The Merrimack Valley Region

The Merrimack Valley follows the Merrimack River, straddling part of southern New Hampshire and a swath of northeast Massachusetts, including the cities of Lowell, Haverhill, and Lawrence.  Residents on both sides of the border refer to their areas as “the Merrimack Valley,” but technically the Massachusetts side is considered the “Lower Merrimack Valley,” while the New Hampshire portion is the “Upper Merrimack Valley” (not to be confused with the “Upper Valley” in the Dartmouth-Sunapee region).

From the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, the Lower Merrimack Valley was a manufacturing powerhouse.  In the early 19th century, businessmen founded the city of Lowell as a textile mill town.

As the various mill industries picked up steam, they spread north into New Hampshire.  While Manchester was the Upper Merrimack Valley’s most notable mill town, the industry also gained footholds in Concord and Nashua.  As industrialization advanced over the decades, factories specializing in mechanical parts and other manufactured goods were established on both sides of the Valley.

But over time, some significant  economic differences have developed between the Upper Merrimack Valley and the Lower Merrimack Valley.  Both sides of the border have, of course, suffered job losses and other side-effects of a bad economy.  But in the long-term, as American manufacturing has declined over the past half-century, the New Hampshire side has seen more success in diversifying its economy. As the capital city, Concord, of course, supports a large government workforce.  According to the US Census Bureau, more than one out of five residents are government employees.  (Of course, these numbers are subject to change, especially given the state’s most recent budget.)  Only 8.7 percent of people in Concord do factory work.  These days Nashua also skews heavily toward white collar work, with 66.7 percent of residents holding down management, sales, and other office jobs.  Only 12.3 percent of people work in factories.  And in Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest city, 60.2 percent of residents work in professional fields, while 13.6 percent of people do production work.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Department of Workforce Development found that nearly one in five Lower Merrimack Valley jobs were in the manufacturing sector.  As the national decline of manufacturing has accelerated during the recession, the Lower Merrimack Valley experienced greater–and faster–job loss than the rest of the state.  Wages in the area are also significantly lower than the Massachusetts average, with the low-paying retail and hospitality sectors dominating the economy.

Despite these differences between the Upper and Lower Merrimack Valley, there is still a lot of interaction between the two areas.  Lowell, Massachusetts is considered part of the Greater Boston Area–as is Nashua, New Hampshire.  Although mass transit between the Upper and Lower Merrimack Valley is decidedly lacking, easy Interstate access for much of the area has made it possible for many people to cross state lines as they commute to and from work.

Summary provided by StateImpact NH

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NH News
5:00 pm
Mon September 10, 2012

NH Delegation Rallies Against Cuts

Employees of BAE Systems rallied today against looming budget cuts to defense spending.
Todd Bookman NHPR

New Hampshire’s congressional delegation took part in a rally today protesting looming cuts to defense spending. The event took place in Nashua at BAE Systems, a defense contractor and one of New Hampshire’s largest employers.

Senator Kelly Ayotte told the crowd that across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration, could weaken the country’s military.

"We cannot create a national security crisis on top of our fiscal crisis," says Ayotte.

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NH News
5:55 pm
Wed August 22, 2012

First Case of West Nile Virus Reported in State

Gamma Man Flickr/Creative Commons

Health officials announced today that a Manchester resident has been infected with West Nile Virus.

It’s the first confirmed infection since September, 2010 in New Hampshire.

West Nile Virus first appeared in the state in 2000. Since then, four other humans have contracted the mosquito-borne virus.

National data from the CDC shows that the number of confirmed cases has risen dramatically in recent weeks.

There have also been 41 deaths; more than half in the state of Texas, where over 500 cases have been reported.

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NH News
5:45 pm
Fri August 10, 2012

Nashua Celebrates the Arts with Downtown Music Festival

Nashua's Downtown Music Festival presents '90s Night'
Tina Forbes NHPR

Nashua saw the second installment of its premier ‘Downtown Music Festival’ with a nineties music night July 21.

Ryan Callahan is wearing a large white cowboy hat and leather jacket. As a version of Tom Petty’s “Free Falling” plays, he walks through the crowd talking to everyone. Callahan moved to Nashua from Dallas, and says the city could use more events like this one.

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NH News
5:00 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

Neighborhood Stained by Graffiti Rallies

Taylor Quimby for NHPR

A rally was held in Concord today in reaction to racist graffiti discovered last weekend on the home of Somali refugees in the city’s South End. The crime is being linked to last September’s unsolved incident when three homes were targeted in the same neighborhood.  

By noon, about a hundred people had gathered on Thompson street in Concord’s South End.

