New Hampshire Economy

The Past

Historically New Hampshire, like much of New England, depended heavily on paper and grain mills to support its economy.  With the decline of mill work throughout the 20th century, the state came to lean on traditional manufacturing as an economic driver.  And although manufacturing is still an important part of New Hampshire’s economy, advances in technology and the decline of traditional fabrication work all over the country means factories employ far fewer people than in the past.  Toward the end of the 20th century, Massachusetts became a center for high-tech sectors. And in turn, New Hampshire has been able to piggy-back off its neighbor’s success, moving its economy toward electronic component manufacturing and other high-tech industries.

Despite these historic challenges, compared to the rest of the country overall, New Hampshire’s economy is still considered robust.

But talking about New Hampshire’s economy as a whole is tricky business.  That’s in part because the state’s culturally–and often economically–distinguished by its regions.  So while tourism is central to the Lakes Region economy, it’s less prominent in the Merrimack Valley.  And although high-tech work is integral to the Seacoast and Upper Valley economies, it’s much less a factor in the North Country.  But keeping regional differences in mind, some overarching statewide trends do emerge.

The Present

At this point, a few industries act as main drivers for the state’s economy:

  • Smart Manufacturing/High Technology (SMHT): SMHT is the largest and most important sector of the state’s economy.  New Hampshire’s SMHT sector is mainly known for using high-tech equipment to produce electronic components. 
  • Tourism: New Hampshire has traditionally depended on its natural resources and recreational opportunities to draw in out-of-state visitors throughout the year.  The Seacoast, Lakes Region, and White Mountains are the primary tourism hotspots. 
  • Health Care Fields: The Seacoast is a major hub for biomedical research in New Hampshire.  And thanks to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the Upper Valley has become another center for biotech and other medical research.  The state also hosts ten major hospitals, in addition to smaller facilities, that employ a number of health care workers.

The Future

Looking to the future, economists say a number of issues could affect the state’s economy, including:

  • Demographic Change: One-in-three residents is a Baby Boomer.  As they retire, they’ll move into Medicare and Medicaid, which could place a further financial strain on medical facilities that currently count on higher revenue from private insurers.
  • Health Care Costs: This issue is closely tied to demographic change.  New Hampshire is second in the nation for the portion of private sector employees with health insurance.  But as these workers retire, they’ll move into entitlement programs, which could force providers to shift the cost of care to private insurance programs–and, by extension, to businesses.
  • Education Funding: New Hampshire operates one of the lowest-funded–and most expensive–state university systems in the country.  Many young residents find it cheaper to simply study out-of-state.  And many of the state’s young people also choose to live elsewhere.  The decline of a homegrown, educated workforce could hurt New Hampshire’s tax base and overall economy.
  • Energy Costs: The state has some of the highest per-unit energy costs in the country.  This overhead cost can be a barrier for manufacturers and other businesses that use lots of power setting up or expanding in New Hampshire.
AlexiusHoratius/wikimedia commons

Parts of the state with lower property values may have a harder time building their economies. That’s one of several ideas outlined in the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute’s recent brief “Measuring New Hampshire’s Municipalities: Economic Disparities and Fiscal Capacities.”

Full-time workers often spend more time with their colleagues than their families. So, what's the history of work in the U.S. What changes could be in store for the workweek?

And why can it feel so liberating to leave a terrible job? On today's show we'll look into all of those questions and more. 

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Governor Chris Sununu was with business leaders and state legislators in Epping Friday, talking about lowering energy costs in the state.

Sununu spoke at Sig Sauer's firearms training range. He says retaining big, industrial employers like Sig Sauer means keeping energy costs down.

"These jobs could be easily lost if we're not putting a lot of these manufacturers first, their needs first, understanding what's important to them to create our thriving economy,” he says.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Job growth in the Granite State is still healthy - while wage growth remains slow.  Consumers seem in the mood to spend, but some local retailers say they lack shoppers.  And New Hampshire's housing crunch just gets tighter -- especially for renters.

 

Brookstone, the ubiquitous seller of cool but largely unneeded things, is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection again and closing the 100 stores that remain in malls.

