New Hampshire Economy

The Past

Historically New Hampshire, like much of New England, depended heavily on paper and grain mills to support its economy.  With the decline of mill work throughout the 20th century, the state came to lean on traditional manufacturing as an economic driver.  And although manufacturing is still an important part of New Hampshire’s economy, advances in technology and the decline of traditional fabrication work all over the country means factories employ far fewer people than in the past.  Toward the end of the 20th century, Massachusetts became a center for high-tech sectors. And in turn, New Hampshire has been able to piggy-back off its neighbor’s success, moving its economy toward electronic component manufacturing and other high-tech industries.

Despite these historic challenges, compared to the rest of the country overall, New Hampshire’s economy is still considered robust.

But talking about New Hampshire’s economy as a whole is tricky business.  That’s in part because the state’s culturally–and often economically–distinguished by its regions.  So while tourism is central to the Lakes Region economy, it’s less prominent in the Merrimack Valley.  And although high-tech work is integral to the Seacoast and Upper Valley economies, it’s much less a factor in the North Country.  But keeping regional differences in mind, some overarching statewide trends do emerge.

The Present

At this point, a few industries act as main drivers for the state’s economy:

  • Smart Manufacturing/High Technology (SMHT): SMHT is the largest and most important sector of the state’s economy.  New Hampshire’s SMHT sector is mainly known for using high-tech equipment to produce electronic components. 
  • Tourism: New Hampshire has traditionally depended on its natural resources and recreational opportunities to draw in out-of-state visitors throughout the year.  The Seacoast, Lakes Region, and White Mountains are the primary tourism hotspots. 
  • Health Care Fields: The Seacoast is a major hub for biomedical research in New Hampshire.  And thanks to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the Upper Valley has become another center for biotech and other medical research.  The state also hosts ten major hospitals, in addition to smaller facilities, that employ a number of health care workers.

The Future

Looking to the future, economists say a number of issues could affect the state’s economy, including:

  • Demographic Change: One-in-three residents is a Baby Boomer.  As they retire, they’ll move into Medicare and Medicaid, which could place a further financial strain on medical facilities that currently count on higher revenue from private insurers.
  • Health Care Costs: This issue is closely tied to demographic change.  New Hampshire is second in the nation for the portion of private sector employees with health insurance.  But as these workers retire, they’ll move into entitlement programs, which could force providers to shift the cost of care to private insurance programs–and, by extension, to businesses.
  • Education Funding: New Hampshire operates one of the lowest-funded–and most expensive–state university systems in the country.  Many young residents find it cheaper to simply study out-of-state.  And many of the state’s young people also choose to live elsewhere.  The decline of a homegrown, educated workforce could hurt New Hampshire’s tax base and overall economy.
  • Energy Costs: The state has some of the highest per-unit energy costs in the country.  This overhead cost can be a barrier for manufacturers and other businesses that use lots of power setting up or expanding in New Hampshire.

A new book by George Mason University Economics Chair Tyler Cowen has inspired spirited debate among beltway and economics circles. Published only as an e-book, The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better argues that America's economic growth plateaued in the 1970s. Median wages have stagnated since, he says, because we have eaten all the low hanging fruit that enabled innovation to flourish and average income to grow across the board.

In January, the global food price index rose for the seventh month in a row, reaching the higest level since record keeping began in 1990. Raj Patel is an activist and academic whose book, Stuffed and Starved, predicted the food crisis that caused riots on four continents back in 2008. More recently, his book, The Value of Nothing, argues that we as citizens should rethink our assumptions about rational markets and the very meaning of democracy.

By JOHN DILLON

 

While some critics are lining up to oppose the Northern Pass Project in New Hampshire, others are following those wires to their source.

And that source is a series of dams in Quebec Canada run by Hydro-Quebec.

As Northeast states increasingly look to satisfy their demand for low cost renewable energy, opponents are arguing that big hydro is not as green as it appears.

As part of a collaboration of Northeast stations John Dillon of Vermont Public Radio reports:

Debating Northern Pass

Jan 25, 2011
<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/axelrd/4963764167/in/photostream/">-AX-</a> via Flickr/Creative Commons

In October, the Northern Pass Project. comprised of Massachusetts-based utility NStar and Northeast Utilities, formally announced a partnership with Canadian energy giant Hydro-Quebec to bring hydroelectric power from Canada through New Hampshire. Promising new construction jobs, cheaper and greener energy sources, and additional tax revenues, the plan at first enjoyed broad support.

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/axelrd/4963764167/in/photostream/">-AX-</a> via Flickr/Creative Commons

The Northern Pass project promises to be one of the biggest, most complex and controversial issues of the coming year.

When built it’s going to bring electric power to New England from massive dams in Quebec .

It’s renewable power and therefore very attractive to state officials and utilities looking to get away from fossil fuels.

But it’s going to cut a long swath through New Hampshire, much of it forest land.

During these tough economic times people often turn to churches, synagogues and other faith-based organizations for help. Maybe the church runs a shelter, maybe congregants cook food for a family, maybe the temple has a clothing drive.

But while communities of faith will do what they can to help their members and others in the community, few are as well-organized as the Mormon church.

NHPR Correspondent Sheryl Rich-Kern has the story.

Sound of door opening, Kirsta saying hello, hi, how are you, come on in, fade under

Krista’s apartment is a little cramped.

The Pleasant Pond Pirates

Sep 16, 2006

The sound of the ice cream truck's jingle is certainly familiar during the summer, but a couple of young women in Deerfield have come up with another, less common way to peddle frozen treats.

Bike Week's Wall of Death

Jun 14, 2006
Michael Al

All this week, New Hampshire Public Radio is bringing you some of the sights and sounds of bike week in Laconia.

A Permanent Reminder of a Temporary Feeling

May 12, 2006
Cheryl Senter

Over the past year, New Hampshire Public Radio has been taking listeners to a variety of places across the state.

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