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Manufacturing growth seen as cure for ‘concerning’ demographic trends


MEREDITH — After four decades of robust growth, the population of the Lakes Region is expected to increase slowly, while the median age will rise rapidly during the next 30 years. Meanwhile, the prospects for the economy hinge on the recovery of manufacturing sector together with the area's continued appeal as a tourist destination, seasonal residence and retirement option, according to a study just released by the Lakes Region Planning Commission.

Jeff Hayes, executive director of the LRPC, said that the demographic and economic forecast has shifted the focus of the planning profession from managing growth to fostering resiliency.

"We're facing new pressures, uncertainties and challenges," he remarked, describing the demographic trends as "overwhelming and very concerning." However, he added, "They're just projections and there are ways to mitigate them as well as new opportunities."

Last week the LRPC, an association of 30 municipalities in Belknap, Carroll, Grafton and Merimack counties, released "The Lakes Region Plan" with its vision of "economic opportunity, environmental quality." A printed executive summary with the major findings and conclusions is available and the entire plan, along with supporting documentation, is posted on the commission's website at www.lakesrpc.org/Extra1.asp.

The turning of the demographic tide promises to wash over the future. Between 1970 and 2010 the population of of the 30 municipalities increased by 52,274 to 112,735, or at an average rate of 2.1-percent a year. During the next 30 years the population is projected to rise by just 11,200, or at an average rate of 0.33-percent. Instead of adding 1,300 people a year, the region is expected to add only 370. While the growth of the population will slow, the age of the population will rise. With a median age of 41.5 years, New Hampshire is the third oldest state in the county, trailing only Maine at 43.2 years and Vermont at 42 years. In Belknap County, where deaths outnumbered births and out-migration surpassed in-migration last year, the median age is approaching 45 years.

The plan anticipates that these demographic trends will affect virtually every aspect of economic, social and political life in the region in the years ahead, from the size of the workforce and enrollment in the schools to the demand for housing, social services and health care.

In 2005 the construction and manufacturing sectors accounted for a quarter of all private sector employment in the region. Moreover, weekly wages in these sectors exceeded those in all others employing more than 150 people save for professional, technical and managerial positions. By 2010, employment in construction had fallen by a quarter and in manufacturing by a third and the two sectors represented less than a fifth of private sector employment, which has shrunk by almost 10 percent.

The decline in construction employment reflects the slackened pace of home building, which contributed significantly to economic growth in the region. From 1990 until 1997 between 500 and 600 residential building permits were issued each year. Then the number began to climb, reaching 1,000 by 2001 and hovering around 1,200 from 2002 to 2006 before tumbling to 200 by 2009 and remaining at that level through 2013.

The LRPC projects that an additional 2,100 housing units, or 210 units a year, will be needed by 2020 to accommodate anticipated population growth in the Lakes Region. That is a little more than a third of the pace of home construction of the 1990s.

Although employment in manufacturing has shrunk, the LRPC considers the region's manufacturers, particularly its advanced manufacturers and metal fabricators, the base of the regional economy. Between 2005 and 2010, the sector shed some 2,000 jobs, some which have since been restored. But at the same time weekly wages in manufacturing, already among the highest in the region, rose 20 percent.

Recovery of the manufacturing sector will require development of a skilled workforce, sufficient not only to replace the increasing number of retiring employees but also to sustain the growth in the manufacturing sector. The plan notes that programs under way at the Huot Technical Center at Laconia High School and the Lakes Region Community College have begun to ease the pressures in the labor market, but the report singles out workforce development as the highest priority of its economic strategy.

Hayes called the resiliency of the regional manufacturers a "silver lining" in what he acknowledged is a "fairly bleak" outlook.

Last Updated on Monday, 25 August 2014 11:52

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Cancer returns but LaBrie is still pitching

LACONIA — Her cancer is back, but that didn't keep Sheila LaBrie from taking part in Sunday's Pitching for a Cure horseshoe tournament, one which she has organized for the last couple of years as the leader of the ''14 Years and Counting Team'' which takes part every October in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer campaign walk-a-thon at Opechee Park.

