Slow but steady economic growth in New England states
The New England economy has continued to move in a positive direction, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. The economy has seen consecutive yearly increases in employment as of the third quarter of 2016. These increases have been led by construction, hospitality, and information industries.
Only a year earlier in 2015, much of the region lagged the nation in terms of economic recovery. By September 2016 unemployment was as low as 2.9 percent in New Hampshire, 3.3 percent in Vermont, 3.6 percent in Massachusetts, and 4.1 percent in Maine, all lower than the national average of 5.0 percent that month.
Technology Driving Growth
Technology-related sectors are major economic drivers in New England, particularly in the R&D focused area of Massachusetts, which for generations has been renowned for the brainpower residing on its university campuses. The State Technology and Science Index from the Milken Institute once again named Massachusetts the nation’s most innovative state, continuing its strong run since 2002).
Among the region’s biggest tech-related headlines was word from Akamai Technologies that it plans to expand its corporate headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The tech company is spread across six buildings currently present, however plans to consolidate into two. In the process 700 jobs are expected to be added to the 1,666 already there. Another 400 new tech jobs are promised in Lowell, where cloud-based workforce management solutions provider Kronos plans to move its headquarters from nearby Chelmsford.
Rhode Island may be small but it gets its share of technology development, too. One of the past year’s biggest announcements involved plans by GE Digital to launch an information technology center in Providence, with the potential to create hundreds of new jobs, starting with about a hundred at the outset. The company cited strong university partnership opportunities and a healthy tech talent pipeline in making its decision.
The life sciences are historically strong in the region, led by Massachusetts. Among the developments, Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics intends to invest $300 million in an expansion of its office, warehouse, and lab space in the Massachusetts community of Walpole. As many as 400 new jobs will join the 600-plus that will be retained.
There is wide spread initiative seeking to explore a variety of ways to grow the areas economies. The state of Connecticut plans to builds upon its economic strengths with a variety of programs designed to facilitate growth. Its Small Business Express program gives small businesses access to capital and job training, and has benefited more than 1,500 companies and contributed to the creation or retention of about 22,500 jobs. Meanwhile, the First Five Plus program is designed to boost large-scale expansion or relocation projects, with a focus on generating capital investment and creating jobs. According to a recent analysis of the program, just over a dozen companies have signed up to participate, and they’ve collectively invested more than $1.3 billion in infrastructure and human capital, creating nearly 3,800 jobs.
The state of New Hampshire is making a variety of ongoing investments to boost innovation. For example, nearly 200 companies were awarded research and development tax credits in the past year. Companies of all sizes are eligible for the state’s program, which is based on qualified manufacturing research and development. And the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development recently landed federal grant money to help businesses expand their global opportunities.
Among the ways Rhode Island supports business growth is the Innovation Voucher program. A recent round of voucher funding is supporting six small companies that have entered into R&D partnerships with local universities. The recipients are involved in everything from life sciences to wind energy advancements to wireless charging of unmanned air and underwater vehicles. Also recognizing that big ideas tend to start small, the publicly financed Maine Technology Institute recently launched a new round of seed grant funding for 19 fledgling tech companies, plus several development loans and TechStart grants. Maine’s leadership offered additional signals of the state’s intent to keep moving in business-friendly directions — the governor, for example, laid out a proposal to gradually scale back Maine’s income tax until it hits zero in 2024.