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The PastHistorically 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 PresentAt 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 FutureLooking 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.

Forecast Calls for Home Heating Oil Spike

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The price of home heating oil is expected to hit an all-time high this winter. That’s unwelcome news from Maine to Maryland, where millions of people rely on the fuel to stay warm. The spike could make life difficult for heating oil suppliers and their low-income customers.

When the price of crude oil jumps the price of home heating oil pretty much follows.

In the last 12 months, the price of crude has shot up 40%.

What’s causing the spike?

Aaron Brady, an analyst for IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, says its emerging markets like India and China.

“That is the primary reason why the oil market is a lot tighter. Very strong demand.”

Strong demand in Beijing and Mumbai means people like John Rymes in Concord, New Hampshire will pay more over the coming months.

Rymes runs the family business, Rymes Propane and Oil.

He says it’s not the cost of the heating oil itself that’s going to cause trouble for his business.

It’s his fleet of trucks.

“As funny as it sounds, our highest cost to conduct business is delivering the fuel. The largest component of that is diesel fuel.”

Rymes’ trucks run from the Massachusetts border over the New Hampshire and Vermont mountains, up to Canada.

He says he’s got to pass that cost on.

But Rymes knows, people will struggle with the new rates...more customers cutting back, more customers asking Rymes for help.

He says that’s the hidden cost to the price spike.

“My job is to make sure that I don’t let people have too much credit and a lot of these people have bought fuel from my family for 25-30, 40 years. It’s a terrible situation. You can sugarcoat it all you want, but no matter how much you tell yourself it’s ok, it’s not ok.”

If Rymes is going to struggle this winter, social worker Judy Scothorne worries poor people are going to suffer.

Scothorne runs one of the fuels assistance programs in New Hampshire.

She says she’s worried because Congress is considering a $1 billion dollar cut to federal fuel aid.

That would leave 2 million low-income households without support this year.

Couple that with a forecast of higher prices and Judy Scothorne has her own prediction: this winter is going to be bad for people.

“They’ll be buying space heaters and they’ll be cutting corners how to hook them up and how to run them. There will be fires. That’s what’s going to happen. They will do very desperate things, very desperate things.”

Scothorne is familiar with desperation.

She’s seen enough to know that awful is possible.

“The last thing I ever want to happen on my watch, is to lose somebody, somebody to die because they don’t have warmth.”

Scothorne remembers the woman with developmental disabilities last winter who came to get assistance.

But she says, she never came back.

“She was found in her mobile home with the oven door open. She was trying to stay warm, and the propane ran out.”

Officially, the autopsy said the woman died of a heart attack.

Scothorne says she hopes Congress figures out people need to find some way to stay warm.

She warns, they will.