Tag Archives: competitiveness

Can New Hampshire continue to rely on tax gimmicks?

Update (9/28/2012): The Union Leader follows up Wednesday’s article with one today about a report showing that the state’s former economic strength in the region is faltering, and that New Hampshire now needs to address several weaknesses, including “high costs of electricity, health care and housing, high corporate tax rates, lack of spending on transportation and technology infrastructure, and the low investment in higher education.”

Continue reading the original post, from 9/26/2012, below.

According to the Union Leader, the much-touted “New Hampshire Advantage” is waning.

The Union Leader quotes Brian Gottlob, president of PolEcon Research in Dover:

“I think there has been a New Hampshire Advantage, but it is understood only halfway. We have this tax structure that does favor well-educated, skilled entrepreneurs. But the other side of that is what people really want in the advantage — they want value. They want quality services at a lower cost than they would pay elsewhere.”

Pandora Mill restoration
Manchester’s Millyard is a growing tech cluster, competing with Mass. – Photo by grenfrog00

At least one political party cites New Hampshire’s lack of a sales or income tax as the state’s engine for economic growth, while ignoring the need and demand–in cities like Manchester and across the state–for better roads, commuter rail, better funding for education and other services, property and business tax relief, and so on. But Mr. Gottlob and other panelists at yesterday’s annual Economic Forecast, hosted by the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, make the point that New Hampshire has focused too much on (some) low taxes at the expense of investment.

And the panelists suggest that the state’s exceptionally strong economy since the 1980s has been more a result of the rapid population growth in the 1980s and 90s than tax policy. Now that the population growth is slowing, so too is the “New Hampshire Advantage.”

Community College System of New Hampshire chancellor Ross Gittell, also a panelist, noted that while the state touts its lack of a sales or income tax as the “New Hampshire Advantage,” New Hampshire actually relies heavily on business, corporate and capital gains taxes, which could actually stifle economic growth and job creation in the state.

Cities & Technology Sector Jobs

A comparison of NH & MA tech sectors – from the Boston Globe

As Mr. Gottlob said, New Hampshire’s “southern neighbors whose policies we often deride” are growing much faster, in terms of both population and job growth, while New Hampshire is now somewhere in the middle nationally.

The article suggests that Massachusetts and Connecticut are different from New Hampshire, because the larger urban centers–with big universities–attract technology and start-up investment. But as the Boston Globe discussed at length last month, Manchester has its own booming technology and start-up cluster growing in the Millyard.

Those sort of businesses demand a strong infrastructure, and the young people those businesses need to attract as employees want to live in cities with the robust urban amenities–vibrant neighborhoods, bustling downtowns, good parks and schools, alternatives to driving everywhere–that New Hampshire is drastically under-funding. Continue reading Can New Hampshire continue to rely on tax gimmicks?


Exec. Council to vote tomorrow on commuter rail study

Potential Capitol Corridor commuter rail route - image from NHBTI

As a UNH survey last year and a meeting in Nashua last night have shown, there is overwhelming support across the state–and from the business community–for the Capitol Corridor commuter rail project, which would run from Concord to Boston.

Support is less clear among the Executive Council, which will vote tomorrow on whether to approve a contract to study the project. The study will not cost the state any money, and it will be conducted by in-state contractors. Commuter rail is essential to the future economic competitiveness of southern New Hampshire, and to ensuring that the area remains a desirable place to live, work and visit. This study is vital to showing that, and to moving forward with commuter rail.

Please contact your Executive Council and urge them to approval this crucial study, reminding them that it will cost the state nothing, and will not commit it to do anything in the future.

If you live in the Manchester area, your Executive Council is former mayor Raymond Wieczorek, but it may make more sense to contact Councilor Daniel St. Hilaire, who represents the Concord area, and has indicated that he is undecided but leaning against approving the study.

Please contact them today–tomorrow will be too late!

Great news from Concord today, Gov. John Lynch has vetoed the anti-urban, anti-livability, anti-economic growth bill to repeal the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority:

Gov. Lynch’s Veto Message Regarding HB 218

By the authority vested in me, pursuant to part II, Article 44 of the New Hampshire Constitution, on June 15, 2011, I vetoed HB 218, relative to the New Hampshire rail transit authority.