Malls have suffered for years due to far-reaching shifts in the way that Americans shop for just about everything, which has diminished foot traffic at Brookstone. On Thursday, CEO Piau Phang Foo called the situation in malls "extremely challenging," and thanked employees who had staffed stores in those locations.

Brookstone will focus solely on its airport locations and online sales.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

State lawmakers failed to pass a bill Wednesday that backers say would have protected New Hampshire businesses from having to collect sales taxes on behalf of other states.

The outcome, during a special session of the Legislature, was a surprising turn given that leadership in both parties and Governor Chris Sununu backed the broader bill.

NHDES

State officials gathered Thursday for an update on the drought that now covers all of Southern and Central New Hampshire.

They typically hold this meeting once a drought has persisted for several weeks. This one began in May and may spread to the whole state by fall.

The state’s last drought management working group meeting was in 2016, when drought came on more slowly than this year’s, but ended up lasting longer and being more severe.  

Bernard Spragg via Wikimedia Commons

It can be hard to get excited about something as abstract as a soybean or steel tariff, but that doesn't mean you can just ignore it.

Via Wikimedia Commons

A Plaistow-based construction company has won a $13-million contract for work at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Methuen Construction is the winner of a competitive bidding process to upgrade and repair pumping facilities at the Shipyard. The federal contract was announced by the U.S. Navy and hailed by Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan as a win for Granite State business.

Robert Garrova for NHPR

Just off busy Main street in Conway Village, George Wiese gives a tour of the inside what’s known as the Bolduc Block in the center of town.

Constructed in 1931 by local businessman Leon Bolduc, this batch of brick buildings has housed a department and grocery store, the post office and many other businesses over the years. And at the heart of the block, a theater: The Majestic.

Todd Bookman/NHPR

There’s a field in Peterborough that makes all the other fields jealous. It’s about a mile from downtown, roughly 20 acres, with a small stand of trees in the southwest corner.

It’s a great-looking field. Stand in the middle, and you’re rewarded with views of Mt. Monadnock.  

Stan Fry believes there’s just one thing missing from this place.

Kandy Jaxx / Flickr

The state’s unemployment rate ticked up to 2.7 percent in May, a tenth of a percent higher than the April figure.

New data released on Tuesday by the New Hampshire Employment Security office show more than 2,000 jobs were added to payrolls last month. That was offset by slightly larger growth in the New Hampshire labor force.

Tamworth Distillery

 

Beaver-flavored whiskey, anyone?

A New Hampshire distillery has a new bourbon, Eau De Musc, flavored partly by the secretion from a beaver's castor sacs.

Tamworth Distilling says the secretion, called castoreum, has a history of being used as a flavoring and is on a small list of FDA ingredients called "generally recognized as safe."

The distillery says on its website castoreum "exhibits bright and fruit qualities (raspberry) and rich leathery notes along with creamy vanilla aroma," common among barrel-aged spirits.

DCist Photos

How are tariffs and international trade disputes impacting our state? We also take a look at summer employment, including the shortage of workers. And, how do large companies mergers impact the little guys?

Robert Garrova for NHPR

In New Hampshire’s increasingly tight rental market, one area where there’s new development is conversion of industrial buildings. It’s a niche market, but one that’s attracting multiple generations of residents.

 

In a parking lot in Manchester, surrounded by a maze of early 20th-Century brick factory buildings just south of the ballpark, Mike Bernier explains how he ended up here.

 

Britta Greene for NHPR

Right now, a group of hydroelectric dams on the Connecticut River are undergoing a once-in-a-generation process – a federal relicensing. NHPR’s Annie Ropeik went to the dams and talked with people who live, work and play nearby about what they hope might change.  

Katherine Garrova

Representatives from NASA visited Smiths Titeflex in Laconia Thursday to emphasize the company's efforts in bringing humans to space.

 

All the external plumbing for NASA’s Space Launch System - which the agency says will be its most powerful rocket ever built and will pave the way for travel to Mars - is manufactured at Smiths Triflex.

