PLYMOUTH — The Plymouth Regional Chamber of Commerce Leadership Academy recently attended economic development day, one of nine monthly seminars designed to educate and motivate members to become more involved in the community. The class spent the day hearing from a number of speakers representing a variety of perspectives, including the NH Division of Economic Development, the Enterprise Center at Plymouth, the NH Division of Travel and Tourism and White Mountains Attractions.
The day began at the Enterprise Center of Plymouth with a session presented by Executive Director Michael Tentnowski. The class learned about the services offered at the Center and how it supports the innovation and integration of entrepreneurs and small businesses into our region. Members of the class represent a range of local and regional organizations and were interested to know more about how the Center encourages collaboration among the business community and how that in turn fosters economic development and growth.
The next session focused on economic development strategies from the state perspective and was presented by the NH Division of Economic Development. Director Carmen Lorentz spoke about the role of the organization in helping to provide information to the public and offering programs that assist businesses in developing their workforce and expanding their presence within the state. She said that they are currently in the strategic planning phase of policy development and that workforce and economic development systems have a strong synergy and offer a good opportunity to attract and retain businesses and skilled labor in the state. Beno Lamontagne, North Country Regional Resource Specialist, echoed this sentiment and spoke about his role in recruiting businesses from out-of-state, specifically Canada.
Following was a panel discussion on Tourism in New Hampshire from a statewide and regional perspective with speakers from White Mountains Attractions Director Jayne O'Connor, the Lakes Region Tourism Association Director Amy Landers, and Michele Cota from the NH Division of Travel and Tourism. Tourism represents the second largest industry in New Hampshire, but has faced increasing challenges in recent years. To overcome these hurdles, regional and state organizations have banded together to combine resources and create customized marketing campaigns targeted at specific demographics. In particular, initiatives focus on highlighting the four pillars of tourism in the state: outdoor recreation, attractions, lodging & culinary and arts & heritage. The panel agreed that the main goal is to get people across the border, and building brand awareness is the first step to achieving this end.
The class then traveled to Bristol for the afternoon and lunch with Noah Munro, Co-owner and Director of Marketing at the Mill Fudge Factory. The company is similar to many small businesses in that it started as a small family business and grew until it had a solid presence in the community and had attracted a customer base that included local markets and specialty stores. At present, the company is preparing for its debut on the shelves of several Whole Foods stores throughout the state, a major accomplishment for any small business, but especially one with such a strong connection to its local roots.
The day wrapped up with a discussion about the Bristol community and how it represents many such small towns throughout the state. Michael Capone, Town Administrator, talked about the short- and long-term planning for development and what factors play a role in these conversations. The Town, community and business owners represent a three-legged stool and have equal roles in supporting and encouraging economic development. Sharon Beatty, CEO of Mid-State Health Center and one of the newest businesses to locate to Bristol, shared the story of their growth and what she hopes they can offer to the town and region. Both speakers emphasized that development has to be balanced to provide all the needs of a community and that regional development starts with local development.
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