''I've been on heavy-duty chemotherapy ever since last September,'' says LaBrie, who last Friday underwent another treatment session and says she is still optimistic that ultimately she will prevail in her battle against cancer.

''I had a really good time Sunday. We had a dozen teams taking part and raised $543,'' said LaBrie, who said that some of the contributions came from people who stopped by Wilkins-Smith Post 1 American Legion after seeing a sign on the front lawn about the event.

''We had two tournaments last year and raised $442 at our first one this year,'' said LaBrie. A third tournament is slated for Sunday, Oct. 12, this year, a week before the annual making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk-a-thon.

''I thought I was all set and I wasn't,'' said LaBrie over the recurrence of her cancer. She said she has changed the name of her fund-raising team, which was formed several years ago, to reflect each additional year that she was cancer-free.

LaBrie, who was a department manager at Walmart in Gilford, said that she decided to concentrate on her own well-being since the cancer returned.

''There's enough stress with being in this situation without having to worry about organizing the work of other people,'' she said, adding that a friend, Shirley Roy, better known as ''Chippy,' helped her organize Sunday's event.

LaBrie says she has always loved horseshoes and has played ever since she was young, although she has recently had to pitch from the 30 foot distance, rather than the standard 40 feet, due to effects of the chemotherapy.

She ran the junior bowling program at the Funspot Bowling Center for several years, taking over the program after Ron Gilkey, who had been the bowling pro at Funspot for many years, died from cancer in 2001.

She also coached the Laconia High School bowling team for three years after it became a recognized school sport four years ago.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 August 2014 12:01

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DES sues couple for wetlands violations in Gilmanton


LACONIA — The N.H. Department of Environmental Services has filed for a preliminary injunction against a Massachusetts couple to force them to restore some wetlands they filled in 2012 after specifically being ordered not to do so.

The DES is also seeking a $7,000 fine and the imposition of civil penalties if the 55 feet of wetland is not restored.

According to pleading obtained from the Belknap County Superior Court, in September 2010, the DES was notified that Paul Arshen and Gail Arshen were doing some work at the property on 94 Crystal Lake Road.

DES personnel realized that 55 feet of angles stone and 750 square feet of fill had been placed in the bed and bank.

On April 15, 2011, the DES sent a letter of deficiency to the Arshen requesting they install and maintain erosion and sediment control, retain a certified wetland scientist and submit a restoration plan.

The filing said the Arshens were not responsive.

On Aug. 12, 2012, the DES issued an administrative order to the Arshens telling them to cease and desist the project, get a scientist and submit a revision plan.

The Arshens neither appealed the order nor did they comply with it. They were again, non responsive, documents state.

On Jan. 17, 2014, the DES issued a decision of administrative fine. However, the Arshens didn't respond nor have they made any effort to pay the fine.

According to the DES, the Arshens are responsible for paying the $7,000 fine plus civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation.

The case has not be scheduled for a hearing as of this writing.

The Arshens did not return the Laconia Daily Sun's phone calls.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 August 2014 12:35

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WEEKEND - Wolfeoro's Friday night Art Walk features nearly a dozen stops

WOLFEBORO — At 5 p.m. on Friday night (August 29), the center of this town will morph into an giant art gallery as artisans throughout the Lakes Region host locals and visitors alike at the fifth monthly Art Walk of the year. A map showing the locations of each exhibit are provided at all stops along the way.

Started a number of years ago, the walk is the brainchild of the Governor Wentworth Art Council, which developed the idea of hosting one night a month where all the art galleries in the center of town would be open.

In addition, Durgin Green will be converted to a large open-air art gallery for many area artists who do not have a permanent gallery for their shows.

For Barbara Gibbs at The Art Place, the monthly art works make art approachable for everyone and is crucial for generating interest and business for the smaller galleries.

The Art Place is the showcase for Peter Ferber — one of the iconic artists in the Lakes Region. Not only wiill she be spotlighting some of Ferber's newer works, she will be the guest host for Christine Knight Coombs — a water colorist from Sandwich.

Alton guitarist Thomas Alden will be providing the entertainment and Gibbs will be putting out light snacks and a wine sampling.

"We try to make it as festive as possible," she said.

