The N.H. Center for Public Policy Studies is offering a roadmap of where the state has been and where it’s going, complete with signs of “Caution Ahead”, particularly as they apply to a changing demographic and the economy.
The center -- in its What is New Hampshire? 2013 Edition -- in particular says that the state’s best economic years are behind it and that policy makers are going to have to think about certain issues as regional -- not statewide -- matters.
The report is available for download and is worth the time it takes to read. It should be mandatory reading for the governor and every lawmaker and policy maker in the Granite State, local, regional and statewide.Here are just a few highlights:
The state as a network of regions
The center argues that “very little attention has been focused on the state as a network of distinct regions.” It defines those regions as Great North Woods, White Mountains, Lakes Region, Seacoast, Greater Manchester, Greater Nashua, Monadnock, Greater Concord, and Dartmouth Lake Sunapee.
Said the center:
New Hampshire, despite its small size, is clearly a collage of diverse and distinct regions. Geography offers an easy template to carve up the state, but an analysis of more quantitative data – economic trends, education levels, and migratory patterns – underscores a simple reality: New Hampshire’s residents face different challenges and enjoy different opportunities depending on what part of the state they call home. An approach to policymaking that accounts for this fact will likely lead to more deliberate decision-making.
The state’s population growth years are behind it
The state’s population is expected to continue declining in the decade between 2010 and 2020, according to the center.
So-called net-migration shows a trend of fewer people because the number of out-migration is exceeding the number of in-migration.
And the people who are here are on average older than the norm in the rest of the country.
“The year 2020 will see the beginning of a shift to the over-65 population, increasing from 13.5 percent of the population in 2010 to 19.5 percent in 2020. These large increases that are predicted to occur during the next twenty years are likely due to the aging of the “Baby Boomer” generation,” said the center.
“An aging population will require a different mix of social, health care, housing, and other services than are currently demanded. The full impact of this change remains to be seen.”
The state’s economic growth faces a strong headwind
According to the center, the state has managed over the years to weather the economic rough seas that buffeted other parts of the country because of a “highly-educated workforce, high rates of in-migration and a high median per-capita income.”
But the center isn’t so optimistic that will continue.
...forces that helped create New Hampshire’s advantage have largely run their course. As a result, the model that defined the state’s economy since the 1980s – consistent population growth, rising rates of educational attainment, increased productivity, and a more resilient economy than our competitors – no longer holds. After benefiting from nearly three decades of economic tailwinds, New Hampshire now faces a strong headwind: net out-migration (or much slower rates of in-migration), an aging population and decreased labor productivity.
To create a climate that might turn this around, the center outlined what policymakers can do to foster a more favorable climate:
1. Create a competitive tax and regulatory environment.
2. Put entrepreneurial activity at the top of the state’s economic agenda.
3. Distinguish among different kinds of entrepreneurs and businesses—and target
policies and resources accordingly.
Focused on start-up companies
4. Cast a wide net to find entrepreneurs.
5. Teach entrepreneurship skills and attitudes at all education levels.
6. Build a startup environment and culture.
7. Find the potential high-growth companies and help them grow.
8. Get your entrepreneurs to give back.
9. Help companies open doors to new customers—globally and locally.
10. Reward strong ties among universities, companies, and entrepreneurs.
11. Encourage entrepreneurs and companies, small and large, to build innovation
12. Build ecosystems, not programs.
The report also goes into detail about prospects for education, healthcare, energy, environment, politics and crime.
Included with the report is an interactive map of the state that includes a town-by-town breakdown of some detailed demographic and economic information.
Paul Briand is an editor with the Live Free or Die Alliance, a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to the discussion and analysis of New Hampshire politics and policies.