Topics

Lowell 36

What You Need To Know About The Merrimack Valley

Background

This page is no longer being updated. For ongoing coverage of this topic, go to New Hampshire Public Radio.

______

The Merrimack Valley follows the Merrimack River, straddling part of southern New Hampshire and a swath of northeast Massachusetts, including the cities of Lowell, Haverhill, and Lawrence.  Residents on both sides of the border refer to their areas as ”the Merrimack Valley,” but technically the Massachusetts side is considered the “Lower Merrimack Valley,” while the New Hampshire portion is the “Upper Merrimack Valley” (not to be confused with the “Upper Valley” in the Dartmouth-Sunapee region).

Tracy Lee Carroll / Flickr

From the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, the Lower Merrimack Valley was a manufacturing powerhouse.  In the early 19th century, businessmen founded the city of Lowell as a textile mill town.

As the various mill industries picked up steam, they spread north into New Hampshire.  While Manchester was the Upper Merrimack Valley’s most notable mill town, the industry also gained footholds in Concord and Nashua.  As industrialization advanced over the decades, factories specializing in mechanical parts and other manufactured goods were established on both sides of the Valley.

But over time, some significant economic differences have developed between the Upper Merrimack Valley and the Lower Merrimack Valley.  Both sides of the border have, of course, suffered job losses and other side effects of a bad economy.  But in the long term, as American manufacturing has declined over the past half-century, the New Hampshire side has seen more success in diversifying its economy. As the capital city, Concord, of course, supports a large government workforce.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than one out of five residents are government employees.  (Of course, these numbers are subject to change, especially given the state’s most recent budget.)  Only 9 percent of people in Concord do factory work.  These days, Nashua also skews heavily toward white-collar work, with 67 percent of residents holding down management, sales, and other office jobs.  Only 12 percent of people work in factories.  And in Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest city, 60 percent of residents work in professional fields, while 14 percent of people do production work.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Department of Workforce Development found that nearly one in five Lower Merrimack Valley jobs were in the manufacturing sector.  As the national decline of manufacturing has accelerated during the recession, the Lower Merrimack Valley experienced greater — and faster — job loss than the rest of the state.  Wages in the area are also significantly lower than the Massachusetts average, with the low-paying retail and hospitality sectors dominating the economy.

Despite these differences between the Upper and Lower Merrimack Valley, there is still a lot of interraction between the two areas.  Lowell, Massachusetts, is considered part of the Greater Boston Area — as is Nashua, New Hampshire.  Although mass transit between the Upper and Lower Merrimack Valley is decidedly lacking, easy Interstate access for much of the area has made it possible for many people to cross state lines as they commute to and from work.

Latest Posts

Survey Says Not All NH Counties Equally Small Business-Friendly

A recent survey found that perceptions of NH's small business-friendliness vary widely by region

If you’re looking for some of the happiest small business owners in the state, the Monadnock Region would be a good place to start. Recently, we looked at how the Granite State stacks-up to the rest of the country in terms of its small business environment.  A survey of about 6,000 business owners released by [...]

NH Bookstore Flips The Script On Struggling Indie Bookseller Narrative

Tied into the story of downtown development are some interesting narrative nuggets about an indie bookstore

The fact that developer Steve Duprey has another project in the works isn’t terribly surprising.  What is rather intriguing about his latest venture–a 70,000 square foot, five floor edifice on South Main Street in Concord–is one of the slated tenants: A much-expanded Gibson’s Bookstore.  Ben Leubsdorf of the Concord Monitor writes: “Duprey said he’s particularly [...]

Why A 60-Year Old Contract Has Massachusetts And NH At Loggerheads

Flood control, town tax reimbursements, and tight state budgets have NH and Mass wrestling over back payments

Since the economy tanked and the legislature started slashing the budget, there’s been talk at the town level about so-called “down-shifting.”  That’s when the state stops supporting local programs or making certain payments to towns, forcing localities to pick up the slack.  Now, the legislature’s considering what to do when not only New Hampshire, but [...]

Mystery Developer Hopes To Bring Big Warehouse–And 150 Jobs–To Concord

A developer traced to a Massachusetts P.O. Box wants to build a big facility in Concord

A super-secret business that could bring a lot of jobs to Concord hopes to set up shop on Integra Drive.  As Ben Leubsdorf of the Concord Monitor reports: “A developer is looking to build a sprawling warehouse operation on Integra Drive, off Manchester Street, that Concord officials say could employ 150 people. But the name [...]

Part 4: Which NH Counties Won New Residents (And Lost Old Ones)

As in our previous posts, we're continuing with a light bit of boxing imagery for entertainment purposes

One of our most popular sets of posts has been an occasional series with a different take on migration into–and out of–New Hampshire.  Using IRS data, Jon Bruner of Forbes traced where people in every county in the country were moving to–and from–between 2005 and 2009.  Then, he generated a really cool map that allows you [...]

USPS Facilities In Manchester And Nashua Spared Consolidation, Job Cuts

USPS

After months of speculation surrounding a large-scale consolidation study, the US Postal Service announced today it will accept the bulk of its recommendations.  The result: Up to 35,000 jobs lost if USPS goes through with downsizing. The study considered the possibility of consolidating 264 of the Postal Service’s 461 processing centers.  Today, Emily Stephenson at [...]

A Look Inside An Advanced NH Factory

Elbit Systems of America is a subsidiary of Elbit Systems.  The company has facilities in Israel, Romania, Belgium, the UK, Brazil, and Australia, among other countries.

One of the issues we’re focusing on at StateImpact is the manufacturing sector in New Hampshire:  What it looks like, its successes, and its challenges.  Recently, we tagged along while US Senator Jeanne Shaheen toured a factory in Merrimack.  Elbit Systems of America represents the new line of advanced manufacturing taking root in the Granite [...]

Pennichuck Employee Union Sues Nashua Telegraph Over Salary Info

Pennichuck's employee union is suing the Telegraph to keep their salary information secret

When Nashua bought the private water utility Pennichuck Corp., the town created an unorthodox setup.  As David Brooks of the Nashua Telegraph explains: “It is believed that Nashua is the only city in the country that owns a private water utility that is supervised by an independent board but still answers to state regulators, while [...]

Tracing NH’s Slog Toward Economic Recovery

When Different Parts Of The Country May Recover

A recent piece in the New York Times lays out what many Americans already believe: For much of the country, economic recovery is a ways off.  Reporter Michael Cooper writes: “Less than a tenth of the nation’s metropolitan areas have regained the jobs they lost in the economic downturn, according to a report… Only 26 [...]

Q&A: Meet In-Coming Stonyfield CEO Walt Freese

Walt Freese, 57, will begin taking over Stonyfield from Gary Hirshberg on January 23.

Stonyfield co-founder Gary Hirshberg created a bit of a stir in New Hampshire’s business press when he announced he was stepping down as CEO and moving over to the Chairman role.  We recently spoke with Hirshberg about his 28 years at Stonyfield, his role in the natural food movement, and how the growing organics market [...]

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »

Economy
Education