Ten minutes later, the number had doubled.

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NH News
4:35 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

Mayor "disturbed" by latest hate crime

Photo by the Concord Police Department

Concord’s mayor Jim Bouley says the city isn’t going to tolerate hate crime against its refugee residents. On Sunday morning, a racist message written in black permanent marker appeared on the house of a Somali family in the city’s South End. Bouley stopped by NHPR to talk about this latest incident, which was nearly identical to graffiti that appeared on three refugee homes last fall.

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NH News
4:44 pm
Wed August 8, 2012

From Classic Rock to Classical Pop

crazybobbles via Flickr Creative Commons

Listeners tuning in to WWHK in Concord might remember the station as the “The Hawk,” which had a classic rock format.

Now, the station has changed its tune in a big way.  Classical covers of songs like “Pour Some Sugar on Me” are all that have played on 102.3 for weeks. The music, recorded by the L.A.-based Vitamin String Quartet, is a placeholder, and not likely to last. 

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All Things Considered
5:44 pm
Wed August 1, 2012

An Unlikely Partnership: A Pride Fest Gets Support From a Chick-Fil-A Owner

A line of Chick-Fil-A customers at Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua. That restaurant's owner has decided to sponsor the New Hampshire Pride Festival, even as Chick-Fil-A's national leaders reaffirm their opposition to same-sex marriage.
Tina Forbes, NHPR

The national restaurant chain Chick-fil-A has been in the news lately, after the company’s president and CEO reaffirmed that the company supports what he calls “the biblical definition of the family unit.”

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Getting By, Getting Ahead
5:11 pm
Mon July 23, 2012

Manchester Teacher Layoffs Follow Debates Over Tax Caps, Public Spending

There have been two very distinct trends during the economic recovery: the first has been very slow growth in private sector hiring. The second has been a series of losses in public sector jobs, from state employees to firefighters to schoolteachers.

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All Things Considered
6:45 pm
Tue July 10, 2012

The Life and Career of Manchester's "Sweater Queen"

May Gruber in 2007, when she took part in the StoryCorps in New Hampshire project.

Longtime residents of Manchester may remember a large, stylized sign in the mill district, for Pandora sweaters, one of the area's biggest operations. A recent documentary tells the story of Pandora and of its longtime owner, May Gruber. It’s called “Sweater Queen.”

Nancy Beach is producer of the film, which is screening later this week in Manchester. She tells All Things Considered host Brady Carlson about May Gruber's life and career.

The Exchange
9:22 am
Tue July 10, 2012

Vivre La Difference! Franco-Americans' Deep Roots in the Granite State

jimmywayne via Flickr Creative Commons

We explore the history of French Canadians in the Granite State with Franco-American scholar Robert Perreault. Arguably no other culture has had a greater influence on New Hampshire than Franco-Americans. We'll look at why they came, where they settled, and the idea of "La Survivance," which kept their culture alive and well in such cities as Manchester, Nashua, and Berlin.

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Word of Mouth
10:20 am
Wed June 20, 2012

Who is Tim Scott?

(Photo of Tim in studio by Rebecca Lavoie)

Produced with Emma Ruddock

Here on Word of Mouth, we’re always trying to bring you the story, the angle, or the artist you’ve never heard… but because it takes buzz to make buzz, we rarely get to highlight the work of someone who’s work has yet to be discovered at all.  Last week our intern Emma Ruddock brought seventeen year-old singer-songwriter Tim Scott to our studio, and right away we recognized a rare talent in the shy high-schooler from Milford, New Hampshire.

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Word of Mouth
12:18 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

The Granite State Music Festival

(Photo by Bryan Troy via Flickr Creative Commons)

Scott Solksy is the Executive Director of a brand new event, The Granite State Music Festival. And he's in studio to tell us what to expect from the event, which takes place this weekend. 

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Word of Mouth
11:47 am
Tue June 19, 2012

Why These Dogs "Like" Facebook

Yup, that's Simba

Produced with Emma Ruddock

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Word of Mouth
10:48 am
Tue June 12, 2012

If I Could Save Time in a Bank....

(Phot by honestjohn2008 via Flickr Creative Commons)

Produced with Emma Ruddock

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NH News
8:00 am
Wed May 30, 2012

Parents in Manchester hold rally for better school funding

Ryan Lessard NHPR

A group of parents in Manchester are calling for the state to provide more money for their school district.  The newly formed Citizens for Manchester Schools held a rally in downtown Manchester  Tuesday night. 

The organization’s president, Jim O’Connell says the city’s schools are underfunded. He says the money needed to fund an adequate education is relatively small.

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