This article first appeared in the Union Leader in September 2020
COVID-19 has uprooted so much in the daily lives around the world, and New Hampshire clearly is not immune to its path.
In all of the chaos this virus has caused, there are potential opportunities for the Granite State to benefit from due to the changing landscape of business.
Each week, a new or existing client of mine asks how they can design, implement and manage a remote workforce. These organizations are in various stages of abandoning their offices completely or at a minimum reducing a significant presence.
The shift had already started prior to COVID as Global Work Place Analytics has been tracking telecommuting metrics for some time. (https://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/telecommuting-statistics)
How could this benefit New Hampshire?
1. Employees can live and work in New Hampshire, a true virtue of an organization focused on a remote workforce.
Since New Hampshire collects zero income and sales tax, many individuals across the U.S. would benefit from living here, and some of my customer discussions include moving to New Hampshire.
This could allow a potential and nominal migration into more rural towns, which could benefit from the contribution of new residents to a slower real estate market or degraded property tax base.
2. Organizations seeking to downgrade expensive real estate in the Boston market could look for small, more affordable options in New Hampshire — a great option for satellite offices.
Today, most companies realize the world will not end if they offer remote work capabilities to employees. However, would this spark organizations to reevaluate where they placed their offices long term?
If a measurable percentage of workers who travel to Massachusetts every day now could travel to an office in New Hampshire, would a company jump at this opportunity?
Perhaps, since those in the Boston metro area would not have complete shock if they were deemed remote or offered a reverse commute to New Hampshire instead.
COVID has changed that mindset. Additionally, salaries might not have to compete with a Boston/New York/San Francisco rate vs. paying a New Hampshire resident based on the cost of living. Ultimately, employees in New Hampshire now can apply for roles across the U.S. or globally.
3. New Hampshire-based employee earnings would be reinvested back into the local economy.
I’m not a tax expert. However, if a higher percentage of workers became remote full-time employees, what does that tax relief bring? For the employee, removing the Massachusetts income tax because they are now considered a New Hampshire employee should increase savings or discretionary spending.
Similarly, relocating more offices in New Hampshire would be a windfall for commercial real estate and other business taxes.
Towns such as Hillsboro, N.H. (yes that’s the proper spelling if you live there) could become potential options for the next-generation tech workforce. Hillsboro’s roots as a former mill town turned manufacturer (Osram Sylvania’s plant is one of the largest employers) lends itself to attract gritty entrepreneurs and seasoned executives alike. Additionally, the town has numerous amenities for outdoor enthusiasts and is evaluating areas to improve options for business.
Gov. Chris Sununu announced a $16 Million CARES Act investment to expand rural broadband assisting communities, and it should have a direct positive impact for future businesses.
The most difficult aspect to bring any internet services to a residence or business is the local loop, also known as the “last mile.” This is the connection from the central office where the telco has equipment, terminated to the business.
Often, if connectivity exits at the street for other businesses, the provider will build into new customer companies for a small fee or none at all. In a former life, I spent years at CenturyLink, where painful business plans to “build” internet in remote locations generally fell on the company not the provider.
More companies could tap New Hampshire, but it will take additional investments from the public and private organizations to continue this journey. At our firm, Macronet Services is providing free technical and business strategy today for new or existing companies and their employees. We have been assisting companies real-time to achieve remote working. This includes designing security and collaboration solutions to transform the home to become a single branch office during the day.
New Hampshire has a unique opportunity to reposition a terrible situation and become a leader in the next generation of commerce. The late Gov. Steve Merrill coined the phrase “The New Hampshire Advantage.”
Perhaps we’re entering the next phase. If we continue to place politics and business competition aside and redirect our energy by doubling down our New Hampshire investment, the possibilities are endless.