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 kcleveland@cabinet.com.