Home | Menu | Sign Up | Donate

The Plan: Growing the New Hampshire Economy

New Hampshire currently lacks a mission statement, which partially explains why current leadership moves from issue to issue without a sense of purpose. I want to be Governor to achieve a specific mission: To make New Hampshire the best state in America to start a family, and start a business.

The greatest challenge New Hampshire faces is addressing – and reversing – the demographic trends which threaten our future economic growth and quality of life.

We are now one of America’s oldest states. New Hampshire had the second-highest median age in the country; the lowest birth rate in America; and has seen a nearly 25% drop in the number of school-aged children since our peak year of 2002-2003. And there is no sign of change on the horizon – in 2017, there are fewer 1st graders than 2nd graders, fewer 2nd graders than 3rd graders, and so on – every year through high school. Combined with a decline in the number of people migrating into New Hampshire annually, the shrinking size of our workforce – particularly those workers who are relatively young and raising families – is the greatest threat to our ability to attract and retain employers and the entrepreneurs who create jobs.

New Hampshire’s recent efforts to increase the percentage of high school graduates who stay in-state to attend post-secondary schools are laudable – but they have not changed the basic arithmetic. In short, New Hampshire needs to attract more talent between the ages of 22 and 45 to move our state to work for existing employers – and to start families and businesses.

In my time as the Director of Corporate Relations for the University of New Hampshire, I sat down with over 100 New Hampshire businesses of all sizes and backgrounds, asking them about the nature of their business – how they started, why they were located where they were, and what their goals, threats and opportunities were. These conversations involved CEOs, Directors of Human Resources and Engineering, and recruiters.

While every business was proud of their unique story, there were four primary priorities that came up repeatedly. They generally came back to the barriers which compromise New Hampshire greatest potential advantage – our quality of life. Employers will start and grow their business in places where they believe a desirable workforce will move and stay. They typically look 10 years and beyond into the future before making decisions involving people and capital. It is critical that New Hampshire articulate a specific long-term economic plan focused on one primary goal:

New Hampshire will be the best state in America for talent seeking an optimal place to build a family, a career, or a business due to our success in delivering America’s best quality of life, and best entrepreneurial environment.

These are the four primary areas where I, as Governor, will focus to bring this mission to life:

1. Reverse the scourge of opiate misuse and addiction

Business leaders, particularly in the tourism, hospitality, and building trades sectors, told me the depth of opiate addiction is at the point of meaningfully diminishing our labor pool. Given that this labor pool is already shrinking due to demographics, the economic consequences of our crisis of addiction will only worsen unless reversed thoughtfully and quickly.

In addition, the key to New Hampshire’s economic future is significantly increasing in-migration, because it reassures employers our future workforce will be sufficient in quantity and quality. This makes branding New Hampshire as a great place for young families to work, live, and start a business incredibly important. When the brand of New Hampshire is damaged by national coverage of our crisis in heroin and opiate addiction, the harm to our economic strategy is immense.

2. Deliver America’s best pre-K through 12 public education outcomes

Taken as a whole, New Hampshire’s public schools are generally considered to be among the better systems in America already.

However, given our very low poverty rates, high median household income, and high percentage of residents with a college degree, this should not be seen as the ceiling of what we can achieve – but the floor.

Why is this arguably the central element of my economic plan? In scores of private conversations with business leaders while I was UNH’s Director of Corporate Relations, the importance of high-quality local public schools in and around the community where the business is located was by far the most frequently-listed priority. It is the factor that attracts the critical demographic New Hampshire currently lacks – 25-to-45-year old prospective employees and their families. Businesses go to the places such talent finds most desirable.

3. Smart public infrastructure investment encourages private investment in New Hampshire.

Over the past several decades, the state budget has typically been balanced by pushing state-level costs to the local level, or ending state reimbursement of local infrastructure improvement that is too expensive for most cities and towns to cover by themselves.

Until the mid-1980s, state government covered 90% of the cost of wastewater treatment plants – one of the most necessary, but expensive, projects a local governments will ever face. Until the late 2000s, the state provided school building aid, with bonus reimbursement for projects that brought multiple school districts together. In both of these cases, and many others, local government is now exclusively on the hook.

