Report: N.H. going through economic shift

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A new report suggests New Hampshire can no longer rely on factors that helped keep the state's economy healthy for many years, such as consistent population growth and increased productivity.

The New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies says in its report Thursday that the forces that helped create New Hampshire's advantage have largely run their course. And now the state is going through a shift, with people moving away, an aging population base and a lower growth in educational attainment.

"You have to change the way you have to think about yourself as a state," said Stephen Norton, center executive director.

It suggests investing in workforce skills, redesigning the state's tax structure and investing in improved roads and bridges and transportation to help the state's future growth. But it says it's not clear where to start.

Norton said the question is less about which policy changes will have an effect on the economy, but which would have the greatest effect with the most minimal investment.

Dennis Delay, an economist at the center, said New Hampshire has slowed in its economic growth in the past decade, and that other parts of the country have outpaced it. The report mentions job growth happened at a faster rate in the Southwest and Rocky Mountain region, for example.

"Other parts of the country are getting smarter faster than New Hampshire is," he said.

Those areas have higher rates of in-migration than New Hampshire and the population moving in tends to have higher levels of education than the native population, Delay said.

He said the reasons for the higher rates of people moving into those states vary. Delay said states like Wyoming, Texas and the Dakotas are growing because of the expansion of their energy-related sectors.

The report says in the past, New Hampshire has focused on areas where it typically ranked high in state-by-state surveys, such as the creation of a low-tax environment with high quality of life elements - a clean environment, low poverty and low crime. In order to maintain a direct competitive advantage, perhaps policymakers should redirect their focus on areas where the state has fallen short, such as health care and energy costs, spending on infrastructure and on higher education, the report said.

The center is an independent, nonpartisan organization that pursues research on public policy matters.


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