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Economic Development Committee drawing business to Wolfeboro

Special to the Union Leader

January 12. 2014 3:47PM
Downtown Wolfeboro was abuzz with activity on Jan. 8. The town's Economic Development Committee is working hard on spreading the word about the town and the region's appeal as a place to do business. (LARISSA MULKERN PHOTO)

WOLFEBORO — The town's economic development committee is spreading the word that the Wolfeboro area is more than just a scenic place by the lake.

The 10-member Wolfeboro Economic Development Committee, headed by Chairman Zach Tarter, a professional investment adviser with Edward Jones, and Vice Chair Denise Roy-Palmer, executive director of the Wentworth Economic Development Corp., has worked with business and municipal leaders on a number of fronts to strengthen — and publicize — the region's business-friendly appeal.

Enhancing online presence from the town's website was accomplished recently by including links from the home page to maps and details on the town's two economic revitalization zones, the business park off Pine Hill Road and Wickers Drive, and on Center, Lehner and Pine streets.

"We believe our region has a lot to offer to business and industries throughout the U.S.," Tarter said. Those assets include potential tax credits from the state, no sales tax, a family-friendly, high quality of life, and relatively close proximity to major metropolitan areas including Manchester and Boston.

"The website presence is a good thing. What we found is people just don't wake up in Texas and say, 'We want to expand business to Wolfeboro.' On the site people can see the maps, see we're close to metropolitan areas and see that it's easy to live in a beautiful part of the country and be within an economic development zone."

The committee has also discussed launching billboard and print advertising in the southern part of the state on major thoroughfares like the Spaulding Turnpike.

"We're also looking at expanding our reach for Bike Week, which has traditionally been centered on the other side of the lake in Laconia. Wolfeboro is biker friendly, and we want to get that message out," Tarter said.

Wolfeboro's status as "America's Oldest Summer Resort" can also serve as a magnet for business development. "Those coming here on vacation may start thinking, 'I can move my business here. I can live this lifestyle,'" Tarter said.

"Many parents come into town to drop their children off at Brewster Academy realize this is a beautiful area with a wonderful hospital and many services," he said, adding that technology enables more and more businesses with telecommuting opportunities. "Wolfeboro has embraced technology. You can live the dream and telecommute from here."

Infrastructure, customer service improvements

Tarter said the committee held focus group meetings on how to better serve and retain the town's existing businesses. Those sessions resulted in the town holding customer service training for its staff.

"You don't usually hear about customer service training at government agency. We wanted the experience of applying for a building permit to be a pleasant one," Tarter said.

State Business Recruiter Cynthia Harrington from the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development met with the committee last month to talk about business retention and recruitment. During that session, Harrington stressed the importance of taking a regional approach to economic development.

She encouraged members to identify and work with the existing businesses to identify potential complimentary businesses. For example, GI Plastek, an injection molding company located on Wickers Drive currently undergoing a $3 million building expansion, may identify a materials supplier or affiliated business that may consider locating to town to be closer to the manufacturer. The region can also continue to build upon its reputation as a beautiful tourist destination and perhaps identify some of those tourists who may be CEOs of major companies to do business here.

"Wolfeboro has a high level of recreational traffic. The folks who come here for recreation, who may want to set up a satellite office, are a target market. You want to reach out to people who come here already. When I go to trade shows, I meet many people who say they summered in New Hampshire and have wonderful memories. Well, if you're unhappy with the city, you can move the business here," she said.

Roy-Palmer, who as WEDCO's leader can assist businesses with loan and funding information and other resources, said the committee has momentum. "A lot has been accomplished. Getting the town's website updated was very important — a lot of (business) site locators don't search any further if a town's website doesn't have anything regarding economic development."

The state-designated economic revitalization zones may also provide a bit of a boost to those areas that need it, she said. "It's an enticement and benefit to anyone who wants to invest and create jobs in the area. It's an open invitation that says we're looking to create some business activity here, and we welcome it," Roy-Palmer said.

The next meeting of the Wolfeboro Economic Development Committee will be Tuesday at 8 a.m. in the Huggins Hospital Board Room.

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