Just a few doors away is Artisan's Corner, where Plymouth photographer Kenneth Hamilton will be the featured guest. They will also have light refreshments.

Tucked in behind the Wolfeboro Market Place is Kalled Gallery, which will host Sandwich singer-songwriter Audrey Drake.

Owner Jennifer Kalled makes hand-crafted jewelry from precious and semi-precious stones while her gallery features a wide variety of pieces made from wood, metal, glass, fiber and stone.

This Friday, Doug Blum of the Studio Gallery will be bringing some of his pottery to Durgin Green. (The Studio Gallery is located about one-half mile north of Wolfeboro Center.)

Across the street from Artisan Corner is the Sandy Martin Gallery.

Martin said that she will feature "Hot Dog Bob", now available in prints.

"Hot Dog Bob" said Martin, has two versions — one with Hot Dog Bob himself and one without. She said she initially painted Bob's hot dog stand but featured Bob's wife in her painting.

She learned later that while Bob had been running the stand for years, his wife had been there the day she painted it but rarely worked at the stand.

Some friends of Bob commissioned "Hot Dog Bob" — a painting in oil that features Bob wearing his hot dog shirt. His family also pays a prominent role in her original.

Martin said the painting was so popular she had prints made and those along with prints of her other works will be featured Friday night.

Martin said yesterday that the Art Walk nights are some of her favorites. She said the first one this year brought so many local residents to the downtown area that it was like an accidental Old Home Day.

"I'd like for those residents to come back and bring all of their house guests with them," Martin said.

Straw Cellar Fudge is a short pop down Railroad Avenue and features not only two rooms of art works by artisans affiliated with the Governor Wentworth Arts Council, but homemade fudge and gourmet coffee.

One street over from Railroad Avenue is the Northeastern Ballet Theater on Lehner Street, where for one night only Debbie Hopkins's houses will be presented. The houses, made from clay slabs, fired and painted can be used as lanterns or night lights when electrified or made into lamps.

The ballet class will be rehearsing "Dracula" beginning at 6:30 p.m. and the public is welcome to watch.

To the south of the center of town are Azure Rising Gallery and Connolly Gallery.

Azure Rising will be presenting Art as a Healing Tool with Wolfeboro artists Holly Clause, Bette Brown and Ann Tracy along with Martha's Vineyard artist Fae Kontje. The theme for this month is using creative energy to heal the heart, mind, spirit and body.

Artist Betty Brown will give a talk at 6 p.m. called "Artist Statement" about working on site and creating art in the natural world.

Next door, Connolly Gallery will feature hand-made jewelry by Mary Elliot Connolly and metal works by Michael Connolly.

While the hope is the weather will beautiful for an outdoor art show at Durgin Stables, should it rain, the outdoor activities will be move inside to Preferred Vacation Rentals.

Each month Durgin Stables features different artists and this month Polly Cain, Ann Dingwell, Cate Poole, Emily Marsh, Pam Grady, Marilyn Bodwell, Judi Memaire Gogi Millner of Cornish Hill Pottery, and Robin Cornwell will be present art works.

Music at Durgin Stables will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and will feature Motown-meets-folk band John Petruzzelli & Friends.

For this month only, there is an opportunity to purchase a collector's edition of Peter Ferber;s "Artists in the Park" T-shirt.

This is the fifth of nine Art Walks put on by the GWAC. Art Walks are the last Friday of the month from 5 to 8 p.m.

The Governor Wentworth Arts Council is a non-profit educational art organization supporting artist from the Lakes Region. For more information, contact jeannette D'Onofrio at 569-0078 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Jerome Holden at 569-5335. Both can be found daily at JC Signs on Grove Street.


CUTLINES: (Wolfeboro Art Walk 001)Barbara Gibbs in The Art Place in downtown Wolfeboro. The Art Place is the home of local artist Peter Ferber.

(Wolfeboro Art Walk 003) A giant blue butterfly and some metal flowers greet customers and art lovers at Kalled Gallery.

(Wolfeboro Art Walk 004) Governor Wentworth Arts Council artists works on display at Straw Cellar Fudge.

Last Updated on Saturday, 23 August 2014 01:03

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