While the situation is complex, the solution doesn’t have to be. New Hampshire exports young people to good jobs in other places. If we acknowledge the situation, then some solutions become apparent.
We need to invest more in education on all levels. There’s no reason why our public universities have to be so expensive. New Hampshire students go to study in other states and never come back to live here. And we need to invest in the bridge between high school and college. Too many Granite State students don’t end up pursuing higher education. Many who do, find themselves ill prepared. Which means we need to invest more in public education in New Hampshire. Not just in STEM, but in STEAM. Including the arts is a proven way to open students’ minds to creative thinking and help them find ways to apply knowledge to the real world.
As we invest billions in highways, we need to also invest in public transportation. Millennials don’t love cars but they do love public transportation. It’s no wonder that the real estate market on the Seacoast leads the state. There are three Downeaster stops on the Seacoast. We need passenger rail and we need service between urban centers. We need to invest in electric charging stations in the core of our cities, too. These are not trends but real issues as we lose people and jobs to the booming Boston market.
Workforce housing is crucial to have a workforce. Rents for young people can be discouraging. If companies can’t find affordable housing for their workers they’re not going to invest in New Hampshire. We need to rethink how the housing market looks at the future, including an aging population, and invest in smart zoning and projects that will make us a leader.
We often put out an image of New Hampshire as a natural paradise. And between our mountains, streams, seacoast and lakes, that’s pretty accurate. But attracting young families means we have to focus more on urban life as well. Portsmouth, Keene, Manchester, Nashua and Concord are really great cities with exciting things happening in their downtowns. The message of New Hampshire’s strong creative economy is often left out. I know people who are looking for a place to locate to and want to know that they can go to concerts, enjoy street festivals, and eat at great restaurants. Our cities have all that and more. We just are not getting the word out.
Lastly we need to be more welcoming: Welcoming to New Americans, welcome to people of diverse backgrounds, welcoming to anybody who wants to live in and invest in the Granite State. Racism only underlines negative images about New Hampshire. It’s a problem and unless we strive to make every community more welcoming to anybody who wants to come here - we will lose talented hard-working people to other states where they will make a huge impact on the economy.