Chamber aims to promote economic development
MILFORD – Local businesses are showing a big increase in full-time employment, much of which is attributed to growth in demand and to business expansion.
Those were some of the findings in a recent survey of local business owners, part of an Amherst and Milford Business Retention and Expansion Program.
None of the businesses surveyed planned to close, and several planned to expand or add a new location.
Some businesses, however, reported weaknesses in the business environment caused by clogged roads, housing costs and lack of public transportation.
The survey results were reviewed at a Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce economic summit in Milford Town Hall on Thursday, Sept. 24, during a two-hour meeting of a few dozen business and community leaders. The point of the program, facilitator Andre Garron said, is to develop goals that each town can implement that will promote more economic development.
"At the end, we want to come up with three or four goals for each community," said Garron, who is an economic development specialist with the New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.
Twenty-five businesses in Milford and 19 in Amherst were surveyed during visits by the two towns’ Business Retention and Expansion Task Force between October 2014 and March 2015.
The survey shows that most businesses are locally owned – 89 percent in Amherst and 84 percent in Milford. The top categories in Amherst are retail and professional, and in Milford, they’re manufacturing and retail.
Suggested projects to address business concerns include creating opportunities for networking and to connect businesses with community colleges and school districts to address employee skills gaps. Other possible strategies include investigating public transportation; expanding broadband, water, sewer and natural gas; and reviewing code enforcement protocol.
Amherst businesses reported that some of the state and local policies of greatest significance to their company are sign regulations, taxes, zoning and environmental fees, public transportation and environmental protection regulations.
Milford businesses reported that corporate income taxes, the availability of public transportation, an educated workforce, and permits and code enforcement are important.
Among the program’s goals, Garron said, are to demonstrate to local businesses that the communities appreciate their contributions and also to help businesses solve problems and increase their ability to complete.
The program is the result of a partnership between the Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce, the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and the two towns.
The task force will prioritize its recommendations, which will go to the towns’ boards of selectmen.
Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.