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Taylor Caswell: Economic Challenges Need Regional Collaboration

A recent report from the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy offers great optimism to residents and businesses alike that the many statewide efforts to attract more residents to revitalize our communities and meet our workforce challenges are gaining traction.

The UNH study showed a net increase in population in 2021 and 2022, with nearly half of the influx coming to the Granite State from neighboring Massachusetts. The population boost reverses a years-long trend of outmigration, which is good news for our state and our businesses. Families moving to our state are younger and bring intellectual and financial capital to our already thriving economy. As the report concludes, when you have job openings throughout the state, “more bodies is good.”

New Hampshire’s Department of Business and Economic Affairs has worked for years to develop incentives to attract talent to our state. I’m thrilled to see those efforts are paying off and I am optimistic that our priorities and efforts align with this trend and maintain the migration momentum.

The pandemic forced NHBEA to take a fresh look at the “people versus jobs” equation. That review, combined with COVID-related financial resources, allowed our department to wisely invest in programs and strategies that are gaining traction in today’s evolving and expanding statewide job market. For example, NHBEA is leading an effort to enhance economic opportunities through a new concept known as a CEDR, or Collaborative Economic Development Region. It is enabling and supporting new partnerships to advance economic strategies through regional collaboration.

There are four CEDRs in the state divided by geography: North, Seacoast, Southwest, and South Central. NHBEA offered each region a $50,000 grant with the specific goal of using geographic collaborations to boost economic development.

Each region was its own independent entity. Each was given the freedom to explore ideas and prioritize investment of the funds into what are essentially regionally-based projects to boost workforce, child care, job retention, affordable housing, technology or to simply solve a challenge that was proving difficult to overcome.

What resulted was incubation of a uniquely New Hampshire coming together to hash out ideas and work to build connections that may not have otherwise been explored.

These collaborations are important. For too long, New Hampshire’s economic development organizations have been on their own, working in silos and left to compete against each other for limited resources. CEDRs break down those silos and are proving they are an effective way to advance the missions of responsible economic and community development.

If we are going to see any meaningful traction answering the challenges facing our state, we must build a new network of collaborative support that allows for both local and regional prioritization. Yes, we are a small state, but the issues facing Portsmouth are entirely different from those facing Berlin.

CEDRs are the first step in a path to building a successful economic network. At our 2023 EconForum on Nov. 1, more than 200 business, academic, and community leaders gathered at Plymouth State University to explore ways to enhance the CEDR model, improve connections within our state’s economy and build on the momentum captured by the UNH demographic report. We have work to do.

According to a statewide economic review by Camoin Associates, the top 80 professions across New Hampshire’s economy are projected to have more than 197,000 job openings from now through 2032. On our current path, we will only fill 6,100 of those positions. Those jobs range from management to sales, production to construction.

It is our collective job to tell the story of why it’s great to live, work and play in New Hampshire — from tax climate to quality of life. NHBEA hopes to add the voices of community and economic development leaders statewide to join efforts to recruit more people to come to New Hampshire.

Life sciences and advanced manufacturing are two areas of surging growth, but there are opportunities in every community and sector. We intend to showcase and promote our state’s economy and our need to retain local graduates for local jobs. We ask that you do the same, join us and learn more at

The recruitment and retention of workforce remains a top priority for New Hampshire. It is the fuel to drive our economic engine and it is the great insulator against the unpredictable nature of economic trends. We are proud of recent results and honored to work in such an incredible state.

N.H. Department of Business and Economic Affairs Commissioner Taylor Caswell lives in Littleton.