The Hippo


Jun 18, 2019








 Survey says...

In 2007 and 2013, the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, on behalf of Stay Work Play New Hampshire, conducted surveys with graduating seniors and alumni from New Hampshire colleges. In 2013, young professionals were also surveyed.
From 2007 to 2013, there was an increase of 3.7 percent of graduating seniors who reported they probably or definitely wanted to remain in New Hampshire after graduation.
2007: Probably or definitely yes 37.5%
2013: Probably or definitely yes 41.2%
2007: Probably or definitely no 40.9%
2013: Probably or definitely no 35.8%

A Younger NH
What's being done to keep under-40s in the state

By Kelly Sennott

 About 10 years ago, it became clear that New Hampshire had a problem: It was getting too old.

As baby boomers were inching toward retirement, the young professionals who would replace them were moving out of state in search of the dream lifestyle, or the dream job to pay off college loans. Going to Boston or New York or Colorado was the cool, and seemingly smart, thing to do. Staying here — not so much.
Research by the University System of New Hampshire showed that in 2007, only 50 percent of Granite State college grads were staying to work here. Why they were leaving was uncertain; we had employers who needed employees, and though the salaries weren’t as substantial as those in big cities, we also had a lower cost of living.
So New Hampshire leaders decided to find out what was prompting young people to leave. Out of this USNH study came the 55 percent initiative, a call to develop creative ways to entice future grads to stay, work and play here, and more specifically to turn that 50 percent to 55 percent. In 2008, Gov. John Lynch put out an executive order to create a task force to analyze the issue and create a game plan, which was released in 2009.
Some of the ideas in that game plan: Start the nonprofit Stay Work Play New Hampshire. Highlight businesses that recruit and retain young workers. Expand young professional networks. Support more internships. Recreate college career placement offices. Re-introduce rail on the capitol corridor. Support more workforce housing options.
A lot has changed since then — physically, economically, demographically — but we’ve been working at these initiatives for a few years. So, how are we doing? The answer, not surprisingly, is difficult to measure.
Some recommendations from the 2009 task force report have been addressed. Some haven’t. But one thing’s for certain: The idea to “stay, work, play” has become a mainstay in discussions about community and economic development.
As Gov. Maggie Hassan said via email, “In order to lay the foundation for a new generation of economic growth, it’s absolutely critical that we continue to build on our efforts to attract and retain more young people in our state.”
The beginning
The biggest call to connect young people has been answered in the creation of Stay Work Play New Hampshire, headed by CEO and President Kate Luczko. The organization is the bridge between businesses, incubators, colleges, internship programs and young professional organizations — the latter of which has seen a “huge amount of energy” during the past five years, Luczko said.
Before young professional networks existed, the New Hampshire business air was very different, Manchester Young Professionals Network (MYPN) co-founder Stephanie McLaughlin said via phone. Eleven years ago, she was in her early 30s and an associate publisher for Business New Hampshire Magazine. Her job required she constantly be at Chamber of Commerce events, dinners and nonprofit fundraisers, to look for stories and be visible. It could be daunting — mostly because she felt she didn’t fit in.
“As I went to these events, a couple things became clear to me. One: there weren’t a lot of people who looked like me,” McLaughlin said. “They were people who were much older than me, already established in their careers. And by and large, they also all knew each other. One thing about Manchester — once you get involved, you realize it’s a pretty small town.”
Slowly, she began finding those who did look like her — early- to mid-career but ambitious people who worked for the Chamber of Commerce, Intown Manchester, the mayor’s office.
“These events weren’t necessarily programmed toward us,” she said. “But we were interested in building something that was.”
They thought they might not be the only ones who felt this way. At their first networking event, at an Elm Street restaurant, they expected a crowd of 100. They got almost 200.
Young professional 
network growth
Shortly after, Nashua (IUGO) and Concord (Concord Young Professionals Network) jumped on the bandwagon and formed their own young professionals networks. Today, there are 13 regional ones, including on the Seacoast, in the Lakes Region, the Upper Valley and the Keene area. 
Some YPN events are one-hour networking shindigs with business cards. Others involve workshops on how to better yourself in the workplace — email writing! The art of negotiation! How to ask for a raise! 
Many more are meant to be fun. IUGO has been focusing on creating social events that showcase fun things to do in the area — hiking at Beaver Brook, wine tasting, pub crawls — and people have responded.
“About a year ago, we decided to increase opportunities for people to come out and socially meet each other … not necessarily in a professional development format. That has really boosted attendance, at least here in Nashua,” said Michael Aquino, chair of IUGO. “We’re trying to highlight what’s here instead of trying to fabricate gimicky events. We try to entertain them instead, and show, why do people come here to live, work and play?”
Within the state also exist industry-specific groups, like the New Hampshire Society of Certified Public Accountants, the Associated Builders and Contractors Young Professionals Group.
Luczko regularly brings together network chairs for a group phone call to talk about what’s been working and what hasn’t. Because of this bridge, networks can learn from one another. After Manchester’s successful “Corner Office Connections” — they paired up-and-coming young professionals with established ones in the community — Concord is in the beginning stages of doing something similar. 
