What makes our economy tick?

In the years since the economic crisis first surfaced in September 2008, a lot has changed. And the businesses that have held on here in the Monadnock region are stronger for it. The job market outlook for 2014 in today’s expanded Business section may not envision the full economic recovery many of us have been waiting for, but there’s still much to be hopeful for in the coming year.

When we spoke with employers in March 2009, including manufacturers and health care providers, they reported revenues were way down. So to make the bottom line work, some of them were resorting to furloughs, pay freezes and cuts, eliminating positions as people retired and/or move on. And as a last resort, there were layoffs. It was a nervous time for many, not knowing if their businesses would survive or, in the case of workers, if they would be out of a job.

Businesses began streamlining, looking for creative solutions and ways to get the most out of employees. And workers became savvier, too, finding ways to save their company money and time. People who laid off began volunteering, went back to school and found other means of employment. (We’ll be catching up with some of them in future reporting.) As today’s job market report shows, some of those now back at work are in part-time jobs and/or still looking for a livable wage.

A few of the people we interviewed in recent years noted the difficulties they had in making ends meet brought their families and communities closer together. People got creative with their spending, too, finding ways to make their dollars stretch. At the same time, the area’s buy-local movement made headway, getting customers to think more about who they’re supporting.

Economic experts told us New England, particularly New Hampshire, would be slow to feel the recession, but also slower to recover. It’s clear there’s still a long way to go before our region solidifies its economic identity. But the groundwork has been laid for the region to become the place for retirees — as services and housing for the elderly expand — as well as medical technology manufacturing. That is, if the transition between the entrepreneurs who have built those companies and future leadership goes well.

Renewable energy solutions and products may be a hopeful niche, too, as New England Wood Pellets in Jaffrey, Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington and New England Forest Products in Greenfield continue to make inroads in the market.

Because our economy is so important, the Ledger-Transcript will be devoting more space every Tuesday to bringing readers even more coverage in our Business section. And we hope the public will continue to reach out to us about what’s happening in our local economy. Email us at news@ledgertranscript.com or call 924-7172 ext. 225.

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