Taylor Caswell speaks at EDI Summit

New Hampshire’s Business and Economic Affairs Commissioner Taylor Caswell speaks at the Greater Manchester Chamber’s EDI Summit at the Manchester Country Club in Bedford on Wednesday morning.

BEDFORD — Taylor Caswell is keeping his eye on New Hampshire’s growth of younger workers.

“We are one of the top 10 states for net millennial migration in 2019,” the state’s business and economic affairs commissioner said during the Greater Manchester Chamber’s annual Economic Development and Infrastructure (EDI) Summit on Wednesday morning at the Manchester Country Club in Bedford.

Along with the growth in millennial workers, the state continues to benefit from companies moving in or expanding, like defense contractor BAE Systems opening a location in Manchester. But it all comes with challenges.

“We are seeing a lot of growth in a time when we are seeing all these challenges,” Caswell said. “We wouldn’t have the challenges if the economy was really bad.”

The state is working to attract millennial workers. Workers in the early or middle stages of their careers could stick around for a long time, Caswell said.

“The millennial generation — for the most part — puts lifestyle ahead of career. When you are able to marry those two pieces together, lifestyle and career in a state like New Hampshire that is close to Boston and a lot of other cool stuff across the region you’ve got a winning marketing strategy.”

One challenge is housing.

“We are under 1 percent vacancy rate for two-bedroom apartments statewide,” he said. “That is full-on crisis.”

Michael Skelton, president and CEO of the Greater Manchester Chamber, asked Caswell if the lack of housing could derail the state’s momentum.

“One thing we do have some control over is the housing issue, I believe, and trying to advance and affirm that is a critical issue to the state’s economy and our ability to recruit and retain workers,” Caswell said.

The state is also working on a strategy to bring new workers to the state. The state recently launched the Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry Development.

“You can have a lifestyle where you can be working at a high-tech company in Portsmouth and Manchester all day long as an engineer or whatever the case might be and at 5:30 you’re out mountain biking and kayaking while your friends are just coming out of the parking garage in Boston with a two hour commute,” Caswell said.

As part of positive trends, businesses are choosing to stay and make significant long term commitments — like BAE expanding into Manchester. BAE, a major defense contractor with more than 5,400 employees at locations in Nashua and Merrimack, says it expects to initially hire as many as 800 new employees to staff the Manchester location on Goffs Falls Road.

“That was not a sure thing,” Caswell said. “We had to work very closely with them to demonstrate the commitments we have and workforce is one of those commitments and customized training programs.”

Monday, January 27, 2020