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‘Shot in the arm’ for town economic development



Last modified: Thursday, January 15, 2015
Several decades ago, an organization committed to Peterborough’s economic development attracted corporations with national footprints to the small southwestern New Hampshire town. George Sterling said Tuesday the Peterborough Industrial Development Corporation lured Brookstone, the National Cash Register Corporation, Eastern Mountain Sports, and New England Business Ventures to Peterborough. Eventually, though, these companies trimmed their operations or left Peterborough completely.

In 1996, another organization, Monadnock Business Ventures, brought Micro Bends Corporation and other companies to Peterborough, Sterling said.

That rush dissipated in 2000, Sterling said.

“It’s time for another shot in the arm,” he said over the phone Tuesday. That’s why he volunteered to join Peterborough’s Economic Development Authority.

Adam Hamilton, Jerry Galus, James Kelly, and Peter Robinson, all of Peterborough, and Charles “Chub” Whitten, of Ipswich, Massachusetts, were also all confirmed by the Select Board on Nov. 14 to be a part of this committee.

Each of the committee’s new appointees are bringing their distinct strategies and attitudes to this group. Their ideas range from business incubators to attracting more retiring baby boomers who will in turn attract more young families. But, they are all in agreement about one thing ­— Peterborough needs to generate more jobs which they hope will bring and keep more young individuals and families here.

The Economic Development Authority, created during Town Meeting in 1995, is meant to foster economic and industrial development in Peterborough in conjunction with the Office of Community Development.

These new members will likely energize a committee that became dormant. The EDA’s last meeting was in January.

Peter Robinson, who owns Roy’s Market in Peterborough, might have the most unconventional idea. His goal is to maintain real estate prices to attract more younger families. It’s his plan for how to accomplish this goal that takes some thought to wrap your head around.

Robinson wants to entice more baby-boomer retirees to the area.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Robinson said rhetorically, “Wait a minute. You just said you want to attract young people?”

Robinson referred to a Viewpoints article he wrote that was published in October. He said those who are in their 60s and recently retired can sell their homes in Boston, New York City or other more populated places and buy a home here for a fraction of the cost. But they would still maintain their real estate prices. No one, including young families, would want to buy a home in an area where real estate prices are falling, Robinson said.

“There are too many houses for sale in town,” Robinson said. He juxtaposed this remark by saying there are 10,000 baby boomers retiring each week.

Robinson said that if Peterborough were to grow this way, it would become more vibrant. And with this vibrancy, Robinson said, the town’s economy will flourish for this older and younger generations.

“If we don’t have any opportunities,” Robinson said about younger residents in Peterborough, “they’ll move.”

Robinson said if Peterborough grows its community, its community also becomes more vibrant. He expanded, saying that once the community becomes vibrant, there is more of a demand and thus, more competition. And with more competition, he went on, wages increase.

“That’s kind of what I’m looking at. There’s an opportunity. Looking for people to stay. If we don’t have any opportunities. We’ll move.

Adam Hamilton, the youngest of the new committee members (he is 31), said he would like to be the puzzle piece that connects various groups working towards bettering the town. Hamilton, who is the branch manager of People’s United Bank, is also a part of the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, a member of Peterborough’s Rotary Club, and a Hoffmann Haus fellow for the N.H. Center for non-profits.

In an interview on Tuesday, Hamilton said he realized all of these organizations are pursuing their own goals without communicating with one another.

“The last piece of the puzzle,” Hamilton said over the phone, “is getting involved with something in the town, and making sure all these groups are communicating. I want to bridge that gap.”

Hamilton wouldn’t say one thing is better over another.

“No one thing is a magic bullet,” he said about bolstering Peterborough’s economy more. “It has to be a combination.”

In a separate interview, Charles “Chub” Whitten at one point praised Hamilton as a representative of the younger generation. “We need a lot more Adams standing up on the soapbox,” Whitten said Tuesday.

Whitten lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts, but is in Peterborough at least twice a week. Juniper [, which he is a founding partner, owns 272,000 square feet of space in town, including 9 Vose Farm Road, where Brookstone once was headquartered.

“My main focus is jobs, jobs, jobs,” Whitten said. “Anything we can do to help job creation, we should be doing.”

Whitten said he is a fan of business incubators — spaces that provide officer resources for a company just starting out.

He said Peterborough already has the existing infrastructure for companies to start here. And he said this town’s greatest asset is its quality of life.

“Peterborough has that infrastructure. I’d like to think we’re one or two CEOs away from great opportunities. We just need to package that together for them.”

In a Tuesday interview, George Sterling agreed with Whitten. Sterling emphasized that the key to attracting businesses here is their CEO. The owner has to want to live here, Sterling said. He said that’s why companies have historically come to Peterborough.

Sterling was frank, too, that once the company outgrew Peterborough, it would move on. Then, Sterling said, it’s Peterborough’s responsibility to attract a new batch of companies to come in, stay in, and do the same.

“We have to just keep continually using the same infrastructure over and over again for a more modern purpose.”

At the Select Board’s Nov. 14 meeting, James Kelly also said he is involved with Monadnock Art X Tech, this region’s makerspace. Like Hamilton, he would like to bring these groups together.

Jerry Galus, who is a member of the Planning Board, said he’d like to focus on building up Peterborough’s Internet infrastructure.

The Select Board also mentioned Jeff Crocker is the chair, and Hope Taylor and Cyrus Gregg are on the committee.

Select Board Chair Barbara Miller said it’s a dynamic team. Town Administrator Pamela Brenner agreed.

“It’s a powerful committee,” she said.