Chamber kicks off Economic and Development Summit

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Mike Skelton (left) and Taylor Caswell. Screenshot

MANCHESTER, N.H. – The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce held the first part of their three-part Economic and Development Infrastructure Summit on Monday, talking with New Hampshire Commissioner of Business and Economic Affairs Taylor Caswell on the state’s economic COVID-19 relief efforts.

Caswell said that New Hampshire’s ability to disperse CARES Act funding has done well compared to other states thanks to variety of initiatives started in the Governor’s Office Emergency Relief and Recovery (GOFERR), with Caswell being named the head of GOFERR in September.

“From the get-go, our strategy was to go fast, to get resources out into the community where they were needed,” he said.

While many businesses have recovered since the beginning of the pandemic, many sectors such as hospitality still struggle as consumer confidence in safety remains tenuous.

Caswell said that it has been difficult for GOFERR to get involved in affordable housing initiatives due to the December 31 deadline to use existing CARES Act funds, noting that housing initiatives can often take years, later adding his hope for more flexibility if the second edition of the CARES Act becomes a reality.

He hoped that Congress can eventually provide further resources regarding housing. One solution on that front could come from the trend toward remote work limiting demand for office space, with current office space potentially being transformed into housing stock in the future.

Additionally in regard to the issue of remote working, Caswell believed that New Hampshire’s geography and economic policies have made it an attractive destination for remote workers, with New Hampshire suing Massachusetts in the U.S. Supreme Court once it learned that the Massachusetts Department of Revenue was taxing New Hampshire residents that normally work in Massachusetts but have been working remotely since the beginning of the pandemic.

While Caswell indicated that the Department of Business and Economic Affairs would be available to assist any community in the state, he did not believe statewide business development directives were appropriate given the various different types of communities in the state. However, he did criticize communities that have advocated for a concentration of banks in a downtown area due to the lack of commercial foot traffic at night in these areas once the banks closed, although he did not mention specific communities that advocated for such a policy.

A full video of the conversation between Caswell and Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce President Mike Skelton can be found here.

On Tuesday, Skelton will interview New Hampshire Department of Transportation Commissioner Victoria Sheehan in Part Two of the series, which can be seen here. The final part of the series will take place on Wednesday, where Skelton will talk with Manchester-Boston Regional Airport Director Ted Kitchens.