New Hampshire is open for business. Multiple state officials said the economic impact of the nation’s first presidential primary is felt statewide in New Hampshire. This is true especially in Manchester where national media outlets set up shop and democracy tourists set up camp in anticipation of Tuesday’s vote.
City officials were not able to provide exact numbers related to the surge in business but stressed the benefits local businesses experience are undeniable.
Michael Skelton, President and CEO of the Greater Manchester Chamber, said almost all aspects of the local economy see a boom in business and revenue. The service industry, he said, sees the most uptick in what is usually considered a slow season (winter) for businesses such as hotels and restaurants.
“For several weeks leading up to the primary, businesses downtown get very busy,” Skelton said. “The primary creates a dynamic and exciting economy and the effects are certainly noticeable. Hotels are booked, restaurants are packed, and the airport is as busy as it ever is.”
Skelton said while the direct impact of the primary is easily noticeable, the indirect impact can be just as valuable.
“All of those local business owners and service industry workers who see an increase in their business and wages turn around and spend some of that money in Manchester,” Skelton said. “That sort of stimulation is very important for the local economy. Businesses will also get exposure through media coverage. National media is here primarily to cover the election news, but they’ll also pick up on local stories that do a great job providing us with exposure. It can be hard to market yourself when you’re a small state like us, so maximizing exposure is huge.”
The service industry is the largest contributor to the economic boom Manchester sees during the weeks leading up to the primary, but certainly isn’t the only one. Unexpected sources of revenue also add to the bottom line.
Former Mayor of Manchester and current Executive Councilor Ted Gatsas said almost anything can become a source of revenue during the lead up to the primary. Even empty parking lots can generate money for the city and state.
“You see the parking lot out there?” Gatsas said while pointing to a lot occupied by ABC news outside of City Hall. “That parking lot was rented for $35,000 for the week. And that’s only one of the parking lots the city has rented out.”
Current Mayor of Manchester Joyce Craig said Southern New Hampshire University’s new arena, the site of both Saturday’s annual McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Dinner and of Monday’s rally for President Trump and Vice President Pence, has added a great new source of revenue.
“The arena, the Rex Theatre, and other venues are completely booked. It’s great for the city,” Craig said.
All the city officials interviewed agreed the primary has minimal negative effects on the city. Skelton said the only thing that could be considered slightly negative were that political events can lead to road closures in downtown Manchester.
“Those are minor inconveniences, really,” Skelton said. “It’s essentially the price of admission.”
Not everyone working in Manchester agrees with Skelton. Taylor Swanson, 30, drives for the ridesharing company Lyft and said although there is a definite uptick in the number of rides he gives, road closures aren’t so minor for people who live and work in Manchester daily.
“I really hate all the roads being closed downtown,” Swanson said. “It makes things super difficult when you’re trying to commute or if you’re going to pick someone up. Especially the areas by the hotels and hot spots downtown, all the extra security makes it almost impossible to get where you need to be on time.”
Christina Gates, who also drives for Lyft, reported similar experiences. She said on more than one occasion she had been treated rudely by security when trying to drop passengers off in the downtown area.
“I understand that there’s added security because of who the candidates are,” Gates said. “But yelling at me when I’m just trying to follow instructions is not helpful. I have a master’s degree in counter terrorism! I think I know a little something about security measures.”
Gates, who was born in New Hampshire, said even though some of the added security and road closures were annoying, not all her experiences were negative.
“I actually love driving during this time of the election season,” Gates said. “I’ve gotten to meet so many people from all over the country and even some from overseas. The extra money doesn’t hurt either.”
One thing that everyone could agree on is that for the week or two leading up to Tuesday’s vote, all eyes seem to be on New Hampshire.
“The world kind of stops for us,” Skelton said. “And then after Tuesday everything goes back to normal.”
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