Community Conversations: Discuss the Economic Ecosystem Hub

  • Jeanne Dietsch Courtesy photo

Published: 3/1/2019 11:17:39 AM

What the heck is an Economic Ecosystem Hub and how did Monadnock get one?

Some area residents may have noticed some new organizations called “Spokes” popping up around the region: the Merchants’ Spoke, the Arts & Culture Spoke, the Education & Workforce Spoke, the Non-profits’ Spoke, the Sustainability Spoke and the Grow-Cook-Eat Spoke? The next Community Conversation is the place to find out what is going around with these groups, which are all linked together to form the Monadnock Economic Ecosystem Hub.

The Hub grew out of the concern, expressed by Peterborough voters back in 2016, that resources needed to be devoted to business development in town. We’d lost NEBS, Brookstone, most of EMS, and all of the computer magazines. Rumor had it that other companies might leave, as well. Voters decided to spend $70,000 for economic development.

We on Peterborough’s Economic Development Authority knew that a one-year allocation of $70,000 was insufficient to hire a staffer, even part-time. And the other thing we knew was that this was not a problem that Peterborough could solve in isolation. So we began to consider alternatives that would not just last a year, but that could continue on for decades; that could reach beyond Peterborough; and that would not require additional taxpayer funding.

We decided to use some of the money to hire a consultant to help us design such a program and apply the majority of the money to help implement it. We started with an RFQ, and that is how we found Dawn Wivell. Dawn has built systems for healthy economies for decades, both at the state level and at Pease International Tradeport.

Dawn and I hit it off immediately. We both understood the importance of innovation, of networking and of the “cool/sic” factor for youth attraction.

Dawn brought us experience in initiating ground-up industry-sector spokes that connect in an ecosystem hub. She’s grown these models in multiple cities.

In cities, the economic hub connects a set, permanent group of spokes that vary little over time. We helped Dawn morph her model into a dynamic one that can work in a New Hampshire “shire of villages,” where industry sectors inevitably come and go over time. We realized that not all spokes will grow at the same pace. We came to recognize that what made spokes useful was that they shared the desire to solve a specific problem. For example, the Merchant Spoke, led by Kyle Sullivan, identified better signage as a first step toward addressing the upcoming bridge repair dilemma. Even if a spoke disbands after solving its most pressing problems, the memory of that structure will remain, ready to reform if an issue arises.

So where does the Hub come in? Well, the Hub is where the spokes connect. All the spokes, plus local government staff, Molly Kaylor from the N.H. Dept. of Business and Economic Affairs, and people like myself, are there. Spokes-persons may attend the monthly Hub meetings to describe their progress and any roadblocks. Given all the different experience and viewpoints at hand to problem-solve, spokes-persons typically return to their members with suggestions and connections that speed, ease and spur their outcomes.

But the real magic is in how the spokes form. They form because people from the community get together, solve problems and create opportunity. And that is why the system can self-perpetuate. We’ll always have problems that we can solve together. The economic ecosystem provides a structure and a support system for this to happen.

Come to the Community Conversation on March 6 at 7 p.m. at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture to discuss what spokes are currently doing, how you might become involved in an existing spoke or who might wish to help you form a new one.

Jeanne Dietsch is a N.H. state senator, a member of Peterborough’s Economic Development Authority, and a Community Conversation moderator.

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