Derry Londonderry Young Professionals Network Chair Nicholas del’Etoile said via phone one of his goals was to get people out of the woodwork. He’d been a member of MYPN for years and said he likes meeting others who are going through the same things as he.
“A lot of times, for younger people in business, all they see is tenured people around. It allows people an outlet, where they can meet other people in similar circumstances,” del’Etoile said.
The challenges? Some YPNs, Luczko said, have struggled in more rural areas, like Plymouth, where the town all  but disappears come summer. Del’Etoile said DLYPN is only a couple years old, but it’s been difficult because there exist few young professionals compared to Nashua, Manchester and Concord.
Expanding career centers
Local colleges have been making big changes. UNH Manchester didn’t even really have an organized career center until a couple years ago, said Jennifer Landon, the school’s new career consultant. When it did form, it was strategically positioned as the first stop of the student/parent tour of the new Pandora Building, located among the millyard’s hotbed of tech companies.
Inside the career center is Landon’s office and a room for mock interviews, complete with desk, camera and television. Along one wall is a New Hampshire map scattered with gold and silver stars, representing where students have interned or worked or where they’re going to grad school. These are the things prospective parents and students really want to see, she said. That and numbers, which is true across the state and across the country, Luczko said.
“[Parents and students] want to know what percentage of graduates get jobs within a year after graduation. So universities are having to step up their game, to make sure that career advisors, and whoever it is, are actually placing students,” Luczko said.
Added Landon, “Ten years ago, a career center was considered more of a cost center. We don’t bring in any money. Now that we’re seeing that the services we provide are very valuable to the students, more parents and families are asking those questions: What do your graduates do? Where do they go?”
While growing college career centers could cause more students to stay here, Krystal Hicks, director of Career Services at UNH Durham, said it’s not her job to get students to remain in New Hampshire, but to get them employed, period. 
Business partnerships
Colleges and businesses have been working together to create more opportunities for students. Many interviewed businesses with strong internship programs said they worked directly with college career offices or else posted positions on college job/internship websites (for instance, UNH’s Wildcat Careers).
For UNH Manchester, the move has caught the attention of many local businesses right in the millyard, said Sarah Jacobs, director of strategic initiatives, with plans to create more business-school partnerships come fall.
“Businesses who already had partnerships with us are very proud. Those who didn’t realize what a huge resource they have in the millyard,” Jacobs said.
At UNH Manchester, the Pandora Building also has more raw space for things like job and employer fairs.
“We didn’t have a lot of space to be able to invite employers into events. We have a lot of faculty who invited alumni and parents to the classrooms, to talk about résumé reviews, to talk about employability skills, but we didn’t really have a venue to welcome multiple employers,” Landon said. 
Beth Prieto, executive director of career development at SNHU, also said there’s been a push to create more partnerships within the community and also bring more employers into the school, and New Hampshire Institute of Art Career Services Director Lindsay Coats echoed the sentiment. Though the goal is for NHIA students to become working artists, it often turns out that when these students work personally with local employers — creating graphic design advertisements or painting murals on business walls — they become invested in the community; according to NHIA data, about 62 percent of NHIA alum continue to reside in New Hampshire.
Climate of coolness
Outside colleges, there exist incentives to take on interns and young employees. Stay Work Play, for instance, highlights companies that do an exemplary job of taking on interns and entry-level workers, from the Rising Stars Awards (celebrating and recognizing young professionals and the programs and businesses that recruit and retain them) to the Stay Work Play Challenge Grant (an incentive program that showcases employers who contribute $8,000 to pay down college loans for newly hired grads over the first four years of employment).
“I think just having the issue more on the forefront of people’s minds has helped. Like this cool company award, for instance — employers are positioning themselves as a place that young people want to work,” Luczko said.
“I see a lot of companies who are trying to create almost a climate of coolness that appeals to young workers,” said Matt Cookson, who runs Cookson Strategies and is a Stay Work Play founder. “The trend of dressing down, for example. Flexible work schedules. Hip work spaces.”
Companies able to retain young workers or maintain highly ranked intern programs have some commonalities. At Single Digits, Inc., aesthetic is important, with modern cubicles and computers. But they also have fun stuff: Doughnut Wednesdays, Popcorn Fridays, a work softball league. Dyn, which boasts 24 interns a year (they usually have to turn many away), has an on-site gym and dog-friendly office space. Couches and different kinds of seating are scattered throughout the building, as are video games, a pingpong table, a Foosball table and a rock-climbing wall.
“I think one of the things really important to younger workers now is finding companies that are innovative and that focus a lot on culture and promote work-life balance,” said Kim Saturley, a talent business partner at Dyn.
Business mentors
Many of these companies also perform research to learn what young professionals are looking for, which, according to those recruiters interviewed, is the opportunity to grow, both upward and sideways, and to be mentored. 
“Millennials like to have a say in what they’re doing. They like to have an impact. They like to be empowered,” said Angela Carter, senior vice president at Calypso Communications, which has been hosting interns since its very start 15 years ago. “But as much as they want to be heard, they want feedback too.”
