"603 and Me" Hits The Road


Vermont ups the ante to attract new residents—Should New Hampshire respond?  Does it need to respond?

In dramatic form, the Vermont legislature recently enacted a bill that would pay those who relocate to Vermont in 2019, and who work remotely for an out-of-state company, up to $10,000—cash.

Responding to a shrinking work force and rapidly-aging population, Vermont is going to extremes to lure non-residents to the Green Mountain State, and this is one of many initiatives that the state has underway.  The program is called the Remote Worker Grant, and Vermont’s Governor, Phil Scott, signed the bill into law two weeks ago.  Speaking to the passage of the bill, Gov. Scott stated, “We must think outside the box to help more Vermonters enter the labor force and attract more working families and young professionals to Vermont.”

Vermont currently has 16,000 fewer workers than it did in 2009, and their overall population has declined .3% since 2010, versus a national increase of 5.5%, ranking it 49th out of 50 states for population growth.  Moreover, not only is their population shrinking, but on average, it is aging quickly as well.  Vermont’s population ranks as the second-oldest in the US, with a median age of 42.8 years.  Only one state in the nation had a more rapidly-aging population than Vermont, and that is New Hampshire, who has seen its median age rise from 39.5 years to 42.5 years between 2005 and 2014.  Repeat…New Hampshire’s median age is rising faster than any state in the country!

In addition to Vermont’s Remote Worker Grant, the Green Mountain State also has a program called Stay to Stay, where visitors are encouraged to visit the state for a weekend this summer, with the notion of moving there permanently.  With this, residents and local businesses will roll out the red carpet for these visitors, hoping to make a positive, lasting impression.  Also, similar to the Remote Worker Grant for individuals, businesses that relocate to Vermont can receive up to $125,000 in credits from the state in 2019 and $250,000 in 2020.  Clearly, Vermont is focused on this, as they see it as a problem which needs solutions.  At its current pace and trajectory, the prospects for their state’s economic future look daunting, and attention to these areas seems well-founded and appropriate.

With such high stakes being waged to draw employees and employers to Vermont, does New Hampshire need to respond, and should it respond?

As most are aware, New Hampshire has a very small budget, principally a result of no state income or sales tax.  New Hampshire’s 2017 budget of $5.7 billion is actually slightly lower than that of Vermont ($5.8 billion), despite having more than twice the population (1.3 million vs .6 million).  With such, Vermont has more than double (+116%) the resources per capita to spend on the state’s citizens and statewide development initiatives.  Given New Hampshire’s frugal approach to expenditures, the state has the lowest per capita spending of all New England states, and is lower than all but a handful of states nationally.  This is welcome news for those of us who applaud small government, fiscal conservancy, and good-old-fashion responsible spending.  However, it does come at a price, in that state resources are tight, and the flexibility to embark on programs similar to that of Vermont, would come at the expense of other desperately-needed state programs. 

Thankfully, few would argue that New Hampshire should levy an income tax on its residents, as our tax-free status is a big attraction for many.  Moreover, New Hampshire’s unemployment rate stands at just 2.6%, second lowest in the nation.  So, should New Hampshire respond to Vermont’s quest to attract new residents, and should the state do more to attract younger people to the state to offset it’s rapidly-aging workforce?

To address a static and aging workforce, New Hampshire’s private sector (both citizens and businesses) is needed to step in and lend a hand to foster the current efforts of state programs and initiatives, and complement the important work that they do.  With such, in an effort to support the work of existing public and private New Hampshire advocacy programs, the non-partisan 603 and Me volunteer movement has been launched to specifically address this situation, and to attract both employers and employees to the Granite State.  The movement, independent and privately-funded, can be thought of as a cross between a PR firm, a statewide Chamber of Commerce, and Welcome Wagon, and is designed to enlist the support of its citizens and local businesses through volunteering and outreach.  The 603 and Me movement was recently launched in April, and currently has almost 13,000 followers on social media.

We hope that you will join our 603 and Me movement, and help spread the word on all that the Granite State has to offer.