Will Stewart, shown center with his son Zeke, met with the Northfield Economic Development Corporation last week to explain the results of a Stay Work Play New Hampshire survey. With him are NEDC members Mark Hayes, Greg and Deb Peverly, Deb Tessier and Glenn Smith. (Photo by Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
November 20, 2018NORTHFIELD – Will Stewart, executive director for the 501(c)3 organization Stay Work Play New Hampshire, was the keynote speaker for the Northfield Economic Development Corporation's annual meeting at Highland Mountain Bike Park last Wednesday evening.
Stewart said that with the support of Eversource, in December of 2017 his organization conducted a survey of 20-40 year-old residents in the state, to which approximately 420 people responded. The purpose of the survey was identify why young professionals in that age group choose to live in New Hampshire, determine their satisfaction with residing in the state, how they would rank the quality of life here and determine if they plan on staying.
"The survey was a bit weighted by the response from people in the southern part of the state, but all regions were represented," Stewart said.
Through the survey, the group found that 52-percent of those individuals were born in New Hampshire while five-percent came here for higher education and 14-percent for a job. As far as their lifestyle, 41-percent own their homes and 21-percent live with family still, while others rent their homes or apartments.
"The majority of them living with family members said that was because they couldn't afford to pay rent; many because of student debt. We're the number one state in student debt," said Stewart.
Sadly, when asked how many friends or family members live nearby or are easily accessible, 21-percent of respondents said they are also friendless and 25-percent felt living in New Hampshire left them isolated from their family.
"That's concerning and disturbing when it comes to work force retention if they feel they're not engaged with their community in any way," he said. "With the Loneliness Factor, people are more likely to leave for other opportunities."
Other reasons young professionals tend to move to other states are due to the lack of affordable housing, lack of job or career opportunities, little access to cultural opportunities and entertainment, and the lack of public transportation.
When it comes to job availability however, Stewart said they have found there are many opportunities that people simply aren't aware of and a lack of people to fill many of those jobs.
"New Hampshire is the second oldest state in the country, even higher than Florida. We need more young people. Right now, there are over 20,000 open jobs, but we have more jobs than job seekers," he said.
There was good news though. The reasons listed by others who said they would stay in-state were the quality of the environment, parks and recreation areas, as well as the proximity to a variety of outdoor activities. Respondents also said they enjoyed the sense of community in their town or neighborhood, the affordable tax rate (excluding property taxes), and the fact that they perceive the state as a safe place to live.
At the end of the survey, it was revealed that 23-percent were completely satisfied with living in the Granite State and 36-percent were very satisfied. Overall, 19-percent of those surveyed said they will definitely not be moving, 29-percent probably won't move out of state, but 22-percent probably will move elsewhere and 14-percent said they will definitely be heading to another state.
One other observation that Stewart made is that this Millennial group of young adults like to live and work in close proximity to outdoor activities and experiences.
"They're 'off the chart' when it comes to the environment. Anything outdoorsy this group loves," he said.
Mark Hayes of Highland Mountain Bike Park, located in Northfield, took heart in this information. He said his recreation area has seen up to 30,000 people visiting there each year for world class mountain biking. With a potential to grow even more, and with the natural resources it provides for hiking, snowshoeing and other recreational uses, he said it's a good time to be in Northfield and the surrounding towns.
Northfield Town Administrator Glenn Smith is also a member of the NEDC and agreed with Hayes.
"It is hard to overemphasize what Mark has done for this community. We're no longer on the edge of recreation in the Lakes Region, we're in the middle of it," he said.
Information provided by Stay Work Play New Hampshire will now be taken into consideration as the NEDC looks at future considerations to drive up the economic factors of the town.