Challenges exist in businesses that have strong intern and entry-level employment programs. Sometimes you get interns who help your office. Sometimes you don’t.
But lots of business owners claim it’s been key to growth. Hampton resident Eric Marx, for instance, moved his Probity IT office from Danvers, Mass., to Durham because of its proximity to UNH. Right now, he has two full-time employees, including himself, and a few part-time students. Marx can now mold students into the kinds of workers he wants. They also provide fresh perspectives and are free from bad habits, he said. 
“It’s been very rewarding for me to see their growth,” Marx said.
Carter agreed. 
“Interns come in with a fresh perspective. They’re not jaded. They invigorate us and open us up to other things we might not be aware of,” Carter said. 
Less buying, more renting
Young professionals are less inclined to buy than they used to be; after the 2008 and 2009 downturn, many people coming out of school had to settle for unsatisfactory first jobs, making less money than they would have liked, said Newton Kershaw III, CEO of Elm Grove Companies.
“Or they needed to be mindful of where they were spending their money, because they didn’t know about the stability of the economy,” Kershaw said. “You had a lot of situations where people were still living with their parents or not buying a home when they otherwise would have.”
Small and downtown
Even as the economy has turned upward, the trend to rent, and in particular to rent downtown, has continued to increase, which is how Elm Grove Companies came to envision the Flats on Hanover Commons in Manchester. When complete — ideally in a year’s time — they will be 32 rental micro apartments, 300 to 400 square feet, complete with a common area with free wifi, cafe, gym, rentable office space and built-in and dual-purpose features like pull-out beds. 
“There are a lot of examples of successful implementation in other communities. We primarily looked at the models that were implemented in Providence, R.I., and the things that had been implemented on the West Coast, New York and overseas,” Kershaw said. “It’s not just small for the sake of small. It’s small but living efficiently. … I think the way people think has changed fundamentally. … Smaller and more efficient is chic. Something like that was small and cramped 10 years ago.”
Another somewhat recent development in Manchester are the Lofts at Mill No. 1, located in the millyard and developed by Brady Sullivan Properties.
“It brings people downtown and it connects workers,” said Ben Kelley, who works for Brady Sullivan and is also an independent developer in Concord.
High quality
Ben Kelley and his wife, Karina Kelley, have been flipping and restoring multi-family units in Concord, transforming them into places they feel are attractive to young professionals, whom they understand well  — they’re millennials themselves. Their apartments have bike storage, solid wood boxed cabinets, granite countertops, bamboo flooring and European designs. Right now, they lease 16  to 18 units, which generally fill up quickly.
“If you look at millennials, the stats are, people are buying houses later and later in life. Our generation — and even baby boomers — don’t want the massive house. They want access to downtown shops and amenities. … But that doesn’t mean they don’t want a quality home,” Ben Kelley said.
Other examples to bring more market-rate housing to Concord include the Endicott Hotel apartments (opened in 2013 by CATCH Neighborhood Housing) and the Vegas Block Apartments building (purchased by Remi Hinxhia, the building is being restored, with top floors that will become residential market-rate housing).
High demand
Demand in Concord was evident, Concord City Councilman Byron Champlin said, when those market-rate Endicott Hotel units — formerly subsidized housing — went quickly. 
Demand is high in Nashua as well, said Tom Galligani, economic development director for the city, but until recently, supply was low. The biggest recent project was the Apartments at Cotton Mill, with 109 units and a variety of floorplans that showcase exposed wood beams, spiral staircases, uncovered brick walls and loft-style living. Just this month, Brady Sullivan Properties also purchased an empty 310,000-square-foot 19th-century mill building on Franklin Street, with plans for residential redevelopment. 
Smaller developers, said Galligani, have been surprised at how quickly they’ve been able to fill their buildings with tenants, and at how high they’ve been able to rent. Now that word’s getting around about the need, he expects even more downtown housing developers to bite.
“Developers and investors need to respond to the market demand, and they can only do that if they know the demand exists,” Galligani said. 
In Concord, there’s a lot of empty space in the upper stories of Main Street buildings, perfect for residential housing. The problem is that owners aren’t budging.
“Many of the downtown properties are …  owned by a small number of landlords. And some of these folks downtown don’t have an incentive or inclination to convert some of the former commercial spaces in their upper stories to create a residential space,” Champlin said.
Added Ben Kelley, “For me, that’s the biggest [obstacle]. Not access to capital, but finding the next deal, and a deal that makes sense.”
Downtown Concord
If more and more people are wanting to live in — or even just work in, or visit — New Hampshire’s biggest downtowns, it only makes sense that they also want their downtowns to be, well, nice. Portsmouth is one example of how a more walkable place will draw people, and Concord’s Main Street Project mirrors that idea, with the final phase scheduled to be finished in October 2016. The city has made room for a little more culture, from the new opera company, Piccola Opera, to expansions at the Concord Arts Market, Gibson’s Bookstore, Double Midnight Comics and Runner’s Alley on Main Street.
It also has organizations like Intown Concord, which organizes downtown events such as the Market Days Festival, Midnight Merriment, the Halloween Howl and the Upstairs, Downtown Walking Tour, and Creative Concord Committee, which works to strategize and maximize the creative capital of the greater Concord area.

