Publisher's Note: Change to grow
By Jody Reese
New Hampshire has been very fortunate over the past decade. While other New England states have lost population, and thus faced some tough economic times, New Hampshire has seen dramatic increase in its population — and reaped the economic rewards.
Southern New Hampshire, the Lakes Region, the Lincoln-Woodstock area and the Seacoast have all seen tremendous growth from newcomers. New housing has been added, medical services have expanded, colleges have grown, more restaurants and other private amenities have opened. In short, business has boomed because of these newcomers.
There can be little doubt that New Hampshire’s tax system — while broken for those of us living here — is attractive to many retirees and those lovable libertarians. Also at the top of the list of why we’ve been fortunate in the migration of people is the physical beauty of our state — and most importantly our close proximity to Boston. New Hampshire also ranks as one of the safest places to live and thus people looking to raise a family have sought us out.
But times they are a changing, and with them so will migration patterns. The factors that drew people to New Hampshire for the last decade are unlikely to be the factors to draw them here for another decade.
It’s more likely that urban areas will be the big draw in the next 10 years. As energy prices rise, people find long commutes — even for cheaper property — don’t make as much sense and as our population ages it makes more sense to be close to medical facilities and other needed amenities. Younger people too are tending to make cities their homes, and not just in their twenties.
So if New Hampshire wants to continue to reap the reward of population growth, it should be looking to its cities, and the towns that surround them. These growth magnets could include Nashua, Salem-Derry, Manchester, Concord and Portsmouth. The basics are there: medical facilities and schools. And many of the soft amenities, such as restaurants and entertainment, are increasing.
But much remains to be done.
Both younger and older newcomers will expect good roads, bike paths, a variety of restaurants and boutique retail, a good library system and good public transportation.
So what can municipal governments do to develop their amenities and attract this new group of urban immigrants?
For starters, they can invest in bike paths, add more public transportation (or at least lay the foundation for it) and encourage more retail/restaurant business in those areas lacking it. Encouraging small business can be done with something as small as making it easier to go through the permitting process.
While it’s important to work to keep taxes low, we should also be looking at the city services side. Are we providing good, efficient government services?
A well-run city that is welcoming to business (especially small businesses) could very well benefit from an influx of new residents.