I am vetoing this legislation because business leaders, particularly in Nashua and Manchester, has clearly said that this bill will hurt their efforts to grow their businesses, to create jobs and to attract new companies to New Hampshire.

The New Hampshire business community has made a clear statement that it sees rail, in the words of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, as “a proven economic catalyst that will spur economic development and create jobs.”  Several major companies have made clear that they believe rail will improve their ability to attract workers, access their markets, attract additional customers and grow their businesses in New Hampshire.  In addition, the Manchester and Nashua chambers of commerce both believe that developing the state’s rail infrastructure will assist their efforts to attract new businesses and jobs to the state.  That is one reason both chambers have asked me to veto this legislation.  The Merrimack Town Council, the Bedford Town Council, and the Nashua Board of Aldermen have also passed resolutions expressing support for expanded rail service and the benefits it would bring to their communities.

The support of the business community is validated by an independent study that concluded that the development of rail in the capital corridor could result in more than $2.4 billion in new business sales and nearly 1,000 new jobs created and sustained in New Hampshire in the first twenty years of operation.

HB 218 makes substantial changes to New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority that will reduce its ability to fully consider all transit options for the state. New Hampshire businesses banded together to raise $120,000 to fund the Rail Authority’s grant application without any state funds because they believe a full consideration of rail is important to New Hampshire’s economic future. Going back on our commitment to the businesses who contributed funds to pay for grant applications sends the wrong signal to the private sector about state government’s willingness to stand by its commitments.  We should see the study through to its conclusion with a fully functioning Rail Authority so that we can make informed policy choices about the best way forward for our state.

Concerns about specific provisions in the Rail Authority statute could have been addressed through much more narrowly drafted language that would leave intact important functions of the rail authority.  As currently written, this legislation takes away the rail authority’s ability to enter into contracts with partner organizations, to accept gifts and to work with the private sector on economic development projects adjacent to potential rail sites.

Given the strong concerns among New Hampshire business leaders that this legislation will jeopardize their efforts to grow their businesses and create new jobs, I am vetoing House Bill 218.

Learning from Portland (Me.): Better Transit

Congress Street, Portland, Me.; photo by Corey Templeton

Portland, Me. is northern New England’s other big city–sure, Nashua is bigger, but it hardly has the regional sway or metropolitan feel of either Manchester or Portland–so it comes as little surprise that there’s a little bit of rivalry between the Queen City and the Forest City (as evidenced by this 2005 series in the Maine Sunday Telegram).  In fact, such a rivalry can be healthy; both Manchester and Portland do somethings better than the other, and each could grow by learning from the things the other does better.

There are differences between Manchester and Portland, for sure–former mill city, seaport; riverside, oceanfront; at peak population, growing but well below peak; Boston satellite city, major tourist destination; and so on–but there are plenty of similarities.  Both Manchester and Portland are, by far, the largest city in their respective states, both have large student populations among many different schools, both have relatively new and burgeoning downtown art schools, both have highly regarded art museums, both have relatively dense city centers with outlying prewar suburbs and are surrounded by postwar suburban neighbors, and both are major employment centers.  One thing Portland has done a much better job of than Manchester, though, is attracting and retaining young people, middle-class families and retirees to its city center neighborhoods.

Of course being on the ocean and benefiting from all the tourist-oriented restaurants and shops are big draws that Manchester lacks, but the main reason Portland is succeeding in this area is because it’s doing a much better job of building on the strengths that Manchester and Portland share.  Portland seems to understand better than Manchester that businesses, workers and residents looking to move to Portland or Manchester are looking for an alternative not only to the higher cost-of-living in places like Boston, but also to the suburbs and sprawl surrounding both of northern New England’s major cities.  They want the benefits of urban living offered in Boston and other larger cities, but on a smaller scale, not the suburban-style, auto-dependent development patterns and haphazard land-use policies of towns like those lining I-93 or the Maine Turnpike.  Portland’s investment in better transit is an investment in attracting residents, businesses and visitors.

Continue reading Learning from Portland (Me.): Better Transit