Downtown Nashua
That’s the idea in Nashua, too. Galligani expects the development of Broad Street Parkway, a “new front door to Nashua” by Exit 6, will improve access to the city. It also helps that groups like City Arts Nashua and Positive Street Art are making a constant effort to spruce up the walkable parts of downtown with mural and sculptural art. 
“People are less interested in driving. Less interested in owning a car. They’re more interested in spending money on experiences. We’ve seen those trends nationally. They’re more interested in finding more walkable stuff to do, and finding more interesting ways to spend their time,” Galligani said.
Nashua has its own downtown-focused organization. The Great American Downtown, headed by Paul Shea, tries to build economic and cultural vibrancy via events (like the Nashua Stroll, the Taste of Downtown, the Farmers Market) and communication about the fun things to do downtown, which Shea said has been increasing — the newsletter the organization sends out has become biweekly, and its tweets and Facebook posts have become more regular too.
Downtown Manchester
Manchester’s got Intown Manchester, the Palace Theatre and numerous arts and business organizations (the Currier, Studio 550, Dancing Lion Chocolate, New Hampshire Institute of Art) putting in effort to make the city a better place through arts, culture and community activities. 
Kershaw believes the next step is to define neighborhoods. He and others are trying to brand the Hanover Street corridor, which is in his opinion one of Manchester’s greatest cultural assets. 
“We’re trying to work with Intown Manchester to extend the banner program through the Hanover corridor,” Kershaw said. “Part of having new areas of town grow is really giving them a sense of place and defining neighborhoods. I used to live in Manhattan, for example, and there are all these little neighborhoods, each of which has [its] own personality or culture.” Kershaw referenced a 2006 study, the Hilliard Study, which reports that defining a cultural district could be a good economic driver.

