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Jeff Rose. Courtesy photo.




R.I.P. DRED
Agency shakeup splits economic and outdoors divisions

09/21/17
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



 Earlier this year, when Gov. Chris Sununu signed the budget into law, he triggered a massive reorganization of two of the state’s most important agencies. 

The former Department of Resources and Economic Development, known colloquially as DRED, is no longer; it’s now the Department of Business and Economic Affairs, and it includes the divisions of Economic Development and Travel and Tourism. 
Meanwhile, the divisions of Forests and Lands and Parks and Recreation, which had been under the DRED umbrella, are now part of the newly renamed Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, formerly the Department of Cultural Resources, which focused mainly on artistic and historical assets in the state.
Taylor Caswell is the first ever commissioner of the newly minted Department of Business and Economic Affairs; Jeffrey Rose now leads the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
Since Caswell was confirmed by the Executive Council, he has been overseeing efforts to split up those divisions collaboratively with Rose, who previously headed DRED.
“Jeff and I are friends. We’ve known each other a long time, and that’s made this transition a lot easier,” Caswell said.
 
Business and economy
The purpose of the reorganization, as Caswell sees it, is about renewing focus on economic development.
“The idea wasn’t so much ‘how can we break apart DRED?’ as much as it was ‘how can we best take the pieces that we have within state government and use that in a way that can bring back this singular focus in economic development as one of the major roles that state government can play?’” Caswell said.
Caswell said he sees this as an opportunity to fine-tune the new Department of Business and Economic Affairs by bringing its two remaining divisions closer together.
“There’s literally a wall between Travel and Tourism and Economic Development. So we are pretty split up into two groups right now,” Caswell said.
One of the ways he hopes to marry the two groups is by finding a new office for the agency. Right now, it’s located in an office building on Pembroke Road, in the Heights area of Concord. But he wants to bring it downtown.
“My goal is to be able to get this department into a setting that more reflects [what] we’re marketing, which is New Hampshire towns,” Caswell said.
In the coming weeks, he plans to look into the details of such a plan to see how feasible it is. He said it’s too soon to say if such a move would save or cost the department money.
But if he’s unable to move his department downtown, Caswell will do the next best thing.
“I think that that’s Plan B, to sort of make do with what we have here. … The wall would have to come down,” Caswell said.
Another goal near the top of his list is to hire a new director of economic development. The post has been vacant since last year and Caswell said that individual will be needed to take point on drafting a 10-year economic plan, which was ordered in statute when the budget became law.
Ultimately, Caswell hopes the 10-year plan will help communities work together toward the common goals of attracting businesses, residents and tourists.
“Having some sort of central focus and direction provided by the state I would hope would be very beneficial to the future of where we’re headed,” he said.
In the meantime, he wants to find sections of the department, sometimes between the two divisions, that have overlapping expertise or efforts and streamline those so they work more in tandem with one another.
One broad example is how the state markets itself: One hand markets to businesses or residents to locate here, another hand is trying to attract tourists. 
“The marketing that we use to get people here to come for a weekend is not fundamentally different, in some ways, from the same marketing that we would use to get people to move here,” Caswell said.
Another example is outreach to places like Canada. The office of international commerce, which works with exporters in the state and helps connect them with supply line folks across the border, is “underutilized,” according to Caswell, despite being a nationally respected group, he said. But he said the travel and tourism teams and business recruitment teams, who also have a lot of experience working with Canada, have been working separately from the export team.
“Right now, the level of interaction between those various entities … is limited,” Caswell said.
 
Nature, art and history
The other side of this reorganization process is the formation of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Essentially, this involves taking two natural-resource-focused divisions from DRED and putting them with a department that had been focused on artistic and historical resources.
For its commissioner, Jeffrey Rose, the marriage makes perfect sense. Both the natural assets and cultural assets need to be protected, promoted, preserved and stewarded by his department.
“So we’re really an asset-based agency that I think will provide opportunities and synergies for us to more effectively manage these assets on behalf of the people of the state,” Rose said.
Rose already has experience running the two natural resources divisions, but he’s taking time to get acquainted more with the arts and history side.
“It’s a very cool agency to be a part of. We’re the heart and the pulse of the most distinctive characteristics of New Hampshire and certainly a key driver of our high quality of life and why people chose to live in the Granite State or why people want to visit here with their loved ones,” Rose said. “There are new elements to this role that will require me to spend time getting to engage with new sets of stakeholders and learning their perspectives.”
So far, the DNCR leadership team has been working to craft its path forward.
“It’s a natural progression, when you form a new agency, to develop your strategies and your common vision and mission and values, and we’re going through that exercise now,” Rose said.
Uniting the existing department with the new divisions is a challenge, Rose said, because they need to merge a lot of infrastructure such as websites, IT and HR departments and databases, and replace old signage at hundreds of properties managed by the agency.
“One of the unique challenges is that the legislature did not provide us any resources to execute this reorganization. Which is fine — it just makes it a little bit more difficult. And we will find a way to make it work,” Rose said.
In the next “handful of months,” Rose said, he will be looking at possibly relocating all or some divisions of the DNCR. Any decisions they make will be based in part on what the DBEA team finds in their evaluation of the options available and vice versa. Ultimately, there’s a chance nothing will be relocated. 
In the long term, Rose hopes to capitalize on some of the natural ways in which the two halves overlap, such as with the arts.
“I think there are some immediate connections that we will be able to make and to grow upon. You think about some of our most inspirational locations in our state for artists, residents and such, they tend to be in our natural environment, whether it’s our Seacoast or our mountains or our lakes or forests,” he said.
The same is true for the state’s historical resources, according to Rose.
“We have some amazing properties that have some amazing history and to be able to bring that more to the forefront and to get people excited, not just about the majestic location, but the rich history of these locations, is a natural synergy,” Rose said. 





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