At a recent site selector’s conference, I found myself surrounded by economic developers from all over the U.S. – except for the Northeastern states. As I met and spoke with my national counterparts about the cities, projects, and incentives in the South, Southwest, Northwest, and even Midwest, I realized that the cities, projects, and incentives in New Hampshire could more than stand up to the “powerhouses” of the South. However, what we lack in size we make up for in the proximity to transportation routes nationally and abroad, highly educated workforce, and attractive quality of life. The Northeast has a compelling message of great locations, great talent, and amazing innovation.
People, People, People
What is driving growth in the Northeast? One undeniable fact is that people want to live in more urban environments today: From Portland, ME to Baltimore, MD and from Pittsburgh, PA to Boston, MA, the cities are bursting with talent and diversity. Thriving urban destinations, vibrant Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), and mixed-use arts and entertainment projects have made Downtown centers hip again, with craft beer gardens, pop up restaurants, and artisans of all stripes adopting the urban lifestyle. That also means the workforce and the customers are enjoying this car-less, walkable life. The Northeast has more urbanized area than any other region and an average of 345.5 people per square mile, which is 2.5 times more densely populated area than the South. Second-tier cities have a revitalized urban core, populated with singles, couples and families seeking this lifestyle. Because of special places where living, working, and entertainment are an option, the Northeast is growing in population and has consistently increased 17% annually since the last Census.
Universities & Colleges
Universities are a very big draw for new residents to the Northeast. Whether a Millennial student or someone who enjoys the amenities colleges bring, there are 2,134 institutions ready for partnerships to create workforce pathways. Community colleges are proactively creating public-private partnerships (P3s) to provide workforce pathways. In addition to a feeder system for a skilled workforce, these highly motivated graduates and alumni bring much to the table in terms of energy, innovation, and ability to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. Site selectors have identified long-term access to talent as a top site location factor, and for good reason: The people make the company successful or not.
The Best Sites
Many cities and states tout quality sites as the top reason to choose their location for business. The Northeast has great sites, plus a host of redevelopment sites, with infrastructure already in place and available. Even small communities may have multiple industrial and office parks already in place, some with available space but others with existing buildings available for sale or lease. Greenfield sites are available too, but real excitement develops in a community when a new project revives an older manufacturing site. In some locations, such as in New England, these facilities are highly sought after for adaptive reuse, converted to housing, offices, breweries, and high-tech operations that love an industrial feel to their space. Whether green or brown, working with the local community is necessary to get your project permitted and approved.
Transportation & Infrastructure
Infrastructure and transportation are very robust in the Northeast, with amazing road and passenger train networks, plus the freight lines distributing raw materials and finished goods around the region. Logistics are important to every business and the Northeast has multiple choices and redundant methods to move people and products around the region and around the globe. Airports are a critical component to the network, both for people and freight, and the Northeast’s are some of the biggest and busiest.
Rochester, New Hampshire: Putting It All Together
Meeting and touring with businesses, showing them sites in Rochester, whether in the Historic Downtown or one of eight business parks, is always as enlightening for me as it is for them. What I learn are the mistaken assumptions that people have, and the owners and managers have the knowledge of the development ready locations, friendly people with a great business ethics, and such a high quality place to live, work, and play. Rochester’s Downtown is also an Arts & Entertainment center with a beautiful Opera House featuring live music, theater, and comedy along with movies and summer theater camps. Artisans and galleries are scattered between great dining establishments, and outdoor dining is a three-season activity. Homes are affordable and taxes are low, relatively speaking. (Any place this popular is going to have some demand.) The public schools are great with direct pathways into colleges and universities. Great Bay Community College and Granite State College have satellite campuses in Rochester and do employee training as well as offer degree programs for students of all ages. The city has a robust transportation network including rail, a community airport, and public transportation in and around the city, connecting to Boston Logan or the Downeaster by Amtrak.
Get to Know the North: Northeast Economic Development Association Conference
Join NEDA in Newark, NJ for an insightful look into economic development at the THRIVE Northeast Conference, October 21-23, 2018. The sessions will be your window into what communities in the Northeast are doing, what projects are happening, and what the pros know about working in this hotbed of new development and redevelopment.
Written by Karen Pollard, CEcD. Karen has worked in Economic Development in New York, the Midwest and in New England, and certified by the International Economic Developers Council (IEDC). She is also a graduate of the Economic Development Institute (EDI) and received the Ruffin Award for Economic Development Scholarship, is Vice President of the Northeast Economic Development Association while completing her Master’s at Northeastern University (Boston). Ms. Pollard is an Outstanding Woman in Business by the New Hampshire Business Review and a U.S. Small Business Administration District Champion Award Winner. She works for the City of Rochester, NH as Economic Development Manager.