Climbing over COVID requires reclaiming NH’s spot atop New England

I could have never predicted when I began writing for Stay Work Play that the economic opportunities about which I would write could be affected in such a drastic way as it has by this all-encompassing and economy-altering pandemic continuing to span the globe.

In fact, the very thing that makes New Hampshire such a great state in which to stay, work, and play is its series of policies serving as a firewall around the state that are altogether meant to stop future economic downturns in neighboring states and countries from spilling over into ours. Regularly ranked towards the top of the United States in terms of safety, health, and quality of life, NH is also seen as an open canvas of small business opportunities according to the 2019 State Business Tax Climate Index circulated by the Tax Foundation.

And yet none of these policies were able to withstand the unprecedented coronavirus challenge facing us even despite our state’s strong economic fundamentals. It’s August and Granite State small businesses continue to struggle and even close in response to COVID-19. So while New Hampshire might be uniquely positioned to rebound from this tragic virus and the harm it has waged to the economy around the globe, our path there might be filled with the same kind of rough terrain we as Granite Staters experience as we hike our almost fifty 4,000 footers.

Over the last few months, I placed a spotlight on the resiliency shown by some of the small businesses and organizations as they climbed that terrain and reacted in real time to the pandemic. Months later I’d be remiss not to mention where they stood in their continued efforts to climb that mountain of recovery:

New Hampshire Lodging & Restaurant Association

According to Samantha MacDonald, the Trust Director and Membership Manager, the New Hampshire Lodging & Restaurant Association has been working diligently on behalf of the hospitality industry to continue to advocate for much needed assistance,  help navigating new guidelines, and support out of work hospitality professionals through [their] NH Hospitality Employee Relief Fund, which has distributed over 140k in one time grants for those who have lost their livelihood due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

BerryDunn: Business Accounting, Audits, and Consulting

BerryDunn in Manchester has likewise seen some innovative changes arise to meet the needs of the COVID situation, and their clients have been diligent and persistent about learning new approaches. Director of Marketing Colleen Oakley reports that as their clients have settled into a new rhythm, they are relying more than ever on our core value of knowledge sharing.

Our website traffic jumped over 60% from this time last year, with visitors from almost all 50 states. To track the changing legislation and funding sources, our subject matter experts have been publishing two to three articles and social posts a day on our COVID-19 Resource Center. Amid the uncertainty, the increased online engagement with our clients is a silver lining, one we expect to remain in the future. Our clients are resilient and determined!

Laura Pandolfo, BerryDunn’s Sponsorship and Events Manager added, “We have always hosted complimentary educational sessions for our clients and prospects, so we wanted to find creative ways to stay connected. We quickly transitioned to virtual events and webinars in the spring, and the audience attendance has hit record highs. There is clearly a hunger for actionable finance and operations information right now, and we are pleased to be able to help.”

Perhaps their most exciting news has been their spring internship program. “At a time when other firms in our industry scaled back or cut their programs, our Recruiting team felt a passion for ensuring our interns had a rewarding experience and the full opportunity to experience BerryDunn’s culture, develop skill sets, and get to know each other. We enjoyed virtual coffee hours, online yoga and trivia, and the same rigor of learning and development as in past years. The energy and commitment of the interns was incredible!” said Sarah Olson, Director of Recruiting.

Reaching the peak

On our own website we point out the factors that have helped companies like BerryDunn and organizations like the New Hampshire Lodging & Restaurant Association succeed. “The overall tax burden as a percentage of income is 7.6% for NH and 9.5% for MA, 10.2 % in RI, 10.3% in VT and 11.1% in CT. The lack of an income tax in NH contributes significantly to this statistic and to the money that you can put back into your business or into your wallet.

Retaining this tax advantage among our neighboring states as more people work remotely in response to COVID-19 is necessary if we are to continue recovering in the coming months. Unfortunately this advantage was recently challenged by a new Massachusetts tax enacted on workers commuting to MA from NH who are currently working from home due to the pandemic.

In a hard-hitting interview with CNBC, Governor Sunnunu retorted by drawing a line in the granite when he stated in response to this law that “when it comes to New York, Massachusetts, California trying to pick the pockets of people in New Hampshire, we’re going to stand up to them. They’re coming after our citizens, and we’re going to put up a fight.”

It seems like before New Hampshire’s economy can fully rebound from the pandemic, it will first have to rise to the peak of New England states. Governor Sununu seems to agree, saying “I am proud that New Hampshire remains an income tax-free state. We need to maintain that New Hampshire Advantage at all costs.”

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