The 55% Initiative was announced in January 2007 by the (then) University System of New Hampshire Chancellor Stephen Reno as an effort to develop creative ways to promote New Hampshire to future college graduates, encouraging more to “stay, work, and play” here. The initiative focused on researching why graduating students stay or leave the state, on giving the issue greater visibility among employers, young professionals’ organizations, the media, and the general public, and building support for a marketing effort that could help shift perceptions about New Hampshire that may be outdated or inaccurate to help encourage 55% or more new graduates to remain in state.
The need for such an effort was clear. The state’s population was then the fourth oldest nationally and many baby boomers were close to retirement. Employers traditionally have trouble finding skilled workers, half of the graduating high school students attend college outside of the state, and college graduates are leaving the state at too high a rate to meet projected employment needs, especially for skilled workers.
Research (see survey documents below) conducted by USNH determined that if the percentage of graduates that remain in New Hampshire could be increased from 50% to 55%, 323 additional graduates that planned to leave would need to stay. The positive economic impact of this change to the state would be $19 million a year. Over five years, the cumulative impact or retaining at least 55% of new graduates would be over $290 million.
In just those two years, hundreds of businesses, organizations, young professionals and individuals demonstrated their support for advancing the 55% Initiative. The issue received significant attention in the media and among leaders across the state, including then Governor John Lynch.
- The 55% Initiative: A collective effort to keep college graduates in NH. Summary of activities for 2007 and next steps.
In July 2009, the Governor’s Task Force for the Retention of Young Workers released a final report that made many recommendations on how efforts to attract and retain young workers could be advanced and why New Hampshire is well-positioned to be a place where these young workers would want to stay, work and play. The report was developed as a result of an Executive Order by Governor John Lynch in 2008 to create a Task Force to analyze the issue and develop recommendations for his consideration. The Task Force was comprised of young professionals and representatives from business, government, the non-profit sector, education, labor, and statewide associations.
Among the far-ranging recommendations were a few that relate directly to the creation of Stay Work Play NH. First, the Task Force called for creation of a comprehensive web site that would include content and linkages geared to serve young workers and others considering staying or moving to NH, or looking for a centralized resource about activities, events and opportunities of interest to them.
Second, it also called for the creation of an independent organization to help move forward several of the recommendations contained in the report, including the development and management of this web site.
Thus, in 2009 Stay Work Play NH was born! Stay Work Play was incorporated by the heads of five prominent statewide organizations – USNH, the NH College and University Council, the Business and Industry Association of NH, the NH High Technology Council, and the NH Department of Resources and Economic Development. It is governed by a Board of Directors that includes representation from a variety of industries throughout the state including some of those from the incorporating organizations, the state’s young professionals’ networks, and the Governor’s task force.