The Ultimate Guide To The North Country Economy


jps246 / Flickr

This page is no longer being updated.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


Among New Hampshire’s regions, the heavily forested North Country stands out as the most economically challenged.  Employment and wages have been in decline over the decades as the North Country’s traditional industries — paper mills and other wood products manufacturing — have largely collapsed.

The term “North Country” itself is a bit nebulous.  Large swaths of northern New Hampshire are poor and sparsely populated, which translates to a small tax base.  So these areas often depend on funding from federal agencies for transportation, telecommunication, and other development projects.  For their purposes, some federal agencies go so far as to label two-thirds of New Hampshire “North Country.”  But most economic development groups — and New Hampshirites — define the region as the northern third of the state comprising Coos County to the far north and portions of Grafton and Carroll Counties.

Economically, there are some big differences between these places.

Grafton County is by far the best off economically, as the home of both Dartmouth University and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.  Figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show only 2.6 percent unemployment in the area.  Fifty-two percent of workers there make $50,000 or more a year.

Meanwhile, for more than a hundred years, Carroll County has billed itself as the go-to place for White Mountains tourismThe Census Bureau reports about one out of five people work in the service industry, while a quarter of residents are in sales and office positions.  Like Grafton County, more than half of Carroll County residents make $50,000 or more annually.

Coos County, on the other hand, is the part of the North Country facing the most economic challenges.  There, the unemployment rate is still relatively low, at 3.5 percent.  But countywide, 41 percent of people make less than $35,000 a year.  In response, the North Country Council, which distributes federal economic aid, has pumped more cash into Coos County than any other part of the region.  Over 40 years, the county’s largest city, Berlin, got more than $10 million in development funds, compared to roughly $9 million throughout the North Country as a whole.

But bringing more employment and economic development opportunities to the North Country is a complex issue.  Its signature forests are a patchwork of federal, state and private lands, which can make navigating legal and regulatory requirements difficult.  And small-scale farmers, foresters, and biomass plants aren’t always happy with the prospect of large companies changing the area’s character — or competing for business.

Latest Posts

North Country Snapshot: The Struggle To Rebuild After The Mills

Tomorrow morning on NHPR, we’ll hear from Rollie Leclerc, a third-generation North Country mill worker who has been laid off and re-hired twice.  Rollie’s story is the seventh and final part of our series “Getting By, Getting Ahead,” examining how people across New Hampshire’s regions are navigating a recovering economy. ___ Over the past few […]

WiValley Battles Topography And Budgets To Connect Monadnocks

Brian Foucher traveled some 300 days a year for business. When the Harrisville, N.H., resident was home, he telecommuted to meetings around the globe, but found his Internet connection so poor his employer became frustrated. With a wife and young family at home, that kind of work life was quickly growing old. Foucher’s initiative to […]

What A Canadian Newspaper Reports About Hydro-Quebec (And Northern Pass)

Looking at day-to-day coverage of Northern Pass, it tends to (unsurprisingly) focus on the New Hampshire perspective.  Will the project provide a much-needed boost to the North Country economy, or just create a spot of temp work?  What will the project do to land values?  Who’s selling their land, who’s holding fast, and why?  What […]

This Week’s Essential StateImpact

Happy Friday!  As always, we’d like to celebrate the end of the work week by bringing you up to speed with our most popular posts: How Apps Are Keeping Ski Areas Honest: A pair of Dartmouth researchers take on tales of ski resorts exaggerating snowfall…and find that apps are helping to curb fibbing. How Landowners […]

How Landowners And Towns Are Blocking A New Route For Northern Pass

If you haven’t read the Concord Monitor’s latest installment on efforts to carve a Northern Pass route through the North Country, you need to.  Last year, Northern Pass scrapped its original proposed route after North Country residents mounted serious resistance.  And although the project hasn’t announced a new route, reporter Annmarie Timmins has been patiently […]

How Apps Are Keeping Ski Areas Honest

Spring weather is now starting to roll in, but just last week winter had its last hurrah. And when those big snow storms wallop the mountains, ski areas see dollar signs. A pair of Dartmouth economists are researching the tendency of ski areas to exaggerate snowfall reports, especially on weekends, in hopes of luring more skiers […]

Where NH Residents Depend On Government Benefits The Most

Perhaps unsurprisingly, small government–at all levels–is something of a signature issue in the “Live Free or Die” state.  But amid the push among state GOP lawmakers to to keep the federal government out of issues ranging from health care to education, the New York Times reports,  individual dependence on government aid has increased dramatically across […]

This Week’s Essential StateImpact

It was a varied news week for the business and economy beat–as our traffic patterns proved.  Our most popular pieces covered issues ranging from the State of the Union address to green jobs to Northern Pass and credit card debt.  So if you missed any of the five key posts our readers are talking about, […]

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 »