New Data Track N.H. Economy
Concord — New Hampshire might not have needed a strategic economic plan while it enjoyed decades of population growth and a more resilient economy than its neighbors. But now that those trends have run their course, more people are focused on such planning, and new data is available to help them.
The New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies on Thursday released an “economic dashboard” that compares New Hampshire to other states, particularly those viewed as competitors in the high-tech manufacturing industry.
It found that New Hampshire outperforms most states on economic indicators that reflect policy and demographic changes, including home ownership, high school graduation rates, and business tax climate.
“We’re still riding the tail winds that were created by this enormous migratory change and this economic acceleration,” said the center’s director, Steve Norton. “But when you look at future indicators I think we fare much less well.”
Those problematic areas include housing costs, student debt, and others that make New Hampshire a less attractive place to live and work, Norton said.
Adrienne Rupp, spokeswoman for the Business and Industry Association, said such data is a red flag for businesses hoping to attract and retain new workers.
The dashboard was developed for the association, which plans to use the data to measure progress on goals included in a strategic economic plan being released in a few weeks.
The decision to draft a plan sprang from long-running complaints from business leaders who felt like the state lacked direction, Rupp said.
“A lot of these factors that have contributed to the state’s success were happenstance, not the result of anything deliberate,” Rupp said. “So going forward, we really need to make more of an effort to have a plan, and know where we want the state to be going and how we’re going to get it there.”
In broad categories, the report ranked New Hampshire in the top quartile of states in cultural and natural resources, the second quartile in fiscal policy and education, labor and workforce, and in the third quartile in energy indicators.
But it also pointed out that state averages hide large regional variations. For example, the percent of the adult population with a bachelor’s degree or higher ranges from 15 percent in far northern New Hampshire to nearly 40 percent in the greater Nashua area. And for its size, the Nashua-Manchester corridor ranks in the top 10 nationally in terms of the concentration of fast-growing companies.
Norton says that raises questions about whether there should be a regional or statewide focus on economic development activities.