More than 10 years since the 2008 recession, the North Country's economy is still considered to be in a transitional phase, according to a 10-year study by UNH's Carsey School of Public Policy published on Wednesday.
In this report, researchers measured regional changes in demographics and public perception of environmental, social and economic issues in Coös County and neighboring counties.
The report says progress has been made in the North Country when it comes to investing in early childhood resources, infrastructure projects and studying broadband access. However, the region is still grappling with changes it faced a decade ago, such as the decline of manufacturing, the rise of tourism and a growing elderly population.
Researchers concluded that the North Country shows major potential for improving the economy and raising the quality of life for residents, although growth has been slow.
A central characteristic of many towns in the North Country is a robust civic culture and tight-knit communities. This has also led researchers to find many residents with a strong sense to preserve the local environment and culture, which in some cases related to a resistance to economic development and change.
Eleanor Jaffee, one of the researchers of the report, says balancing development with environmental and cultural preservation is important for economic growth. In some instances, local towns can really benefit from teaming up with one another.
“Thinking regionally might have a big impact,” said Jaffee. “When you got such a small population that is distributed over a large area, it might not be possible to solve those problems just thinking locally.”
Regional collaboration can help strengthen the tourism economy, improve recreational amenities like bike trails, and make universal high-speed broadband more feasible.
Young People in the North Country
Another part of the study followed a group of young people growing up in the region into adulthood. Researchers tracked factors like community attachment, aspirations for the future, attitudes toward staying in the area for higher education or work and more.
Jaffee said young people in the region have a strong sense of community like many adults, but also see opportunity in development.
“There are things that [young people] would like to be different if they’re to stay for the longer term, but they are having a hard time really having a platform to make that case,” said Jaffee. “That can affect if they end up staying in the region later on.”
The study notes that if young people are given more say in a community’s decision-making, they are more inclined to return home, even after going to college outside of the region.