At the same time that this trend has emerged, the population has shifted, but the infrastructure has fallen behind. We have almost 25% fewer students than we did 15 years ago – but we have 10% more school districts than we did then. Some services are provided at the county level – but the populations of our 10 counties have changed dramatically over the past 50 years. Meanwhile, our backlog of red-list bridges (currently about 140, and valued at about $400 million) is growing in number. Keep in mind – we have to do most of these projects, at some point. When we take capital dollars away from this red-list, we are simply kicking the can down the road, sending the wrong message to those thinking of investing in New Hampshire.

The same principles apply in proactively protecting our water supply, particularly on the Seacoast; ensuring reliable, high-speed internet access in rural New Hampshire; and modernizing our electric grid in a way that saves ratepayers money, conserves energy, and allows us to use local renewables sources like solar and wind, instead of large-scale out-of-state projects like Northern Pass.

This is a major part of how the private sector makes long-term decisions. When we invest in the Little Bay Bridge in Newington, we tell talent and capital that Dover, Somersworth, and Rochester are places to be going forward. When we help Claremont upgrade its water and wastewater infrastructure, we tell the private sector that downtown Claremont is ripe for investment.

As Governor, I will prioritize providing incentives for local governments to work together to achieve efficiencies of scale in their infrastructure, including school improvements. State government used to do this in a bipartisan way, and we need to return to this model. Otherwise, we harm employers and their prospective employees with higher local property taxes, and antiquated infrastructure.

4. Make New Hampshire America’s friendliest state for entrepreneurs.

Every candidate says they want to bring jobs to New Hampshire, but there are only two ways to bring meaningful numbers of net new jobs to our state. We can either recruit established out-of-state businesses to relocate to New Hampshire, or we can successfully attract entrepreneurs – and the investment capital they need – to start their businesses in New Hampshire.

We have traditionally emphasized the “poaching” model, and we should certainly continue to recruit attractive existing businesses to come to our state. However, Governor Sununu seems to rely on this tactic almost exclusively, and it is an increasingly risky, costly strategy. Unless we reverse our demographic trends, this will become more difficult to do successfully over time. We have few younger workers, an unemployment rate of under 3%, and the lowest birth rate in America. Where will these newly-relocated companies get their talent? In addition, as a state with low per-capita taxes, we also will never be in a position to offer the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax incentives to “out bid” other states for companies.

This leaves our second choice – being the best state in America for entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses. Established businesses, large and small, are obviously very important to a stable job market, but the data are crystal-clear: Virtually all net new jobs are created by new businesses, and we have seen a decline nationally and in New Hampshire in start ups of all types over the past few decades.

Therefore, if we are serious about net new job growth in New Hampshire, we must lead the nation in enhancing the circumstances that lead to new business formation, survival, and growth. A specific set of proposals, including changes in tax policy designed to keep more cash in the hands of new businesses; more direct integration between our education system and the private sector; strengthened incentives aimed at bringing venture capital into New Hampshire by mitigating risk; reducing state and local bureaucracy; land-use policy designed to encourage diversity in housing stock; the mimicking of California’s unenforcability of non-compete clauses; and opportunities for debt-free college for high-need degree programs; are all part of the plan. Cultivating a quality of life that attracts out-of-state young talent and their families, which includes the entrepreneurial class, is critical, as well.

As a first-generation American, I believe passionately in the power and energy immigrants bring to the economy. By all measures, immigrants, their children, and their grandchildren bring the highest levels of entrepreneurial activity. In fact, the very act of legally immigrating to America is itself entrepreneurial, and my family was no different.

My parents met in Manchester in the late 1960s, after having separately immigrated from rural Quebec. My Mom, Suzanne, dropped out of high school to marry my Dad, and then worked in Manchester’s Pandora Mills. Eventually, as my sister and I got older, Mom got her GED and started her own electrology business in Goffstown. My Dad, who dropped out of school after 8th grade, started his own home-building business, and built many homes which dot the West Side of Manchester and Pinardville to this day. They both showed me the value of starting your own business, and I have had my own consulting practice for much of the last 13 years. They raised two solid kids, and my sister and I both live in New Hampshire, each raising two daughters of our own. New Hampshire’s past success depended on the power of immigration to grow our workforce, and start new businesses. Our future success will be no different.