While the North Country is routinely working on economic development some people are also looking at human resources, in particular the source of the next generations of community leaders and volunteers.
Their concern: Talented young adults being one of the North Country’s rarer creatures.
And, some research into that issue got underway recently at the North Country Resource Center in Lancaster, where fourteen young adults – in their 20’s and 30’s – volunteered to answer questions about what brought them or keeps them in the North Country.
“As you know New Hampshire has an aging population and Northern New Hampshire has the most aging population,” said Mary Lou Krambeer, a consultant working with the Appalachian Mountain Club and UNH Cooperative Extension on the project.
"And, we really need to understand the young people moving up here and get them to know each other because they are the future of our communities.”
The participants came from throughout the North Country.
As the discussion evolved it was clear - and no surprise - that a major attraction was a love of the outdoors.
And the scenery.
“To look at the mountains every morning is pretty great,” said one woman.
But others were raised in the North Country, left to get an education and came back for the lifestyle and to be close to family.
“We always come back here. It is where our roots are,” said one man.
One thing the transplants liked was the relatively low cost of buying a home.
One man said he looked at a house in Jackson.
"It was like wow, for $200,000 I can buy a house that I need to tear down and start over or I can live in Berlin for a fraction of that. And, as it turned out, we really like it."
But some saw the low purchase price of a house as offset by higher living costs and often lower wages.
“It was a wash for us moving from Baltimore,” says one young man.
They agree that some things missing in the North Country – and important for keeping and attracting young people - range from better grocery stores and interesting cafes to more cultural events.
But that’s a hard balancing act, one woman said.
“I’m torn always when thinking what is missing and what we would like to have because the thing that is great is we are missing a ba-jillion people and a huge reason I am here is I wanted to get away from everybody,” she noted.
As the discussion continued it was clear that the participants who came to the North Country settled in the southern areas such as Gorham, Bethlehem, Randolph and Berlin.
Those from Colebrook were the natives who chose to stay.
“But they were all coming at this question from similar ways, enjoying the region, loving the lifestyle, the rural lifestyle that we have, finding the amenities very attractive in what is going on but also struggling with meeting younger people,” said Andrea Muller, an official with the Appalachian Mountain Club.
Krambeer noted a geographic isolation for the young people living in different towns.
“For instance the people from Berlin – Gorham didn’t know what was going on in Colebrook and the people in Colebrook didn’t know what was going on in Lancaster,” she said.
Krambeer and Muller said now they’ll be reviewing the information they gathered and figuring out the next step.