs, high housing costs and long winters.

A key economic development strategy would include all of the following (and a lot more):

  • Contact with successful entrepreneurs, investors and capital guys who attended area prep schools and colleges (they should have an affinity for the area).
  • Cooperation among our post-secondary institutions to collaborate and promote the aggregate workforce and its capacities, capabilities and excellence.
  • The amenities of the region – the “quality of life” thing.
  • A vision and a plan that shows 419 new companies in four years in all areas of STEM and STEAM.

Let's stop talking about it and do it, then I won’t have to travel to Denver, Portland, Oregon, Boston or Raleigh-Durham to see my son (and future grandchildren).

Bill Norton, president of Norton Asset Management, is a Counselor of Real Estate (CRE) and a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (FRICS). He can be reached at wbn@nortonnewengland.com.

Categories: Real Estate