2017 shaping up as another good tourist season for Lakes Region

By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — With Columbus Day still a few weeks away, this year's tourist season isn't over yet, but business leaders like what they have seen so far.

Jay Bolduc, general manager of T-Bones Great American Eatery and Cactus Jack's Grill & Watering Hole, said his business has been trending up.

“This was a fantastic year for us,” he said. “Our sales have grown at a pretty steady pace over the last decade.

“This was our 10th summer and the best one yet for sales.”

Bolduc said the heart of the tourist season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, although it seems that the busy period has been starting earlier and continuing later.

Statewide tourism numbers have also been trending up, with the Lakes Region contributing greatly, New Hampshire Revenue Commissioner John Beardmore said.

“Meredith, Moultonborough, Laconia, the Squam Lake area – they are an important part of the economy,” he said.

A good way to measure tourism is through the meals and rentals tax, which is assessed on people who stay at hotels, eat in restaurants and rent motor vehicles.

Receipts for August totaled $35.8 million statewide, which is $1 million, or 2.9 percent above the previous year. Year-over-year increases in this category have averaged 5 percent to 6 percent since 2013.

Beardmore said that when he tries to develop an overall picture of the economy, the meals and rental tax and the real estate transfer tax are the two most important barometers.

In Belknap County, there were 2,454 real estate transactions in the 2017 fiscal year, compared to 1,620 in 2011.

“Folks only do those things when they have money to spend,” Beardmore said.

“If they don't have money to spend, they also don't go out to eat.”

“We have pretty high employment numbers and there's also strong employment in other states. People have jobs and they come to visit us and that is reflected in monthly figures.”

The strong employment market cuts both ways. It can also make it hard for some local businesses to find employees, said Karmen Gifford, president of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce.

“Businesses are struggling to find staff,” she said. “It's a problem across the United States. There are a lot more jobs than people seeking jobs. The hospitality industry has been impacted also by difficulties in getting work visas for international employees.”

Meanwhile, increasing numbers of events and activities seem to be attracting more paying customers to these businesses.

“People go to the lake and swim and boat, but there are also breweries and wineries and a lot more arts and cultural events, with live performances at the Whiskey Barrel, Pitman's Freight Room, the Winnipesaukee Playhouse, even places like the Naswa Resort,” Gifford said.

Gifford also said the Pumpkin Festival, set for Oct. 13-14, will be attracting people to Laconia and the fall foliage will be a draw that will bring visitors to the region late into the year.

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Zoning board approves home encroaching on Meredith wetlands

By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — A proposed two-bedroom home off Red Pine Road that would encroach into a wetlands buffer area won unanimous approval from the Meredith Zoning Board of Adjustment last week.
David Ames of Ames Associates presented a plan for Scott and Colleen Nolan that used a retaining wall and other drainage tools to minimize the effect of building a home on the property that lies in the Meredith Neck District.
The plan anticipates tying into the municipal water system, but Ames included a well location in case it should become necessary for the Nolans to provide their own drinking water supply. The home sits back from the road, with a septic tank and leachfield located on the street side to keep the septic system away from the wetlands.
“The proposed development is minimal in contrast to the previous construction in this neighborhood,” Ames said.
To appease a downstream abutter who expressed concern about the construction making his poorly drained property even wetter, Ames offered free consultation on ways to better drain the abutter’s yard.
While there were a few questions from the audience, no one expressed an opinion one way or the other, and members of the Zoning Board expressed their support for the effort.
“I think they’ve done the best they can and have a reasonable expectation for use of their property,” said Robb Jutton, who went on to move approval of the special exception to allow the project to move forward.

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Belknap Mill to reconfigure first floor, expand gallery

By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The first floor of the Belknap Mill will soon be undergoing changes to make it more inviting to visitors, with more open display space as well as expanded gallery offerings.

The changes are the result of a comprehensive space assessment undertaken by the mill’s board of directors and staff members in order to re-emphasize the commitment to history, art and education.

The current gift shop will be downsized to a mobile unit that can be easily moved to accommodate the events taking place at the mill, while allowing more gallery space for current and new displays.

The mill will continue to offer its Power House Museum space displaying the turbines and control panels used when the mill was operating. The Hosiery Museum has examples of the machinery used to make socks and other textiles from its inception in 1823.

Slated for demolition as part of Laconia’s Urban Renewal in the 1960s, a successful Save the Mill effort gave the Belknap Mill new life as a museum and educational tool.

Among its many offerings is a popular fourth-grade program, “My First Day of Work at the Mill,” which has students from area schools making field trips to learn what it was like to work in the mill during its heyday, with an interdisciplinary focus on geography, government, mathematics, science, social studies and economics.

The mill also participates in community events such as the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival, with a Great Pumpkin Cook-Off scheduled outside in Rotary Park from 2 to 4 p.m. on Oct. 14. A Riverside Duck Derby will take place at 4:30 p.m.

The space renovations will be commencing within the next six months, according to Operations Manager Tara Shore.

 

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