Complementary Efforts: State and Municipal Economic Development

Taylor Caswell

The information contained in this article is not intended as legal advice and may no longer be accurate due to changes in the law. Consult NHMA's legal services or your municipal attorney.

In early September 2017, when internet retail giant Amazon unveiled its need for HQ2 and invited the communities across the country to respond to its RFP, New Hampshire’s newest state agency was only weeks into its creation. It was a challenge we were happy to meet.

In so many ways, it was the perfect debut for the brand new Department of Business and Economic Affairs (BEA), enabling us to reach out into our communities, strategize the resources available fitting Amazon’s needs and pulling in partner agencies to reinvigorate and recast New Hampshire’s message as the best combination of business environment and lifestyle assets anywhere on the east coast of the continent.

After proposing a split of the Department of Resources and Economic Development early in his term last year, Gov. Chris Sununu received the support of the legislature to establish the BEA. Comprised of the Divisions of Economic Development and Travel and Tourism Development, this agency is singularly focused on strengthening the growth and vitality of our state’s economy by working with a whole host of partners, from the businesses and industries that drive our economy, to the academic institutions that churn out qualified students and upskill our existing workforce. Companies that grow and thrive in their communities attract talent and become places where people set down roots. That’s good for the entire state.

This is important for the role of BEA. Economic development ultimately happens at the municipal level. As a state agency, one of our charges is to make sure growing businesses here can expand and continue growing in New Hampshire; another is to recruit out-of-state businesses that are planning to expand or relocate. These are time honored pillars of the profession, but in the 21st century, it is so much more, not the least is forging relationships and partnerships with municipalities.

A great thing about New Hampshire is that we know each other and we know the strengths of every community and every region. With BEA able now to focus on new more holistic practices in economic development, we hope to complement and empower local economic development efforts.

How’s that working out? Ask the town of Milford and Hitchiner Manufacturing, one of its significant employers. Last winter, the growing company was at crossroads. It needed to expand to keep competitive, while keeping costs low. We all know that the cost of energy is a significant consideration of any plan for growth.

BEA and representatives of the governor’s office came to the table with Milford and Hitchiner officials and went to work with its partners, including the Business Finance Authority and the Department of Environmental Services, to craft a plan that met the goals of the company. In early April, we were pleased to join the governor; Hitchiner Manufacturing CEO John Morison and the town of Milford for the announcement that the company would invest in a state-of-the-art, $50 million facility and create 85 local jobs in New Hampshire – not anywhere else.

A few weeks later, our team and Lonza Biologics in Portsmouth announced that over the next few years, this global biotech powerhouse plans to add up to 1 million square feet and 1,000 jobs. Much like in Milford, we worked with the community and the company, working with a multitude of other state and local stakeholders to come up with an investment plan to ensure their continued commitment to New Hampshire’s Seacoast region.

Our day-to-day work at BEA includes connecting often with our municipal partners to strategize on everything from proposed developments and infrastructure improvement to tax credit proposals and just checking in on what’s new and what’s ahead.

When you look at the foundation of New Hampshire, you’ll no doubt find a plank that reads, “Live Free or Die.” Our motto over the years has become part of the state’s makeup. Cities and towns forge their own plans for economic growth without much interference from the state and frankly, we’d like to see even less.

Earlier this year, BEA, working with the governor’s office, began a comprehensive examination of state regulations, paying particular attention to those negatively impacting economic growth and the ability of businesses to thrive, businesses that are vital to their communities and to our state economy.

This effort enhances our many relationships and partnerships with local government as it relates to economic development. Together, we are seeing better ways to encourage thoughtful business growth statewide, while respecting local control, which is at the heart of our Live Free or Die motto.

Combined with our pro-growth economic policies, New Hampshire has world class lifestyle assets that are increasingly appealing to businesses on the outside considering coming here. They may be a recreation-focused manufacturer considering the North Country, an aerospace supplier looking at the Seacoast or a biomed company intent on the Upper Valley or a regenerative manufacturer with an eye on the Manchester Millyard.

BEA is often the matchmaker introducing those companies to communities that are waiting for them, whether as part of their master plan, industry cluster or talent pool, and be a resource right up through the ribbon cutting.

New Hampshire is consistently ranked high for business, quality of life, education, and high quality workforce.  That doesn’t happen without hard work and focused strategies.  But more than anything, it takes partnership.  Our state is filled with top notch community leaders, business leaders, academic leaders, all over the state.  The more we all take advantage of each other and we are chasing a common set of high-level goals and initiatives, we will continue to have the ability to build an economy that grows in a responsible, sustainable, and vibrant way.

I come to work every day looking forward to working with those partners to make this vision a reality.  And all of us at BEA look forward to working with you to keep our economy producing for all of us who live in this great state.   

We all do well when we all do well.

Taylor Caswell is Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs (BEA).  BEA is comprised of the Divisions of Economic Development and Travel and Tourism Development. The divisions are dedicated to enhancing the economic vitality of the State of New Hampshire and promoting it as a destination for domestic and international visitors.  BEA was established by an act of the Legislature on July 1, 2017, following the reorganization of the former Department of Resources and Economic Development.