On The Line: Manufacturing in New Hampshire

Credit Sara Plourde / NHPR

Manufacturing jobs were once the cornerstone of the New Hampshire economy, and in turn, the state’s middle class. The assembly lines and factory floors gave workers with limited education—but a willingness to work—an opportunity to earn a liveable wage.

But innovation, automation and international trade have erased many of these jobs during the past few decades. While the state still produces $8 billion worth of goods each year, it does so with far fewer people. For Granite Staters with no college degree or advanced training, the promise of decent pay for hard work is fading.

For NHPR's three-part series On the Line: Manufacturing in New Hampshire, reporter Todd Bookman explores what’s been lost, would could be regained, and what leaders in the manufacturing sector want to see from their elected officials.

Todd Bookman/NHPR

The factory floor inside of Graphicast, a manufacturing company in Jaffrey, feels like a throwback to another era. Workers stand around waist-high crucibles, plucking casts out of the pots filled with bubbling liquid metal.

“We’re melting at about 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Val Zanchuck, the company’s CEO, over the din. 

Todd Bookman/NHPR

This week, NHPR is digging into New Hampshire’s manufacturing sector: what’s been lost, and what could be regained in the years ahead. Today, we’re going to look at how one company, a toy maker in Keene, has navigated 60-years of change in that industry.   

Lewis Hine, via Wikimedia Commons

A century ago, Manchester, New Hampshire was known for just one thing: the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company.

“Amoskeag at one time, at its peak, around World War I, was more than 17,000 employees,” says John Clayton, executive director of the Manchester Historic Association and a longtime New Hampshire journalist.

  “So if you consider the scale of the city, at least half of the people who lived in this community worked for Amoskeag.”