As I was listening to some political panelists debate about the 2016 presidential race, it reminded me of the 2014 Rhode Island governor’s race when our now governor Gina Raimondo made a comment regarding the lack of cranes in Providence — or anywhere else in the state for that matter. She was referring to the lack of new building projects coming to the Ocean State.
I sat and thought about the truth of the to-be governor’s remark and how there has been a lack of new business development in Providence over the past decade or so. I asked myself why start-ups seem to have serious issues that force them to leave Providence and Rhode Island. The answer for Providence and Rhode Island is simple…taxes and regulations along with the lack of true economic leadership at the city or state level are the reasons. (Although I cannot fault the governor since she hasn’t been in office that long and Rhode Island doesn’t have equal powers. Governor Raimondo has to fight the more powerful legislature on everything).
As I was asking myself these questions, my attention shifted to Manchester because there has been a lack of new business development there as well. And I’m not referring to businesses that move from other areas of Manchester or even those that relocate from other communities within New Hampshire. I am talking about businesses that come to MHT from out of state; those that decide to make Manchester, (and New Hampshire), their new home. Further, I’m referring to medium to large businesses – those that will help support micro and small business such as the local pizza shops and markets.
I have heard comments regarding the lack of new business coming to Manchester by several people and realize that this is true. Where are all the new businesses? Of course there has been some new business activity in Manchester, which has brought some jobs, but it has been slow to say the least. I’m always hearing how the economy is picking up and new companies are being started with new jobs but don’t see them – at least not in MHT.
So why hasn’t there been more new businesses coming to Manchester? The city has the location, it has the amenities, it is a nice place to live, (quality healthcare, etc.). Manchester also has its share of talent and is in an area where it can get even more talent from not too far away. Entrepreneurship is thriving so there isn’t a lack of people willing to make a go of it. So what is it? Some would say the regulations, especially in Manchester. I have heard that MHT is not the most business friendly community but don’t think that’s the only reason for such a lack of new business — or why so many students choose to leave the city upon graduation. That may be part of it, but it’s not the entire reason.
I believe that the main reason why there is a lack of new business is because the city is not promoting itself to the outside world. I cannot remember the last time I saw an ad promoting MHT as a great place to start and grow a business. I have seen tourism ads – mostly on the state level – that mention Manchester as a business city, but it was brief and told viewers that MHT is the state’s business center. I’ve also seen banners that show MHT as the business center and the city’s website reads “New Hampshire’s Business Capital.” As good as it may seem, simple mentions and slogans won’t cut it, especially if anyone thinks they are going to get new business from anywhere west of Keene or south of Nashua.
In comparison, other New England cities with populations of less than 200,000, (such as Providence and Worcester), not only have ongoing campaigns, but they have people who promote their cities to outside groups. Even cities significantly smaller than Manchester have campaigns and promotions people, (such as Portland ME and Burlington VT). And of course Providence had a mayor who was the city’s cheerleader, which helped.
Manchester is lacking promotion. Maybe the powers that be are comfortable with what is in the city. I agree that there are some great companies in MHT, but believe that there could be more. Not having more solid companies in Manchester not only makes it a necessity for residents to work out of town – or out of state – but it also has caused MHT to lose potential commuters from out of town coming to work in the city. According to State Impact, a reporting project of National Public Radio, more than 80,000 Granite Staters work in Massachusetts, most of these people are from Concord, Manchester, Derry, Salem, Nashua, and the Seacoast.
So many people working out of state results in around $250 million in taxes being paid to the Commonwealth by New Hampshire residents every year. That money could be in the pockets of the locals and spent on things in the Granite State. Also, people who commute from outside of Manchester to Massachusetts could be commuting to the city instead. This would not only keep money in New Hampshire, it would bring revenue to the city because people would be paying for things such as parking, meeting space, and goods and services. Having more businesses in Manchester would also benefit the city through tax revenue.
In reality there will always be people who commute to places outside of Manchester. There is nothing wrong with this, but people should have the option of having solid, well-paying local jobs that will help build the local economy. And Manchester should have new businesses moving in.
The bottom line is that Manchester needs to constantly be promoted as a great place to start and grow a business as well as to live. And any fees and regulations or bureaucracy that makes it difficult to have a business in the city needs to be changed or removed. City decision makers also need to be open to different kinds of businesses and not only think old school in this area. The economy is changing and the city needs to go with it. This includes updating laws and regulations to align with the current business climate as well as the safety and security of the people. Manchester is a great place for many industries, from manufacturing to hi-tech and needs to let the world know.
Manchester needs to let the world know that it is a great place for many types of businesses, and that it wants to be home to them. Whether it be manufacturing or cutting-edge technology and innovation,
Manchester needs to let everyone know that it’s the place to be.
As a side note, this will be my last weekly article. My next article will appear on Friday, September 4th and every other Friday following. As always, I thank you for reading and for your comments!
About the author: Brian Chicoine is a New Hampshire native who moved to Manchester from Raymond in 1980 at the age of 8. He attended Gossler Park Elementary, Parkside and Southside Junior High, and West High, from which he graduated in 1990. After attending Notre Dame College in Manchester, Brian completed his undergraduate degree at Rhode Island College in Providence. Brian and his wife Jackie then came to Manchester in 2004 and were involved in various outreach organizations. Their two boys were born in Manchester during this time. After his position was eliminated in 2009, Brian and his family returned to Rhode Island. They have been living in Providence since 2010. Brian and his family love Manchester and are planning on returning within the next few months. Brian is currently working at helping the city move forward by connecting with other stakeholders and becoming involved with like-minded groups. Brian is also laying the foundation for an organization that will help strengthen the city and help it move forward.
Brian holds a Bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island College and a Master of Public Administration degree from Grand Canyon University. Brian currently works at Boston Children’s Hospital. He is also founder of a Facebook Group, Manchester Forward. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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