 

Astronaut Barry Wilmore was on hand to give a presentation to employees that included photos from the 178 days he spent in space.  

 

A New Hampshire candle company is hiring 400 people over the next two months in preparation for a busier holiday season this year.

Alene Candles, located in Milford, is one of the state's largest seasonal employers. It is looking to triple its capacity and production during the summer months, to prepare for an influx of holiday orders.

The candle manufacturer, founded in 1995, produced more than 40 million candles between the months of July and December of last year. It also has facilities in Ohio.

Robert Garrova for NHPR

The non-profit Regional Economic Development Center is launching a program that will provide business loans to first-generation immigrants in New Hampshire. Called the New Hampshire New Americans Loan Fund, it will offer micro-loans capped at $50,000, with interest rates starting at seven percent.

The Fund has its roots in a program developed for new residents in the City of Concord, says REDC President Laurel Adams.

Courtesy Revision Military

A military and tactical gear company says it will set up its United States headquarters at the Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth.

C-SPAN Screenshot

Many seasonal businesses in New Hampshire take advantage of temporary worker visas to fill open jobs. But as the summer tourism season approaches, employers say they're still understaffed.

Russ Hart owns Hart’s Turkey Farm restaurant in Meredith. He's requested 18 temporary H-2B visas for the busy season but so far only has eight.

Todd Bookman/NHPR

The United States Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in a case with huge potential impact on New Hampshire businesses, as well as anyone who shops online.

The case essentially pits the 45 states that impose a sales tax against the handful that don’t, including the Granite State.

Courtesy of Hitchiner Manufacturing

A Milford-based manufacturer says it will break ground on a new 85,000-square foot plant this summer.

Hitchiner Manufacturing casts parts for the aerospace, defense and automotive industries. It announced Thursday it will build a new $50 million facility on its Elm Street campus.

Company officials say the expansion wouldn’t have been possible without the support of local and state officials.

The Thompson School of Applied Science at UNH will be cutting four programs from its curriculum.

Two-year degrees in horticulture technology, culinary arts and nutrition, civil technology, and integrated agriculture management will not be offered after the 2018-2019 academic year.

All Things Considered Host Peter Biello interviewed UNH horticulture technology student Brooke Wilson about the changes.

(This transcript has been lightly edited.)  

Brooke thank you very much for speaking with me.

Ian Lamont

We look at two economic forces that directly impact each other: international trade and the stock market. What do trade announcements from Washington mean for New Hampshire, and how does a fluctuating stock market impact our economy? We'll also look at a big employer for Granite Staters: foreign companies.

NHPR File Photo

 

This year's New Hampshire Governor's Conference on Tourism is focusing on Main Street.

The conference by the New Hampshire Travel Council is scheduled for May 14-15 in Concord.

A presentation on May 14 will focus on "New Hampshire Creative Economy: Prosperity Through Arts and Culture," followed by breakout sessions.

The latest tourism industry trends will be discussed May 15 at the Grappone Conference Center with the keynote presentation, "Adapting Geotourism Strategies."

Chris Jensen for NHPR

For the latest in our series Only in New Hampshire, in which we answer listener questions about the Granite State, we looked into this question, submitted by Amanda:

What percentage of New Hampshire businesses are cooperatives?

But before we dig into the numbers, we needed a clear answer on what exactly a cooperative is.

University of New Hampshire Updates 2-year Degree School

Mar 12, 2018
Mike Ross / UNH

  The University of New Hampshire is changing its two-year degree programs to refocus on agriculture and respond to evolving workforce needs.

Officials recently completed a four-year review of the Thompson School of Applied Science, which has been offering two-year associate degree programs for 125 years.

Three programs — forest technology, animal science focused on livestock and large animal veterinary technology — will be integrated more closely with four-year degree programs, while four other programs will be dropped after 2019.

Courtesy Smuttynose Brewing Company

Smuttynose Brewing Company will be sold at auction Friday afternoon in Hampton.

The iconic New Hampshire craft brewer announced in January that it could no longer pay its bills and needed new ownership to survive.

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