The Fourth of July holiday marks the informal point separating the January through June legislative session from the summer, and less hectic legislative activities that will start up after Labor Day.
I used the holiday to take a mini-vacation and enjoy some time on a local lake. The days and evenings reminded me of similar vacations as a child. Whether boating, canoeing, fishing or simply relaxing on the dock watching the day come alive in the morning or the sun slowly slipping downward as each day came to an end, it was a great break.
And over and over again, the comments amongst family were about the natural beauty of New Hampshire and how fortunate we are to live in our wonderful state.
I did a little reading and even picked up a state publication that had been on my desk since early spring. It is the Information Statement which is distributed to prospective purchasers of bonds or notes offered for sale by the state. Each time a new round of bonds or notes are being sold, a new Information Statement is prepared updating earlier additions with new information. Mine was issued on March 28, 2011
The statement, prepared by the State Treasurer’s office, is packed with basic information about New Hampshire, its government, finances and economy.
What did I find most interesting during my vacation reading of the document? I paid special attention to the section on the New Hampshire employment situation, given the disappointing national employment numbers out last week,
While we are very proud of our base of small businesses that were responsible for much of our economic progress prior to the recession, we also have some very important larger employers. Several play major roles in the Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee region economy.
Of the top 10 employers in the state, four are retailers: Wal-Mart stores is first with 9,000 employees followed by DeMoulas & Market Basket (third largest employer), Hannaford Brothers-Shop ‘N Save (fourth) and Shaw’s Supermarkets Inc (eighth).
Two area institutions, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and Dartmouth College are the second and seventh largest employers. DHMC employs over 8,000 people while the college employs over 4,000.
Fidelity Investments with 4,600 employees is the fifth largest employer while defense contractor BAE Systems is sixth with a hundred fewer employees than Fidelity.
The service sector is the largest employment sector with 43 percent of employees in 2009 with wholesale and retail trade second with 19 percent. Manufacturing, what many believe is the most important wealth builder in an economy, while dropping for decades, had 10.8 percent of the state’s employees in 2009, down from 16.7 percent just 10 years before.
Our economy has had one of the lowest unemployment levels throughout the recession and one of the fastest economic growth rates. One strength of the economy is the diversity of our employment base. We have large employers along with thousands of small businesses. We have strong not-for-profit institutions which employ tens of thousands. And our high tech and service sectors are balanced by manufacturing, wood products and tourism as important contributors to the employment picture.
The March Information Statement is 81 pages long with 14 pages used to outline the status of the State Retirement System. I talked with the Treasurer on Thursday and she said she was about to post on her office’s website information on changes created by legislation that just went into effect impacting the retirement system.
Investors, I am sure, will be interested to see that the legislature has taken some important steps to stabilize a system that is severely underfunded. Much is changing including increases in employee contributions and a reduction in the assumed rate of return which will impact the rates paid by public employers.
While public employment may be down a bit from the June 30, 2010 figures in the Information Statement, there are still roughly 26,000 retirees currently drawing pension benefits from the retirement system. And there is an active workforce of 50,000 in state government and in school districts, and county and local governments.
Many factors determine the economic health of the state and the strength of the retirement system is one of them. That is the reason so much time and energy was used to reform the current underfunded system to make the economic future of current and future retirees secure while insuring that governments can afford their costs.
Whether a summer long vacation or a short holiday, time-off is good enough reason to catch a play at the New London Barn Playhouse. And, the quality of the performances and affordability of the tickets are a couple of other reasons, too.
We went last week to see Guys and Dolls which was a great production. The dancing, singing and acting was top notch. And the lively challenge of good overcoming evil is never ending even if it is the same show seen over and over again. The show has been pleasing audiences since it opened on Broadway in 1950 and has been called the "perfect musical." It is just plain fun, too.
This is the Barn’s 79th year. And the season has just begun with four additional productions coming between now and September 4.
The Barn Playhouse, a non-profit organization, is a critically important entertainment and cultural asset for the residents and visitors to our region. I am thankful it is very much alive and doing well.
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