Think bigger, Granite State

July 17, 2011

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WHILE MASSACHUSETTS was settled by religious pilgrims, New Hampshire was launched as a commercial fishing outpost. It was pro-business from the start. And while the two shared the same government for 38 years, Britain’s King Charles II eventually awarded New Hampshire its own royal status in 1679. In all likelihood, that’s when the two colonies began squabbling over which was the superior place to do business.

It’s an entertaining argument - lower taxes versus more services, better education versus more freedom from regulation - but ultimately less important than it might seem. Economic competition between Massachusetts and New Hampshire, like that between Boston and Cambridge or any other couple of neighbors, makes little sense in a global economy. Every region of the country, and every state in this region, is in it together.

Michael Bergeron, the New Hampshire official who specializes in luring Massachusetts companies over the border, is thinking too small, as he drives his unmarked Ford Fusion in search of new deals. Biotech, high tech, financial services, and insurance companies are drawn to this region largely by universities, hospitals, and educated workers. If such businesses have a lower-cost option for their back-office or manufacturing operations in southern New Hampshire, that can help attract them to New England. Since workers cross the border in both directions, it matters little to them whether the office is in Nashua or Methuen.

It matters more, of course, to the state and local governments - whether the jobs and tax receipts are credited to Deval Patrick or John Lynch. But far better for Patrick and Lynch - and the other New England governors - to combine their energies and figure out how best to compete with China, Germany, India, or Japan.

Bergeron could use some frequent-flyer miles to make up for those construction delays on Route 93.