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As campaigns depart, NH tallies their impact

New Hampshire Union Leader

January 11. 2012 11:01PM

MANCHESTER -- A handful of tired-looking 20-somethings sipped coffee from paper cups and packed up cell phones and office equipment Wednesday in the former plumbing supply store that is former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney's campaign headquarters on lower Elm Street.

'This place has been humming at full capacity for weeks now. It served us well and now we are going to break it down to get ready for the fight that lies ahead,' Romney's senior New Hampshire campaign adviser, Jim Merrill, said.

Also on Elm Street, Shaggin' Salon owner Jennifer Rounds said she had tended to the tresses of Huntsman's wife, Mary Kaye Huntsman, and his three daughters during the six months the Republican presidential hopeful campaigned in New Hampshire.

'It was fun and they are very nice people,' Rounds said.

'I would love for him to win just to say I had the first lady sitting in our salon. That's always good for business,' she said.

The primary gave Manchester hotels, restaurants, car rentals, telecommunications, office supply and other enterprises a boost in business, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce Vice President for Public Relations and Marketing Gemma Waite French said. French said she based her conclusion on anecdotal accounts from members, saying the chamber does not track this data.

News reporters from across the globe, television production and camera crews, bloggers and 'political tourists' booked up hotels for the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, she said.

'All these people that come here, they need a place to sleep, they need a place to eat, and sometimes they need to go out and buy a shirt and a tie,' French said.

'It was very good for local business,' added Radisson Hotel Manchester Downtown general manager Kim Roy.

The hotel was home to dozens of news crews for days, she said. Many were affiliated with national networks that relied on local dry cleaning services, restaurants, rental cars, telecommunications companies and office supply stores to equip and furnish temporary newsrooms set up in the hotel's conference and meeting spaces, she said.

'Even George's Apparel benefited. CBS News, when they did their shows, they panned part of George's Apparel. They had people coming down there who hadn't been there in a very long time,' Roy said of the men's apparel store located across Elm Street from the Radisson.

Staff at several local restaurants said they saw a 'little boost' in business.

The economic impact of the New Hampshire presidential primary was estimated at $300 million in a 2000 report, the latest report to document the primary's impact. The state does not track this data, said Steve Boucher, communications and legislative director for the state Division of Economic Development.

While Boucher said 'it is way too early to tell' the economic benefit of Tuesday's primary, he stressed the benefit must be measured in more than strict dollars.

'It's really a perception story and how New Hampshire is portrayed ... not only regionally, but globally,' Boucher said.

At the campaign headquarters of Republican presidential candidates up and down Elm Street - from former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman's office at the corner of Webster Street, to Texas Gov. Rick Perry's basement digs in the Brady Sullivan Tower to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's mid-town storefront space - the atmosphere was post-primary.

Crumpled potato chip bags and water bottles littered the tables in Gingrich's offices, where visitors were greeted by a television tuned to a Fox News analysis of the Tuesday primary and two pairs of forgotten Christmas stockings.

'Now that we will have some time on our hands, I assume we will be redecorating,' field operations director Sam Pimm said of the holiday leftovers.

Campaign workers were out collecting political signs that will be put back into use when the campaign returns to Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont, he said. The office will remain open as Gingrich's New England headquarters at least through Super Tuesday, Pimm said.

Huntsman's office also will remain open as his national campaign headquarters, staff said. Romney's headquarters also will remain open and staffed, Merrill said.

But Perry's office was almost completely cleared out by noon Wednesday.

'We're actually shutting everything down and everything is heading to South Carolina,' said Kerry Marsh, state campaign director.

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