Leadership programs
Kershaw thinks some of the most valuable assets of New Hampshire’s changing cities are programs like Leadership New Hampshire, a year-long educational program, and also regional leadership programs, like Leadership Greater Concord, Leadership Greater Manchester, Leadership Nashua, Leadership Lakes Region, etc. 
“I went through Leadership Greater Manchester,” Kershaw said. “My thought is, it’s something that really helps to …  solidify in someone’s mind that, yeah, they want to be a leader in the town. Because you have all these connections, and you start to grow your networks.”
Added Champlin, who went through Leadership New Hampshire, “It certainly gave me validation and a network of people who I could always turn to and rely on. … Whether or not someone stays in New Hampshire — there are a multitude of factors. But leadership programs help ground young professionals. They help create relationships in the community … and they also create, I’ll use Robert Putnam’s term: social capital.”
Live Free and Start
One way to get young people to stay here is to convince them that New Hampshire is the best place to start their company. Locally, and statewide, there’s been a lot of effort to take away the obstacles and create ecosystems that support entrepreneurs.
One of the biggest and most recent is the Live Free and Start initiative, a joint effort between the governor’s office, the Business Finance Authority and the Department of Resources and Economic Development. Only a year in existence, Live Free and Start already has a website that connects puzzle pieces for entrepreneurs — here you’ll find local, inspiring pioneer stories, an in-depth calendar of business-related events and opportunities like start-up challenges (including MYPN’s start-up challenge, created in 2008, aimed to connect entrepreneurs and social innovators with seed capital and services), accelerator courses and information about local incubators who can help. There’s also a section with funding ideas, from crowdfunding to angel donors to grants.
“We tried hard to look at the problems, the barriers to growth,” said Liz Gray, director of entrepreneurship at the Business Finance Authority. “We are one growing piece of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. We would like to play our part by trying to spread the word about the opportunities. … To make sure grads at UNH or Dartmouth, or any greater higher institution, know that hey, there is a place where you can be part of a very supportive and very connected ecosystem. You can be a big fish in a small pond.”
Alpha Loft
Also causing commotion in the start-up community are the state’s many growing incubators and coworking spaces. In Manchester, the biggest presence is the Alpha Loft. (Formerly abiHub, it bought the Alpha Loft location in Portsmouth and Durham about a year ago; the Manchester office decided to change its name too because it was easier to say.) By combining, “We’ve created an organization that cuts across the southern part of the state,” said CEO Mark Kaplan. There are workshops, accelerator programs and opportunities for business expertise and office space, and its members work alongside other invigorated, passionate entrepreneurs.
“We have built a very strong network of successful entrepreneurs and people with functional expertise who were willing to get involved with us and provide advice and mentorship to new start-ups,” Kaplan said. “I think one of the important things we’re doing is taking advantage of the network of New Hampshire people in the community who are willing to give back.”
Game Assembly
In its Manchester office just three months is Game Assembly, a video game development community that aims to build a game industry in the state by growing New Hampshire game studios (the biggest ones in the company are Skymap Games, Robot Loves Kitty and Retro Affect), retaining state talent (there are already some SNHU and NHTI interns — and teachers from those schools who are active here) and educating in game development. Co-creators Neal Laurenza and Dave Carrigg started it because they were tired of seeing New Hampshire game developers move, mostly to Massachusetts, but it was hard to blame them; Carrigg actually was a member of a Cambridge gaming community very similar to that at Game Assembly. He commuted back and forth because it was worth it.
“When you’re working at home, you don’t have a lot of interaction between other developers,” Carrigg said. “Whereas working in an office like this, you can just turn to someone and say, ‘What do you think of this?’”
The space builds camaraderie, and seeing others work provides inspiration. Finding members was easy. In New Hampshire, there were no video game companies hiring at the rate New Hampshire was producing graduates in the field, and many of those who could have started their own companies had few opportunities to learn directly, from someone in the industry, how to do it.
“I’ve had students who should have formed their own studios. No question,” said Gregory Walek, professor of animation and graphic game programming at NHTI, meaning these students had excellent school projects that could have been turned into games. “But now we can mentor them to build their studio. … It’s one thing to do student work. To get them into the marketplace is another step. A huge step.”
Work Nest
In Concord, there’s lots of commotion about Ben and Karina Kelley’s brand-new Work Nest, which has an open house Aug. 27. The Kelleys hope the coworking space will find its niche not just among the business or tech community, but also in the arts — that it will become a home for artists, writers or people who work remotely or from home. Membership is like at a gym, and the plan is to work with community organizations to build programming.
MakeIt Labs
And in Nashua, it’s all about the MakeIt Labs. Around since 2011, it’s a makerspace whose members seek to expand into a new building three times the size with the help of $312,000 in tax credits from the Community Development Finance Authority. Right now the space is a gigantic, 6,000-square-foot warehouse/workshop filled with tools and equipment — for metalworking, welding, machining, automotive, carpentry, electronics, laser cutting, 3-D printing, programming, etc. — that its 110 members have 24/7 access to. When the nonprofit moves to its new location, its identity will change a bit; added to the mix will be a kitchen, rentable office space, conference rooms, public space — everything that doesn’t make noise or dust, said MakeIt Labs president Adam Shrey. 
Lots of renovations are needed and these depend on how fast they can sell the tax credits, but Shrey would love to move in by the MakeIt Labs October Halloween party.
“The main point of the grant … is to create this coworking place, so people can come here and actually work remotely from their job. Or if they want to start a business and want an inexpensive space with a lot of amenities. Hopefully a few years down the line, we can have a technology incubator set up,” he said. (Though unlike at Alpha Loft, their expertise would be more techy, less business-y.) “But our number one resource is the people we have there. … There are people who have tons of experience in the field who will happily lend advice.” 

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