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Editorial: New businesses a reason to hope

With the presidential election behind us, it’s a good time to let the political rhetoric about the economy fall by the wayside in favor of a more realistic picture based on facts, figures and observation. It’s true that there’s a lot of uncertainty about how provisions of the Affordable Care Act that will be coming online in 2014 will shape the future, but from where we’re sitting in downtown Peterborough it appears that confidence in the economy is on the rise.

New Hampshire’s unemployment rate was 5.7 percent for September, well below the national rate of 7.8 percent. New Hampshire had the second lowest rate for unemployment among the six New England states, just behind Vermont. In the Peterborough market area, which includes Antrim, Bennington, Dublin, Francestown, Hancock, Jaffrey, New Ipswich, Peterborough, Rindge, Sharon and Temple, the September rate was just 5.2 percent, down from 6.2 percent in August and 7.4 percent in July, according to a report prepared by N.H. Employment Security, Economic and Labor Market Information Bureau. In January, the rate for the Peterborough area was 5.7 percent.

The surge of business expansion, start-ups and housing development in the region may be a sign that confidence for small businesses is up. There are housing development plans going before land-use boards in both Peterborough and Greenfield. In Greenfield, Gene and Gwynne Mitchell are proposing a major subdivision, Sawmill Estates, on Sawmill Road. In Peterborough, The Scott Farrar Home is making plans to expand. The board of trustees of the assisted-living home is proposing to build a new 73,000-square-foot building with 63 units — 18 for people with dementia, 20 assisted living units and 25 independent living units. The 1957 brick building would be torn down and a 16-bay parking garage built in its place.

There’s also development planned at the Route 101/202 intersection in Peterborough, where a former gas station has sat vacant for years. Magic Flute owner Jacqueline Goohs is renovating the building to open her children’s toys and clothing store there. And another proposed renovation on Grove Street would fill the empty building that once housed Fireplace Village with mixed-use retail, office and residential space.

New businesses are springing up here and there. At the Peterborough Street plaza in Jaffrey, a Subway opened within the last month. The Social Grove cafe on Grove Street in Peterborough opened earlier this month and a new, high-end restaurant, The Bantam Grill, opened near Pearl last month. Dara’s Paw Spa just opened in the Strand building, too. There’s also a new gift shop, Yankee Pearl Design & Friends, in the Peterson’s Real Estate building on Grove Street.

It would be foolish to interpret this activity as a sign that everything is back to normal. There’s still a long way to go in New Hampshire to rebuild the jobs market, especially after the shrinkage in public-sector jobs and the halt in housing development over the last few years. But perhaps the small business growth we’re seeing is reason to hope for better things to come in 2013.

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